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It’s done!

We have a completed movie!

It still doesn’t feel real. This movie has been in works for close to a year. That’s almost one year of this project…a project which is so big, it seems like a mountain that is so high that you can’t climb it.

One year of a project so insurmountable, that you can’t even think how to approach it. To work through this, I had to break it into segments, then break that into segments, then break that into segments. Then figure out each segment. Then put it all together. And *hope* that there is something there that people will connect with.

Did we accomplish it?

I have no idea.

I *hope so*!!!

Not only do we have a completed movie, we made it in time to enter the Sundance Film Festival this year. As of today, we have that entry submitted.

None of this feels real yet. Maybe six weeks ago, I had this moment of disheartened anguish that we were not going to have a Sundance submission this year. This Cattle Drive movie is unique. This is our best opportunity to say to the world, “Hey…we make movies!” or “We are artists!” or…”Let us entertain you!”

So, the thought of things being delayed, even further, just sank me to a new low.

Then whammo! It all starts to come together. When those puzzle pieces started falling into place, they fell into place. And made a pretty doggone good movie!

There is still a lot of work on this project to be done (need to build our short film for children, need to build a trailer, press kit, incorporate subtitles in the big movie, build a movie poster, work some smaller youtube videos utilizing some of the other footage.)

My biggest problem with this project – once the movie was actually done, is to figure out the DVD encoding, processing and compression.

Ick!

Why can’t there be a road map for these problems?

I *should* take a moment or two, and savor the “Look what we’ve done so far!” moment. But that moment hasn’t hit yet.

Maybe soon…

In the meantime…imagine your best Don LaFontaine voice:

“Chisholm Trail – Past and Present…..coming soon, to a film festival screening near you!”

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The end is in sight!

Have you ever put a puzzle together? And I don’t mean one of those easy ones with the picture on the box.

What’s the biggest puzzle you have put together – when you don’t know what the finished project will look like?

The editing on the Chisholm Trail movie is almost done!

Whew!

Woo hoo!

(Sigh of exhaustion).

We didn’t have a script. We didn’t a preset story in mind. We went out to film this, completely blind as to what the finished movie would be.

(See the September 2017 archives for blog entries about the Cattle drive and the filming.)

This is a documentary. We tried to tell a story. Did we capture the story of the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive?

When you see the movie, you can answer that question!

Editing a movie isn’t easy.

Let me say that again:

EDITING A MOVIE ISN’T EASY!?!?!?!?!!?!

That statement is not intended to be a complaint. But it is a statement of fact. I keep using the line, “If we were in Hollywood, there would be sixty people doing what we are doing.” In our filmmaking endeavors – we have two.

My partner Don and I work well together. We each have our strengths and they dovetail together.

I have to build the structure of the project. But once there is something there to work with, Don can come in and edit it/work it/tear it apart/make it better….and still have enough energy to make me a cheesecake!

…from scratch!

See…I TOLD you we work well together!! LOL

Once we were properly snacked up, fed, fueled up and ready to go…we dove in.

It took a lot of steps to get to this point. And I am not talking about the filming. This is “after” the filming is done, and we have the movie footage “in the can”.

Then what?

Log the footage. View the footage. Evaluate the footage. Make notations.

Then THINK. Think of what this will be. Think of what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the decisions you make about what not to do, are more important than what you actually include.

Develop an intro that will “grab” the audience.

Find *something* that will touch the human. What tells the story? What makes you care? What makes you want to know more about a cattle drive?

Plan your video shots that tell the story.

You don’t just put a bunch of video clips together and then be done.

Plan, build and create your audio track. This was the big job on this movie. A cattle drive happens outdoors – in the wind and bugs and weather (and the cars, humans, dogs, lawnmowers, planes, drones, trains). We knew that a lot of the on-site audio would be questionable.

Plan your music fills. I have a recording studio, so I worked that and built the smaller music myself.

Write the voice over track. Record the voice over track. Import that into the footage and sync it to the video.

So, let’s say that you’ve done all that. Let’s say that you have put months and months of your life into this project.

Let’s say that at some random point….say today’s random point…you know that you are close to showing this project (which you have carried so close to your heart), to the world.

You have to face the reality: what if the world doesn’t like it? What if I didn’t do my job? What if we didn’t tell the story? What if the audience doesn’t care?

You have to get up your gumption and your courage.

Being an artist is about putting yourself out there. It is standing on your feet and making a declaration: Hello, world! I am a filmmaker and I have something to say!

 

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The finish line

The cattle drive arrives in Wichita!

And that’s all she wrote!

The 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive was a huge success!

We loved being a part of this experience. As filmmakers, we tried to stay back and not influence the actions of the participants. We tried to capture the legitimate experience on camera.

The drovers embraced us. They treated us as “one of the family”. I think that – for all of us – this experience is one that enhances and enriches one’s life, in ways that cannot be imagined.

I know that I, personally,  have been affected by this cattle drive in profound ways. I have made friendships. I didn’t expect that. As one drover said, “When you make a friend out here, you’ve made a friend for life.”

***

Things I learned:

  1. When you just know you have the perfect shot – don’t gloat or pat your own back or congratulate yourself too soon. Someone will come up and ruin your shot.
  2. People really, really like horses and cattle and cowboys and wagons.  Hollywood may have determined that it is not worth the investment to make a western movie, anymore. I will tell you this: Hollywood is wrong. There is a HUGE market for people who like westerns.
  3. The tops of your ears can get sunburned! The first week, I wore my cowboy hat(s), which cover a lot more area. Therefore your ears are fine! This second week, the wind was up a lot more. I could not keep my cowboy hats on. I switched to a white ball cap – which I could scrunch down on my head. (Even at that – it still blew off more times than I could count.) And how many times did complete strangers go run after my hat? More times than I can count! Lesson learned: people have a lot more courtesy about chasing your hat – than about coming to stand in your shot/driving into your shot/talking during your shot.
  4. My movie partner, Don, carried me through this movie. I always knew he was an amazing actor. In that configuration – he is in front of the camera, and I am behind it. That works. But when we agreed to take on this project – it is two of us behind the camera(s). His innate talent at cinematography blew me away. The thing is – he does it automatically. He makes all these decisions and computations fast. And he gets the shot. (And when I have the occasional artistic complete and total meltdown – he has been the strong and stable one who carries me through it.)
  5. Filming this movie was four times more intense than I had anticipated.
  6. Fatigue has kicked my ass. It started in Oklahoma and it kicked it all the way to Wichita!
  7. If you have a low wind day (which is a miracle) someone will fly a drone and ruin your audio!
  8. If you ask a drover what they most liked about the cattle drive – the most common answer you’d get is: “I get to ride my horse!”

What is my takeaway from the experience?

For starters – how did the pioneers do this? How did the drovers on the Chisholm Trail do this?

How did they forge their way into territory with only their horse or only their horses and wagons? In the olden days, there were no grocery stores, nor convenience stores, nor motels, nor feed stores.

What gave a person enough courage to hitch up a wagon and travel to the great unknown?

If I want to go somewhere, I hop in a vehicle, I turn the key and I go. A lot of times, if I have to stop and open a garage door, I resent that level of “slow down”.

What happens when your main mode of travel is equine? If you have to saddle a horse before you go anywhere – that takes time. If you have to hitch a wagon – that takes time.

You always have to take care of your animals first. It doesn’t matter if you are thirsty or tired. You take care of your horse before you take care of yourself.

They have herded the cattle for the last time.

I am in awe of those men and women – one hundred and fifty years ago – who made this journey up the Chisholm Trail. For months, they worked hard, in brutal weather with no shelter. I don’t know about you – but if there is  a storm coming, I find the nearest roof. Those old time trail riders – if there was hail, they’d put their saddles over their shoulders to protect themselves.

If the ground was wet and if there was no way to avoid the muck – they would sleep in a triangle configuration – resting one’s head on another’s knees or lower legs – in order to be able to sleep without having your head in the mud.

Each night of this 2017 cattle drive, I came home. I rested my head on my pillow. I slept in my soft, comfortable bed. Under my own roof. After eating food…a lot of which other people cooked! I did a lot of takeout. Cooking was too much work for the duration of this cattle drive. Every day I’d come home with my brain fried from the level of thinking that doing this gig entails.

The whole time I was coming home to my own bed each night (while driving or riding in a vehicle with the air conditioner on high), those drovers were out there – sleeping on the ground. They had no respite from the heat/wind/bugs.

They ate a lot better than the pioneers did. Those meals cooked over the fire looked wonderful!

But the level of work involved in preparing those meals was astounding!

These drovers taught me what fortitude is. I learned so much about history. I learned a lot about humanity on this drive.

My life is sooo much richer – for having had this experience!

At virtually every corner – observers, crowds, families and friends gathered to watch the cattle drive pass by.

It is such a joy to see the kids out and about – learning about history. Every single one of these drovers took the time to share, to teach, to interact. That’s why they did this.

This cattle drive was more than a ceremonial experience. It connected people.

It connected people.

People from all walks of life would come to see the cattle, the horses, the drovers and the wagons.

Many, many times, I’d film a parade in a town, and when I’d turn around, the people would have a look of awe on their faces.

Imagine the joy, of watching a child get to pet a horse for the first time.

From the past – to the present – to the future, friendships are born. Connections are established.

Joy is shared!

***

News article from KAKE about the Chisholm Trail ride.

News article from Sunup Oklahoma about the Chisholm Trail ride.

 

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Modern conveniences

We are lucky, in 2017 to have a lot of modern conveniences to make this journey much easier.

We are so lucky to have escorts along the trail. These law enforcement and highway crews keep us safe.

I personally saw one incident where a driver was not going to obey the law. This driver was going to go around an emergency vehicle and drive – way too fast – into the cattle. That officer stopped that driver and protected us! These good people escorting us have kept us safe! Thank you!

What else do you need for a modern cattle drive?

Food!

The cowboys of old ate beans and biscuits, and maybe some dried beef jerky.

But in 2017, we are lucky. One of the support vehicles is a trailer with a refrigerator and freezer. It is powered by a generator. The drovers have had wonderful meals prepared in the open air over a campfire.

No day old beans and stale biscuits here!

What is another essential?

Down in the middle of the picture, you can see porta potties and blue stock tanks.

Each campsite has had these provided on site. They have hauled in hay and feed for the horses, cubes for the cattle and firewood for the fire.

Every single detail on this drive has been planned for and executed. There are a whole bunch of people – behind the scenes – who have made this once-in-a-lifetime event possible.

But who pulls this together, and keeps us all going? Who is the one out there taking care of business?

That’d be the cow boss:

Carmen Schultz.

Friend. Neighbor. A True Horsewoman!

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On the Trail

Monday night from the trail.

We had such a beautiful sunset!

Then Tuesday morning – on the move:

For most of the drive – two of the wagons drive ahead. Then comes the cattle drive (top of the hill). The rest of the wagons follow behind.

Can I take a moment to give a shout out to the law enforcement and highway workers who have provided escorts to the cattle drive? I have spoken to many, many of these people out on the road (“Hi! I’m the camera crew. I’m following the drive and making a movie!”) Every one has been so helpful. They have provided such a level of safety and assistance. Without this, this cattle drive would not have been possible.

Who are the other unsung heroes of the cattle drive?

The hosts. Property owners, farmers, and ranchers all along the route have allowed the cattle and the drovers to stay on their property. It can be a lot of disruption to have so much traffic on your road. At each stop, cow camp is open from 3 to 6. It is wonderful to have members of the public come out to share in this cattle drive experience. The property owners who have allowed us to stay on their property have been amazing.

I met the owners where the cattle drive camped on Tuesday night, and you could not find more helpful, gracious people. That has been my experience along the whole route.

The owners allowed me to access their private property to go get some amazing footage. And it was nice that the cattle had such a pleasant, comfortable place to stay!

I have had a couple of questions that go, “Where did these cattle…come from?” “Did people volunteer to let their cattle be a part of the drive?”

The answer is: The cattle are rented!

In 2017, for a ceremonial cattle drive – you have to rent cattle.

I’m sure that in the 1870’s, those drovers would have laughed at the concept!

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Where we’ve been – and where we’re going

Imagine standing in the middle of the lone prairie.

The only sounds are the wind through the grasses, the bellow of the cattle, and the neigh of the horses.

You see the bright blue sky, and you marvel at the majesty of the vista that is before you.

Imagine the cowboys, on the trail for all those weeks – no shelter, no roof, no bed.

It’s easy to fly by things in the world at seventy miles per hour.

But truly, how many of us have ever slowed down enough to walk – at a horse’s walking pace, and observe the world around us?

History is right in front of us.

That’s why we do this: to show the way that things were.

Much like the passage of time, memories can be erased.

Where were we yesterday? Who can remember?

Much like these tracks that link today’s starting point to today’s ending point…

we ride this trail to stay connected.

Not just to the past – but to the future. Along the way, we connect with each other. We have made friends. One of the riders on the cattle drive said it best, “When you make a friend out here, then you have made a friend for life!”

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Visit the cattle drive!

Come visit the cattle drive!

This is a rare opportunity to see how things were and how things used to be.

The purpose of the 2017 Chisholm Trail Cattle Drive is to educate, celebrate, and commemorate the Chisholm Trail.

This is a chance to see history – live – right before your eyes.

This is the schedule of the Cattle Drive.

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