Over the weekend I was a “set photographer” for the final scene in the documentary “Work of 1000“.
Despite living 20 miles from the Nashua River, I was unaware until recently that a documentary was being filmed about the people who spearheaded its transformation from one of the most polluted rivers in the United States to one of our local gems.
In the 1960s Marion Stoddart looked at the Nashua River and decided that she would dedicate herself to healing this ailing natural resource. At the time paper mills and other industries filled the river with dyes and toxins. This, combined with raw sewage discharges from towns along the river, destroyed the river’s ecosystem and created a blight on the landscape that one could smell for miles around.
Marion was involved in the passage of the Massachusetts Clean Rivers Act which predates the Federal “Clean Water Act”. She help create the Nashua River Cleanup Committee (a forerunner of the Nashua River Watershed Association). Her tenacity, dedication, diplomacy, and intelligence created a movement that reverberates to the present day. Marion has been recognized by the United Nations, National Geographic, and countless environmental groups for her efforts.
I met Susan Edwards, producer of the documentary “Work of 1000″, which chronicles Marion’s work on the Nashua, at a local EMS store that was doing a weekend promotion of local environmental organizations. I was there representing the Organization for the Assabet River and Susan was looking for supporters for her documentary.
The storyboard for the final scene of the movie called for a helicopter shot of Marion paddling alone down the Nashua River, then followed by a myriad of other boats representing those that joined her in restoring the river. Susan was looking for experienced paddlers to be part of the filming of this scene. We immediately signed up and I offered my services as a photographer on that day if it could be of any value.
That’s Bob Sisson and Beth ____ checking out the cameras for the morning’s activity. Our charming run of weather had, unfortunately, forced the production team to cancel the helicopter due to the threat of thunderstorms so they went to “Plan B” which was a static shot from a bridge.
There were about 70 boats in the water and the team did a great job of wrangling everyone into the right places and having them do various maneuvers in support of the filming. Lots of people brought their own boats, but fair percentage were supplied by Nashoba Paddler. (In the small world department, I discovered that Nashoba Paddlers was owned by a former colleague from my days in the networks engineering group at Digital: Pete Carson. I kept looking at Pete thinking “it sure looks like him, but…” — context is everything.)
Bob was the primary cinematographer for the day and the primary members of the production team were on the bridge communicating with others via cellphone, walkie-talkie, and bullhorn. ”Organized Chaos” is how they referred to the operation.
The helicopter shot would have been a single take. Without the helicopter the team had the luxury of a second take and they took advantage of it. I don’t know which one they will use, but I liked the feel of the 2nd one better. Here Marion paddles back to join up with the throng of boats following her.
Marion is very spry for someone in their 80′s and she appeared to have a good time being the star of show — although I think she would have been just as happy to be paddling without all of the hub-bub.
For a final shot the boats all rafted together and waved. While the river isn’t flowing quickly, the past few weeks of nearly daily rain still created a bit of a current and everyone worked very well together to make these scenes happen.
We all look forward to the release of this inspiring film about one of our local rivers. And, if you have the chance, rent a boat from my friends Pete & Diane at Nashoba Paddler and experience this beautiful river firsthand.
After milling about on-shore with the production team and participants I headed out on the water with the Canon 5D Mark 2 and the 500mm f/4 L and 24-70mm f/2.8L; and the 1D Mark 2 mounted with a 70-200mm f/2.8. Betsy was in another kayak with a 40D and the 16-35mm f/2.8L. There were other photographers there doing behind the scenes stuff, so during the filming I was standing off with the long lenses and out of the filming camera’s field of view. Betsy would be “in situ”, discretely photographing as a participant. Thirty seconds after arriving at the marshaling site I realized that I should have brought my 10D and rigged it for a time-lapse of the area: getting 70 boats in and out of the water is no small feat and it would have made a nice sequence. Ah well. Something to remember for the “next time” I do behind the scenes work on a river.
The images were processed and edited with Lightroom and uploaded for the production team that evening. The only challenge was the sun. We haven’t seen the sun here for like a week and it was out strong for the filming. The strong shadows required some fill light in a number of the images and that took a bit of extra time to get right.