August 31, 2005:
"Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun," quoted Noel Coward of an old East Indian saying. It turns out so do a young director and production group making their first feature length film. This noonday sun is the strongest too, because it is the noonday sun of Panamint and Death Valley in July.
When I arrived at the Panamint Resort, the crew and actor were just finishing lunch. It was after four o'clock. They had been shooting near Father Crowley Point and they were about to depart for the first dialogue shot on Route 190 not too far from Towne's Pass. It was hot at the resort, but this was the first real day of "film in the can" although the company had been at Stovepipe Wells for a couple of days, and were returning tomorrow to shoot at Ubehebe Crater, among other places.
Bone Dry is the story of a confrontation between two men, Jimmy and Eddie, in the desert, when they take turns as hunter and the hunted. The synopsis reads, "Within the climax, hunter and hunted come face to face when they reach their rendezvous: an open grave. The lines of justice are reversed on the audience in an unexpected twist revealed in the final flashback-predator becomes prey in the blink of an eye, for Eddie the hunted was once the hunter, a ruthless killer who annihilated Jimmy's family and left them in this very same shallow desert grave…. But Jimmy survived, crawling his way out of the desert in order to get even."
I had made friends with Greg Hughs, the producer, a few weeks before when he had contacted me for some locations in Inyo. When he arrived in town, it was late in the day and he had been on the road for several weeks. He was clearly exhausted. He had deadlines though, so I offered to drive him around. While focused on his work for the film, I soon learned his heart was back in Texas where his girl friend was waiting for him. He had plans to rendezvous with her for Memorial Day weekend: this was clearly a man in love. He wanted to use Viking Mine out towards Darwin, but the BLM refused film access until an environmental assessment could be completed, to be paid for by the production company. Greg said they had the money but not the six months time it would take.
Instead of shooting across the southwest, when I arrived on set, Greg informed me they were shooting all in California except one scene in Arizona and one in Nevada. He also introduced me to his fiancée who was working for a few days with him on the film. He told me he had proposed here because "he couldn't wait," but they had been so busy they barely had had time to celebrate.
Greg has the passion for film that the young have. Inyo County historically has been a great place for new directors and actors to cut their professional teeth. For Greg and his friends, the challenges of shooting on location in Death Valley in July were all in a day's work. I couldn't help think about the simllarities between this film and Greed so many years ago.
While Greg and I had traveled looking at locations he had talked about his years working on commercial projects and music videos in Austin Texas. His life is changing and so is the market and he is hoping not to be on the road traveling from place to place so much. When as a student Greg had written a script for the show "Growing Pains," he had been discovered by Alan Thicke The star also encouraged Greg "never to give up." With many projects and accolades to his credit, Greg now owns BIG LOOK! Productions in Austin, Texas.
Bret A. Hart is the director of Bone Dry and I had only spoken to him on the phone but he was welcoming and enthusiastic out in the valley when we met. Bret decided early on to be a director, using an 8mm camera in the sixth grade. He finished his first suspense film, a thirty minute movie entitled "The Tone Of Murder," when only a junior in high school.
Bret has continued to "pay his dues" with automobile commercial projects, karaoke videos and two short films "A Fine Line" and "Dead End" which can be viewed at his website bretahart.com. This will whet your appetite for Bone Dry. A preview of that film is available at www.bonedryfilm.com
Everyone was very proud of the car; an ominous bulky truck with "horns" on the side and art department created scars and rusted spots. A sinister grey with a deep rumble, the car reminded me of the truck in the first twenty minutes of the film Jeepers Creepers. I didn't have the heart to tell them I had seen several vehicles like it in Darwin, Keeler and the back streets of Lone Pine the last several years.
The film has the feeling of "the touch of the lizard's tail," a term a friend used once to describe the ominous and menacing feeling the desert and its isolated inhabitants can produce. Many films recently have used the "lizard's tail" and a desert setting to create a sub-genre of "noir" film style. The prop car was meant to evoke this feeling throughout this film.
When Lance Hendriksen, the star of the film, had run through his scene several times, bees began to swarm on him. As more insects gathered it looked like he might be attacked and the scene was going to be scrapped. The harshness of the desert environment had reared its head. (Next time, we will continue the story of on location with the Bone Dry crew in Death Valley.)
READ PART TWO OF THIS STORY