Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 13: Night of Wolves, Pelican Morning, Mist Rising

He hears wolves for the first time in the wild while camping near the Jefferson River outside Billings, Mont. He says the River is a symbol for his journey – the story of headwaters leaking into the big artery of life, the Mississippi which he is going to end up at after 2,500 miles of driving, interviewing and shooting the land.

It’s the Mississippi where oil might seep into and where Marc first wants to spend time, at its mouth, kayaking inlets and filming wildlife. It’s the Mississippi that is the sewer for 11 states and all those petrochemicals and toxins leeching from cities, mines, and farms.

He woke up the next day to frost, a lifting mist, and seven white pelicans mucking about wetlands while snow-capped mountains took over depth of field. Those pelicans became his talisman, Marc Gauthier said, as he knew he’d be meeting their cousins soon, the brownies, in the Gulf of Mexico, oil-globbed and dying.

“It was a good sign seeing those pelicans before I crossed the Continental Divide,” he said. Plus, the light was right and the footage he got was “sick,” the parlance of exceptional.

Marc was pumped up, full of emotional steam, and setting the standard for the course he was taking: Talk to people and get them on camera to answer three or four basic questions. Listen to the radio and see what is being said about the oil disaster. Take in the land and film scenery out the car window. Find a camp spot to rest up and organize his thoughts. Prepare for the next day.

So, what do you say to a husky, pony-tailed guy driving a cobalt blue 2010 Toyota Matrix with a smiley face yellow sea kayak strapped to the roof while he approaches you with a video camera and big, Spokane smile?

That is the question, and three very different people along the way ended up on film responding to the simple questions: Had you heard of the oil spill? How do you think it will affect or impact your life? Who’s responsible for the disaster?

He got three people on camera: Cody Haymen, of Wallace, Idaho, 20 years old and NIC metallurgy student. Jeff Cleveland, a 46-year-old sales rep from Coeur d’Alene. And, Beverly Dupree, a 38-year-old policy director for a Missoula-based non-profit.

Marc’s filmic ideas were gelling, he kept telling me. The journey, his, and the process of change he is experiencing, that’s one film. Then, the landscape rushing by at 65 mph, that’s another collage-montage fast cut and splice thing. The interviews of people along the way, another chapter to the big film. And then the lay of the land and the oil mess up close and personal, the Dispatches from a Disaster film incubating.

The NIC student told Marc he hadn’t heard about the spill and wouldn’t change much about his lifestyle because of it. The salesman had been watching the news and knew about the British Petroleum accident. He said he expects everyone will feel the effects with higher gas prices down the pike. “We have to make sure it never happens again,” Cleveland said. Beverly Dupree told Marc a lot, articulated that the environmental costs will be big, that this should be a wake-up call and teachable moment for everyone.

She cited the fact that the BP disaster could be the largest environmental accident in this country’s history. She’s been thinking about oil regularly now, as a resource. Dupree said it’s a timely accident and environmental disaster because the climate bill is being pushed in Congress. She thinks about every mile she now drives her car.

We all are in that spill – our hopes, dreams, way of life, and it might just be the beginning of the end of oil. Or, the other side to that resource coin: Drill, baby, drill more before it runs out.”

To keep up on a more regular basis, Dispatches from a Disaster, by Paul K. Haeder, as told by Marc Gauthier, dial in here:

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