Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nature Rules at the Lone Pine Film Festival 2008

This years film festival at Lone Pine was certainly different from the others I have been to. It is possible this maybe the last one I go to. I did get a lot out of this one and I have some information on a few new movies that were shot there. Let me give you a short version and then the long version.

Short version highlights:

Ansel Adams Tour
North Tour of the Alabama Hills
Reflection on the Movie Business
"Slept" at Hostel

Seminar on Sidekicks (We picked the top 10)
Watched a bunch of movies at the L.P. High Auditorium
Whitney Portal for a hamburger
Wagon Train Panel
Drove and walked around in the Alabama Hills by myself
Watched the Silent Hallmark Movies
Watched Army Girl
Camped out at the Tall T

Photography of Wildlife in Owens Valley
Lights! Camera! Action! Panel
Geology Tour

Long version:

Last year I was recovering from sickness when I went to the festival. I ended up coughing a lot and sleeping out in the cold. This time I decided to do things differently. I made reservations at the new Hostel in Lone Pine which is owned by Doug Thompson of Whitney Portal. I made the reservation the day after I climbed Whitney back at the end of July. For the past month I had been very careful in trying to avoid getting sick. I had a minor throat irritations at the beginning of September, but I was good to go for this festival. I felt good. The night before I did not get much sleep, but I knew I would get my sleep back that Friday night at the Hostel. At least that is what I believed at the time.

I reached Lone Pine in a few hours, got my tickets and button that I had ordered, and looked around the museum. The museum has added props and clothes used in the movie Iron Man. They are on loan so I do not know how long they will have them. I did get video of them and will post it at a later time. I got some videos and pictures of other things that were not there the last few times I had visited. There was something worn by John Wayne that I will swear I have not seen there for two years. I never got pictures of it. Each time I was there since then I thought I blew my big chance of getting pictures and video of it. I almost freaked out when I saw it on Sunday morning. I intend to do a tribute to John Wayne over a bunch of stuff I have, but that is something I will do some months from now.

One thing I purposely focused on this year at the festival was to take tours that had nothing to do with movie locations. I have gotten to the point that I pretty much have the area memorized. Now, it is not like I can tell you where scene of every movie was made out there, but if you have read this blog you have seen a lot of the more popular locations. A lot of the movie location tours really would not help me at this point. Although there are exceptions which I will get to in after the next paragraph.

At 9am I went on the Ansel Adams tour which was guided by photographer Phil Kember. Phil was really good in explaining some of the technical ideas, some of the approach Adams and he have about photography, and taking us to three locations Adams used in Lone Pine. I am not a photographer, although my father has spent a lot of time in the more technical aspects of photography, but I did appreciate the overall approach Adams took in making pictures. I will come back to this in a blog at a later date because it is something I have thought a lot about. Since I am just a snapshot amateur I pretty much just "cock and fire" as many as I can in the hope that I can get a few pictures that get the job done. Adams, and real photographers, might just drive to a location and, if they like the conditions, take one negative picture.

At 12:45pm I took the North Tour of the Alabama Hills. Originally, there was another tour of the "free" tour ticket you get with the purchase of 2008 L.P. badge that I wanted. It ended up clashing with a bunch of other stuff. I was not too happy about taking what I considered a beginner tour, but it was not really that big a deal anyways. About midway in the tour while we going back to our bus I encountered a few new plaques, they leave these out near the locations during the festival, so I was happy to get a few new locations discovered. I will show these some other time.

The funny thing to me is when we were visiting Gene Autry Rock our tour guide told us that a real entrepreneur business opportunity could be taken advantage of. Recently, the museum put out a very nice looking booklet of the major popular sites of the Alabama Hills and how to drive to them. Our tour guide noted that no one has done the GPS coordinates yet and that is where the business opportunity would be. I had to laugh on that because either I am idiot when it comes to business things or I love giving out things for free. Just a note on my GPS coordinates, I have stated this before, my coordinates should get you very close to where the locations are. Keep in mind you have to know what you are looking for and that the coordinates are not exact. They should get you very close. I have a few reasons I do it this way, but you should be no more that 10-50 feet away at the very worst if you use them. There have been a few I have had to correct because they were way off.

At 4pm I went to the panel Reflections on the Movie Business which was moderated by Boyd Magers. There were a bunch of actors there, but the one asked the most questions was Richard Anderson. He actually waved to me during the parade, but I just missed it.

I then went to spend the night at the Hostel. Oh boy, what did I get myself into!? Originally, back at the end of July, I was told I would bunk with three other people in a room. That is what I had believed for the longest time. I called the Hostel the day before to make sure my reservation was still there. I was told that my reservation was originally erased on the computer, but I was back on. I get there and the person at the desk acted like I was not on the list. "Are you sure you had a reservation?" "Yes, I was told I am in room #11." Problems solved, got my keys, went to my room, and took a shower. When I got in there I noticed EIGHT beds! Oh boy, not what I was expecting. I took off for pizza at my favorite Pizza Factory.

By this time the winds were really bad in Lone Pine. It was a like a dust storm. You could not see the eastern Inyo Mountains and barely see the Sierra side. I was glad I was not outdoors tonight, but that would change. I get back, and one of the guys I would bunk with was inside already trying to get some sleep. I talked to him briefly and got in my bed. It was early, but I had only had about 3 hours of sleep and wanted to be sure I had one of the beds below on the bunk beds. Later on couple of guys intending to backpack Whitney showed up. We talked briefly about the weather conditions and they took off to eat. Two other Whitney hikers showed up and left to eat. Then, the problems were about to start, two German bikers showed up. At this point we should have had all the beds taken, but a big misunderstanding took place. They ended up bringing in two other German bikers who I guess thought they were going to sleep on the floor. I started to see there might be some trouble here. They took off to go eat. Later on the two backpackers came back and I told them something was not right with the German bikers. At this point we had TEN people in a room with EIGHT BEDS! This was not what I had in mind when I made the reservation back in July.

Long story short, the German bikers were back and everything was dark at 10:00pm. Then one of the desk girls came in and told them guest hours were over and two of them had to go! She was about to call the cops and the German bikers did not know what to do. It was freakin' cold and windy that night, there was no other place in town with vacancy, and they had no place to go. Fortunately, one of the backpackers told them he had some pads and it was okay with him if they stayed. I guess they paid some more money. I did not not care, but was glad there was a peaceful resolution. About ten minutes after the lights went out the smoke alarm went off. What now? It was brief though and was apparently a false alarm. The other hikers came back at about 1:30am. I ended up getting a few hours of sleep, but made sure I was out of there somewhere before 7am.

As much as I care about the Whitney Portal people, do not mind trying new things, this was NOT what I had in mind. I will not ever use the Hostel again if this is the type of situation I get stuck in. Somewhere between the time I put my reservation in and the time I verified I would be there I got the shaft. The place is still new and I am sure they are still figuring out how they do things, I know I lot of people haved enjoyed their stay there, but this is probably not for me. With that said, please do not let this "bad" review discourage you from spending the night there. I suspect it would have been a different story had I been there on a day or weekend other than during the festival.

I was walking around town on Saturday morning. The wind was blasting my face and it actually HURT! At 8:30, Dave Matuszak led the discussion group on the Top 10 B Western Sidekicks. Dave is really knowledgeable about the history and myth of the western. The top three sidekicks voted by us as the best were Gabby Hayes, Smiley Burnette, and Andy Clyde. I thought Jay Silverheels (Tonto) would be much higher on the list, but his character was a bit atypical in that he was intended to be a funny sidekick. I think he was #7. Others like Slim Pickens, Fuzzy Knight, and Pat Buttram were listed in there somewhere.

I ended up watching some movies in the L.P. High Auditorium. One thing that plagued the festival this year was the cold windy weather. All panels were held inside in the Auditorium because the original area the chairs were all over the place due to the wind. This threw off the movie schedule. In some cases, it canceled a Joel McCrea movie I really wanted to watch.

I decided to visit the Whitney Portal where I would get a hamburger and see what was going on at the Whitney Trailhead. The area was snowing a bit, the road was a bit icey near the store, and the pond was filled with ice.

I went back down to the Wagon Train Panel which was fun. Although all the actors were interesting, Denny Miller was the one who had spent most of the time on that series. I decided to go back to the Alabama Hills by myself and just walk around some of the areas. I always do this, but it is still fun seeing if I can find any movie plaque out that I have never seen before. They keep those up all weekend.

On Saturday night at the Hallmark Films they showed Rider of the Pass (Fred Humes) and The Back Trail (Jack Hoxie). I had never seen these before. It was a real treat. There was a lot of south side Alabama Hills shown in these movies.

Now I must admit, due to lack of sleep and doing as much I had done on this day I was really starting to wear myself down. I forced myself to watch a movie called Army Girl, but during that one I was really asking myself why I do this to myself. LOL! There was not much action, but I really wanted to see it. As soon as it ended I went to THE TALL T location to sleep!

I went to bed fast at around 11pm. I woke up a few hours right before the sun came up. I was a bit cold, but I really enjoyed being out there compared to the Hostel the night before. I ended up walking around just to see the light hit Mt. Whitney before I took off to Ruiz Hill to check out the movie plaques there. This is an area I intend to show on this blog, but at this time I have not. It was also my time to pick up random litter I had found...something I do when I can.
At around 8:40am I watched Page Williams give a presentation on Photographing Owens Valley Wildlife. This was quite nice. She mentioned something about Wild Horses that caught my interest. I will come back to that in a later blog.

I went to the final panel: Lights! Camera! Action! It was fun. Lot of different actors telling stories. They were all good, but I liked hearing Geoffrey Lewis who had worked with Eastwood a lot. Also, Richard Devon, who played a lot of bad guys, was fun telling his stories. After that I went to the town parade where a lot of the stars and others in the town marched through the streets. I had not been to the parade before, but since I had to stick around it was good for me to see it.

I ended up at 2:30pm on the Geology Tour with Dana Jeffries. He was really good and it is probably the most information intensive tour of all the tours. I actually got a lot more out of it than I originally thought. At this point, and I think a lot of the others felt this way too, I was REALLY WORN DOWN. I did my best to remember everything he said. Geology is a difficult subject and cramming everything in 3 hours is very difficult.

When the tour ended it was kind of a downer, but at the same time I really did a lot during this festival and was exhausted. I was glad I got through the weather. The cold winds were an issue that I suspect that upset the vendors who were stuck outside this year compared to other years. I had heard there were some "horror" stories on Friday evening. This is something I suspect that the festival board will have to take into consideration for next year.

I did get a lot of good information and had fun, but this was a lot of work for me this year. At times, due to being worn down, was kind of bored at times. It is possible this maybe the last one I go to. It will depend on how things go this year and what is available next year. My reasons for going to the festival are not for nostalgia since most of these movies were done before my time. I love the area and its use in movies so that is what keeps me going.

Okay, I have written a lot of stuff here, but I wanted to give an honest reflection on how things went. Let me take this time to mention two new movies filmed outside Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills recently:
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

So, it looks like I will be doing more location hunts for regarding these new movies.