My name is Amanda Ball, and I am a musician, author and filmmaker. My mom calls me a professional juggler: I grab a project, work on it, throw it up in the air again, and grab another project. I wouldn't trade this life for anything. I write books under the names: Amanda Ball, Dayne Gearner, LeAnn Coston. My band and I make music under the name Ballroom Bruisers. My best friend, Don Krejsek and I make movies together. My mother Karen Ball is an artist and produces my book covers. On occasion, we co-write together. Living a life that is designed for creativity isn't easy, but it's always interesting. Thanks for letting me share my journey with you.
Mother nature sent us some beautiful pictures this evening. I didn’t even know there was a rainbow. I stepped out to see if it was still raining. Then I ran to get my camera!
This is Elvis week. We lost Elvis 40 years ago today. He was the best of all time. The best there ever was, and the best there ever will be. Late in the night last night, when I wasn’t sleeping, I was surfing youtube. I found this. I had never heard this version before.
This may be the best musical performance in the history of musical performances.
So thank you, sir, for sharing your talent with the world. You are a guardian angel – for those of us mere mortals who aspire to change the world with our song.
Today I went into Kansas scouting locations for the cow camps for the Chisholm Trail Cattle drive next month. Along the way I saw the Country School Museum.
None of these photos are of the actual cattle drive locations, (one prairie field looks pretty much like another…), but these were some fun shots I took while I was out.
We are gearing up and making plans. All along the drive today, I was (in my head) editing video for the shots that we don’t even _have_ yet.
I love westerns. This isn’t a western movie per se, but it has horses and cattle and saddles and cowboys & cowgirls wearing boots and chaps. It has people cooking over a campfire.
It evokes the mental image of a cowboy playing a guitar under the stars, as the cattle are lowing nearby.
When you are going to shoot a movie – what is one of the first decisions you make?
Consider this – what happens when the location of the movie is continually on the move?
We are a month out from the filming of the Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive. I went out to scout some locations. The organizers of drive have already chosen the places that they stop each night. I didn’t get an exact count, but the cattle drive will cover perhaps six to eight miles per day.
I’d like for at least some of the video to seem authentic. I’d like for it to look as it looked 150 years ago. No roads, intersections, street signs…
…no power lines, farming equipment, bales of hay…
No highway, no electricity, no semis driving by at 70mph…
…no windmills, windfarms, cell phone towers, fences, corner posts, or airplanes.
I scouted some of these locations today.
To get any shot without having any modern equipment/influence/technology is pretty much gonna be a miracle!
Fortunately, not every shot has to appear as if it was taken from the late 1800s.
As filmmakers – all we can do is to aim a camera. As to the rest of it – everything else is up in the air.
If you make a movie in a studio – or if you make a studio movie – then you have arranged everything: YOU control the action/actors/locations/activities.
In modern filmmaking, it’s reasonable – it’s even expected, to be able to tell people to go back and do it over.
In this instance, with drovers herding cattle; horses pulling wagons; and specific locations that the cattle drive has to take (accommodating things like, river crossings, railroad right of ways, easements, private land, oil wells that you have to stay away from, and who knows what else?!?!)…there are no do-overs!
As filmmakers, all we can do is to…aim a camera.
This isn’t some big studio where we have a sound department who can work the magic of sound in post production.
Nope…my biggest concern is wind. Weather and wind.
We are working to configure equipment in order to ascertain its capabilities and limitations.
But on this shoot – with cattle and people and wagons and horses constantly on the move – and with the flat, wide-open spaces where the “wind comes sweeping down the plains” … managing sound will be my biggest worry.
This is a youtube link to a video about the upcoming Chisholm Trail Cattle drive this September.
The governors of Kansas and Oklahoma signed proclamations about the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive. Riders have ridden down (south) the Chisholm Trail, taking the ceremonial scrolls with them.
This past Monday, they rode a segment, and I got to go along to film.
[Do you remember that episode of M*A*S*H where they are going to watch an old western movie for movie night – I think it’s “My Darling Clementine”, and Colonel Potter uses the line, “It’s got horses, cowboys and…horses!”]
I smile as I remember that, because on Monday we filmed horses, cowgirls and horses! The ride was approximately eleven miles. It was a nice day, but the wind was high.
When you film something such as this, for a documentary film, as the person with the camera, you take what you can get. You scramble on the fly to find the shot, and you set up and get the shot. Or…not. This isn’t studio filmmaking, where you control every aspect of everything. No…on this one, you try to be as unobtrusive as possible and stay out of the way. Meanwhile, you hope you get some decent shots to use, but there is no guarantee. With this particular shoot, with no environmental control whatsoever…you know you’re going to have wind noise. The audio track from the shoot will be virtually unusable.
Conclusion: we had better come up with something else to use, then.
Tuesday, early, I started working on an idea for the cowboy poetry: The Trail. Cowboy poetry is something I want to explore. I’ve been doing a lot of writing this spring – novels, songs and poems, but not cowboy poetry.
The poem is entitled: The Trail. It came off pretty good. (See previous blog entry.)
Tuesday, I needed the highway shots, so I called a friend who has a utility vehicle that would be much easier to film out of than my car. He was kind enough to help me get the shot I needed, then we drove around in the country, looking for additional shots I wanted.
Wednesday, putting this video together seemed like too big a hill to climb. You know those days…taking on a big project it just too much. I went to lunch and on the way home, I thought of the shot of the Chisholm Trail marker. I drove out to get that, and got a few more shots as well.
Then I started editing it together. Got about 1/3 of the way through, and needed a break. Went to get a coffee and drive around, just as a way to clear my head. Came back, nose to the grindstone, and got the bulk of the video together. It came off well – better than I had hoped. Of course, you always want it to be more. I want more, better, fancier shots. This was what I had, and I utilized it the best I had. I cut the video to the rhythm of the cowboy poetry. I decided I needed some acoustic guitar over the end title cards.
Thursday we had storms. I wanted to run the video by the organizers of the cattle drive. When the first wave of storms went by, I took the computer and we went over the rough cut. I made notes on changes. But, we need more shots. They drove me out to get a shot of some longhorns. In the meantime, the next wave of storms are brewing, and you can see lightning in the background.
We got back before the storms hit, and I didn’t want to be on the computer.
Friday morning, I am not sleeping as usual, and in my head I am going over the list of edits to make. I went to the software and worked on that, and worked to get a render.
This is day five of actual work on the project, but there were perhaps three days before Monday, when I was thinking it through and trying to figure out how to film this.
We will gear up to film a documentary about the Chisholm Trail 150 cattle drive in September. Can’t wait!
In modern times, it’s a ribbon of concrete and asphalt
big rigs haul cattle to and fro – they make a full exalt
one modern driver conducts a musical, a symphony of shifting gears
they’ve been doing it this way – for nigh onto a hundred years
We might take for granted – this ease of moving beef
load ’em up and move ’em out – it’s a common enough belief
At seventy mile an hour – they roll on down the fray
But what about before that – when there was no ribbon of highway?
In the land before the fences, – Americans did love their beef
But how did they get it from here to there, to have enough to eat?
A man had a vision – cattle north we will drive
We’ll start off down in Texas – in Kansas we will arrive
His name was Jesse Chisholm – After him they named the Trail
Because he charted the path down – through wind and rain and hail
With drovers manning horses, those cattle they did move
Taking beef to the masses – whose lives he did improve
Now we do commemorate – it’s been one hundred and fifty years
we take time to educate – about the history of moving steers
It wasn’t always so easy – after all – beef doesn’t come from the grocery store
No it wasn’t always so easy- it takes a whole lot more
It’s important to remember – the history of moving bovine
so we had a ceremony – scrolls the governors did sign
We ride back down the trail – history to Celebrate
We chart a faithful path – The Trail we Commemorate
It’s important to remember – the way things used to be
Things weren’t always so easy – we take a lot for granted, you see
modern riders will reenact – we are honored to tell the tale
This September, once again, we will ride – The good ole Chisholm Trail