The GoPro Mountain Games was my first real test as the new intern. The morning of June 1st, with 6 bags strapped to the top of the car, 5 people strategically placed in seats, 4 pounds of car snacks and 1,258 miles ahead of us, the Ford Explorer rolled reluctantly out of the driveway bound for Vail.
From exposure triangles and 5 shot sequences, from timelapse to shopping for gluten-free lactose vegetarians … the past two weeks have been nothing short of eye-opening. Here are just three things I took away from my experience:
1. Check all the boxes. Twice.
Last time I was on a AFS course I was a student and got to enjoy the benefits of a well organized program. This time, however, I was on the flip side of the production. This time I had to worry about getting sponsorships, confirming reservations, accounting for the camera gear – all the little things you overlook as a participant that are critical to the course’s operation. Come the morning of June 1st we had jammed the last of our gear checklist in the trunk and hit the road. We were about 5 hours into our drive when we realized: SHIT.
It was my assignment to help set up the AFS information booth where we would be handing out brochures and screening our promotional video. I had spent the previous week fabricating a projection screen on which to air it. The night before we left I had set it in the corner and checked it off our gear list but forgot to pack it in the car.
Lucky for me, our instructor living in Colorado, Micah Baird, came to the rescue and was able to whip together a replacement projector screen but I’d already learned my first trial-by-error as an intern: make like St. Nick and check that list twice!
2. Problem solving and Duct Tape.
Preparing for an AFS course was eye opening to how much detail goes into making the magic happen but there comes a point, especially in outdoor adventure filming, when you can only prepare for so much. There are things that cannot possibly be accounted for and my week spent in Vail was a testament to rolling with the punches and making the most of the situation.
We solved projector problems with duct tape, persevered hotel gas leaks in basement conference rooms and pizza, rain-proofed our gear with garbage bags, handled tight time restraints with massive caffeine doses, and fixed broken car windows with, of course, more duct tape. The outdoor film industry is a perfect place to hone in on the art of creative problem solving, a reminder to make lemonade out of those lemons, and maybe, if its that kind of day, add a splash of vodka.
3. There is no substitute for experience
This is one of my favorite things about the Adventure Film School. As a student who struggled with textbooks and scantron exams, I’ve found there is no better way to learn the industry than by holding that camera in your hand and that lens up to your eye. Between over exposed shots, poorly-lit interviews and shaky handhelds I made my fair share of mistakes, but at the end of the day I came away more experienced than before. Even though I still have a LONG way to go, I left Vail feeling a little more confident and I watched as the other students in the course did the same.
12 days later we stumbled out of our temporary home on wheels, brushed the crumbs from our laps and fell into our beds with grateful puddles of drool. The GoPro Mountain Festival was the last hoorah for trailblazer Sarah McDonagh, and upon returning she passed the proverbial intern torch to myself and left behind (literally, just yesterday I found one of her shoes stuffed under the drivers seat) some big shoes to fill. I can hope to be as impactful as she was in her time here.
Safe travels Sarah, you will be greatly missed!