Carlos Schomaker, the president of Florida Trail was there with gifts for Florida Trail through-hikers there who have also hiked a long trail outside Florida. One lady in the audience had hiked the this trail, the John Muir trail seven times (yes 7) and was hiking it again this summer. Deb Blick was setup in the lobby to sign up new Florida Trail members. Film DVD's, shirts and CD's were also for sale.
I was lucky to sit in the audience beside the filmmakers family and we talked about them keeping Ric and Jens daughter for 5 weeks while the "kids" backpacked, and about all the good and great things that have happened with the film since they got back.
Technically the film is very, very good. It is interspersed with still photographs that Jen took along the way. Time lapse photography was used creatively and brought an "oooh" from the audience during the scene showing the star fields and tents at night. The GoPro camera was dunked under water (what it is designed for) and worn on the body for a couple scenes. The music soundtrack was written by backpackers they met on the trail. Ric had run ahead of the hiking group several times, setup his camera dolly and shot awesome moving dolly shots of the backpacking group as they hiked up the trail. It was an unusually heavy snow year and they hiked through snow many days in July and crossed waist deep water in the swollen streams (big snow, deep water). Zee Hatley and Jason Fitzpatrick were the other camera operators and the team shot the trail as they saw it. The graphics were created by another hiker they met on the trail.
Remember, these people had to carry their video and audio gear, plus camping gear, plus food on their backs every day. And stop, unpack and shoot, repack, and walk. And do it over again every day for 25 days.
Artistically, the film is excellent and it tells several stories using humor. There was the sad story of one of the group having to drop out, he was going too slow and was afraid of holding the group back. There was the cool story of a guy who they met on the trail who had hiked the Muir Trail 50 years ago that week. There was the personal story of backpacking parents missing their child and wanting to share these special moments with her. There were the people they met and the ones who tagged along. There are the funny moments, a prank or two and non-stop trail name humor. The scene where Durand Trench, the audio technician unloads and sets up his gear to record the sound of frogs, and then the frogs hush and don't make a sound until he after he has given up and repacked his gear. And then the frogs start up again. It is the universally funny times like this along with all those funny trail talk moments (blisters, heavy backpacks, smelly bodies) that had us all laughing out loud.
Overall the film shows the grandeur of the John Muir trail, the beautiful, stark lands they travel through, and showcases John Muir's "mountains of light" while it documents their 25 day hike. And this is why the film is so good: It comes straight from the heart.
If you backpack and have not seen the film, go see it. Watch the DVD if you can.
Upcoming film events include:
- August 1st at the Mountaineers Program Center in Seatle.
- August 9 at Adventure 16 in West LA.
- August 23rd at Adventure 16 in San Diego.
- September 6th at the Pacific Crest Trail Days in Cascade Locks, Oregon.