THE SUMMERLANDS

Behind The Scenes
Director's Statement

The Summerlands was shot in 7 days by a cast and crew of 13 people. 

Made on a  a micro budget  and filmed in (mostly) chronological order on a six day road trip up California's Highway 395, it is a love letter to the small town of Fort Bidwell, CA, the highway that runs from Los Angeles to it, and the forgotten history of the landscape stretching between those two points.  

Fort Bidwell is the most northeasterly town in California and where my father's family hails from. It is where my brother and I spent the formative summers of our youth and represents a halcyon Neverland that lingers in our hearts. For years we've imagined making movies there and so in 2015, I took some time off work, borrowed my niece and with the gracious participation of friends and family, shot this film.

DAY 1

6AM

We left Los Angeles in our two picture cars and our mobile base camp, a rented RV, which can be seen periodically throughout the film.

By 8, we had arrived in Hesperia, CA having already shot two car scenes with Stacy and Shylah.

Hesperia is where Highway 395 has its modern southern terminus.  This is where we shot the first scenes of Deeds making her documentary.

John Cannizzaro, our Super8 expert, instructs Shylah on the finer points of the Nikon R10 Super 8 camera.

Though the Super8 footage in the film was shot by Shylah, John and Katy, most of the time you see Deeds filming, the corresponding documentary footage is that which Shylah shot in the scene.

Photo by Cheryl Bucher

1:15PM

By now we had eaten at the local diner in Hesperia and shot the gas station scene where our girls have their first run in with the douchebags.  We were of course shooting without permits and had to pretend we were taking an exceedingly long time to fill up our three vehicles.  We positioned the RV to hide our activities from the attendants in the office.  That done, we  moved north of Kramer Junction to shoot Deeds  filming the solar farm.

Shooting Deeds filming the solar farm.

Photo by Johan Tang

2PM

The girls pick up Pete.  We shot this scene on the dirt road you see behind Jill's car just off the 395.  

We proceeded to shoot the next 3 scenes of them talking in the car on the way to Fossil Falls.

From L to R:

SB Robinson, Richard Bucher, Scout Bucher, Brian Duffy, Katy Bucher, John Cannizzaro, Shylah Bucher, Stacy Cunningham and Ryan Scott.

Photos by Johan Tang

4:15PM

We shoot at the amazing Fossil Falls created a millennia ago by the Owens River cutting through a lava flow.  

We have one more daylight scene to shoot and are starting to loose light...

Shylah and I turn our cameras on each other.  For a person who started out as a real monster of a little kid, she sure turned out awesome.

I was so lucky to spend this time with her and watching her through the lens was magical.

Photo by Johan Tang

6:15PM

Coso Junction.  Our last daylight scene .  Jill has a run in with the douchebags.  Coso Junction is a big roadside rest stop and I'm sure all the other travelers were bemused, especially when Stacy started putting Noah and Kris in their places.

Brian Duffy and I confer over story boards as Johan Tang looks on.  Brian got stuck being the bad guy of the crew as our  first AD, production coordinator, transpo captain and stunt coordinator.  

 

He was always the one who had to be responsible and tell us to quit goofing around and get a move on it.

 

 I couldn't have made the movie without him.

Great man.  Great husband.

Photo by Cheryl Bucher

9:30 PM

Olancha, CA  

After dinner at the awesome Ranch House Cafe, we returned to the Olancha RV Park and Mobile Home Park (and motel) to prepare for the last scene of our first day.  The climax of our movie - the rescue of Deeds.  

 

The is one of the few scenes in the film that we shot out of order.  The RV Park was kind enough to let us film in the middle of the night behind their facility .  It had been a  long day already and we were about to embark on probably the most complex scene in the film when we were all really tired.  Not an ideal situation but such were our constraints.  The actors and crew were real heroes to put up with the cold night and exhaustion.  A special nod to Stacy who had to spend a lot of the time without a shirt and was never anything but a gracious pro.

Stacy and I met our first day at CalArts a million years ago and I am so lucky to have her in my life.  Fantastic actress, gorgeous gal and a real dame.  She came out from Georgia to do this film for me and I couldn't be more amazed and thankful.

From L to R:

Noah Fleder, Kristopher Giacomazzi, Shylah Bucher, Stacy Cunningham and Ryan Scott.

9:30 PM

The cast rehearses the scene back at the motel before venturing into the cold night

Photo by Johan Tang

2:17 AM

Olancha RV and Mobile Home Park 

Deeds rescue was finally finished.  My team is amazing.

We had travelled 230 miles and shot 10 scenes that day  but I had failed to get one scene (the first hotel room scene) that was scheduled and we decided to push its shooting to the hotel in Minden, NV on our third shoot day. 

Brian and I slept in our RV to save money and keep guard over all the equipment.  It was cold and we weren't supposed to use the bathroom. Ugh.

DAY 2

10:30 AM

Having breakfasted again at the Ranch Cafe (pretty much the only place in Olancha to eat!), we were off to the Cottonwood Kilns on the west side of Owens Lake  to shoot our first scene of the day.

Getting a lot of support from John Cannizzaro while shooting at the kilns.

Photo by Johan Tang

The film really rests on believing the relationship between Deeds, Jill and Pete and it was amazing to see a  close rapport begin to develop between Shylah, Stacy and Ryan who didn't know each other before the filming began.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

4 PM

We had circumnavigated Owens Lake, run into an accident-caused road closure that forced us to abandon shooting at Cerro Gordo, and improvised two  new scenes  to take its place.   Finally we arrived in the Alabama Hills at the base of Mount Whitney.  We decided Jill should act like a tour guide so that if tourists wandered into our shot, she could interact with them.  Ultimately, we were able to shoot around them but they did look a bit confused as they passed our motley crew.

Brian and I and a group of tourists visiting the Hills near the Mobeus Arch.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

5:30 PM

Manzanar.  We arrived after the park closed.  Whoops.

The barracks were all locked but no one seemed to care if we walked around the grounds.  We shot 3 scenes here, always expecting someone to stop us .   The sun setting with that beautiful Owens Valley light behind the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the memorial to the interred Japanese Americans was incredibly majestic and heart breaking.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Noah Fleder, who played Dean our lead douche bag, is an amazing martial artist, stunt man and creator of the most phenomenal Star Wars fan films you've ever seen.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Kris Giacomazzi , stunt man and all around good-guy , who plays Tom, one of our bad guys, sits on the douche mobile as the sun sets in the Manzanar parking lot.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

8:30 PM

Diner in Big Pine at Rossi's Place.  We took over half the tiny bar and pizza parlour with our group, ate diner and managed to shoot a scene with no one stopping us.  Originally the scene had dialogue but in the interest of shooting discreetly, we decided to just have Deeds observe the flirtation between Jill and Pete without hearing what anyone was saying.  If you had panned slightly to the right, you could have seen the entire cast and crew! 

Photos by Johan Tang

All 13 of us.  The entire cast and crew!

11:30 PM

Bristlecone Motel.

We shot the last 2 scenes of the day in John's enormous hotel room.  Deeds and Jill's room with the two beds on one wall and Pete's room on the opposite.  Hysterical laughter to fight the tension of a love scene keeping Kris awake because he had the misfortune to have the adjoining room!

Day 2 done. Another 12 scenes complete.  112 miles circumnavigating Owens Lake from Olancha  to Big Pine.

DAY 3

6:30 AM

Before breakfast we shot Jill keying the douche mobile outside the hotel room in Big Pine at just under an altitude of 4000 ft .

By 9 AM we were at The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest over 10,000 ft above sea level.

We were filming early enough in the spring that the road was still closed and we had to hoof it from the gate up to the trees.  There were patches of snow on the ground and the elevation is so high that  you are quickly winded. So we filmed at the first patch of trees we came to and didn't even make it all the way to the Schulman grove. 

The elevation that exhausted us didn't keep Kris from taking a run while we filmed.

Photo by Johan Tang

I was blown away by how prepared, relaxed and professional Shylah was.   Her experience as a dancer had given her a lot of discipline and ease in performing in front of an audience and the tutelage of her mother Cheryl, who is an actress and stunt woman, and Stacy, who really took Shy under her wing, resulted in an amazingly mature performance for an inexperienced 13 year old actress.

Photo by Johan Tang

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

10:45 AM 

We were on our way back down the White Mountains and heading to West Portal just south of Mono Lake .  The ruins are spread out over several acres, buried in deep sage and underbrush. Some serious bushwhacking was required.

Photos by Johan Tang

Not only was John our Super8 expert, he was also our boomerang instructor seen here giving pointers to Ryan.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

2:30 PM

We had a lot of miles to cover today and had to make it to the ghost town of Bodie with time to film before the park closed at 4PM.  Unlike Manzanar, Bodie has a much bigger park ranger presence and I knew we wouldn't be able to film after hours. 

We were supposed to shoot a scene on the shores of Mono Lake but had to cut it in order to have a chance of getting to Bodie.  It was the only scene in the script that was entirely eliminated from the film.

My blatant homage to Anton Corbijn's iconic photos of U2 in Bodie for the Joshua Tree album.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Bodie was the only place we were questioned about filming.  We explained that "Deeds" was making a film report for school and we were helping her.  

With literally minutes to spare before the park closed, we shot our scene.  It was Noah and Kris' last scene of the shoot and they would be flying home from Reno in the morning while the rest of us continued north.

Photo by Cheryl Bucher

11:30 PM

We ended our day in Minden, Nevada, picking up the hotel room scene we had booted from Day 1.  

We only shot 6 scenes today but had traveled another 245 miles.

Day 4

11 AM

With Noah and Kris dropped off at the Reno airport, we headed 122 miles north to Janesville.  On route we shot at the shoe tree and the Fort Janesville marker before our rendezvous-vouz with the rest of the team.

At the Noble Emigrant Trail historical marker.  The RV was our mobile base camp which provided a bathroom, craft service and beds to nap in.

From L to R:

Cheryl Bucher, Scout Bucher, Brian Duffy, Ryan Scott and Sierra Bay Robinson.

Photo by Johan Tang

Just north of Standish, CA we shot Pete seeing the douche mobile pass with Deeds in the back.  With walkie talkies and crew members hidden a half mile down the highway in either direction, we coordinated the action of the cars and Pete around the existing traffic in a one-shot master.

3 PM

At the Heavenly Valley rest stop we shot another of the few scenes that were filmed out of sequential order, the kidnapping of Deeds.  It again required our crew hidden up and down the highway to coordinate our action around real traffic. Richard and Johan doubled the now-absent Noah and Kris in the car.

Brian ensuring that my brother doesn't run me over with the douche mobile for some ancient grudge!

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

3:30 PM

The 11 remaining cast and crew heading on to the final stretch of the film.  Next up, our scene in Likely, 62 miles north. 

L to R:

Richard Bucher, Brian Duffy, Cheryl Bucher, Stacy Cunningham, Shylah Bucher, Scout Bucher, Sierra Bay Robinson, Johan Tang, Katy Bucher, John Cannizzaro and Ryan Scott.

Photo by Johan Tang

4:30 PM

We are now in Modoc County, the most northeastern county in California.  We film at the Likely Cemetery by the grave of my cousin Heather who died at 19.

Photos by Sierra Bay Robinson

Surprisingly, this was the only scene where Shylah didn't know her lines.  Perhaps because it too was shot out of chronological order. We rehearsed with a tremendous amount of strangely manic, buoyant energy on that cold afternoon and it became one of Shy's favorite scenes.

Then it was onward to Alturas (with a brief stop for a speeding ticket in the douche mobile!) and after dinner at a really good Chinese restaurant in a small, mostly white, town - we had two major scenes to shoot at the Rim Rock Motel; the dance and Pete's beat down.

Richard and Brian teach Stacy and Ryan the fight sequence and show them how to take and receive blows that sell.

Photo by Johan Tang

In the script, these two scenes take place in Minden which is a casino town just south of Carson City, NV.  Logistically, it made more sense to do it here in Alturas which is small and the Rim Rock is on the outskirts of town, so we weren't going to be attracting undue attention with our shenanigans.  We told the management at the motel that we were a theatre troupe rehearsing a play and fake fight and asked permission to work in their back yard where guests were allowed to keep any horses that they were hauling.  Stacy went to the occupied rooms and explained that they shouldn't worry if they heard any yelling.

That's a wrap on Pete and Deeds' wig!

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Midnight

With both scenes shot and blessedly, no complaints from the few guests at the motel despite the profanity laden shouting, we were done for the day.

Another 255 miles and 9 scenes in the can.

Day 5

Our final day of shooting.

From Alturas we head north to New Pine Creek on the Oregon-California border to shoot the last scene of the film.

Part of our crew had headed onto Cedarville and Fort Bidwell to prepare for later in the day, so we were down to a cast and crew of 7 at New Pine Creek.  With John busy shooting Super8, Ryan, who was wrapped as an actor, now filled in as an additional cameraman.  It was very windy and cold at the state line.

3 photos by Sierra Bay Robinson

Ryan shooting Stacy, filming Shylah.

By noon we are headed over Fandango Pass into Surprise Valley.  We pause to dance the fandango at the summit then head to Fort Bidwell at last.

Looking into Surprise Valley from Fandango Pass.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

My grandparents ranch is now Locavore Farms and the owner was amazing and kind and let us film there by the creek that we had  played in as children.

My father's cousin Jane took John around Fort Bidwell to shoot Super8 B-roll for Deeds' film and the rest of us headed a little south to Lake City  to film at the mill my great-great grandfather built in the 1860's.

The current owners were incredibly gracious and generous to let us film there.  They are in the process of restoring the mill.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

5 PM

We have finished shooting our last scene.  Principle photography has wrapped!

We head back up to Fort Bidwell for our wrap dinner at the Fort Bidwell Hotel that was once owned by my great grandfather.  Our dinner was catered by the woman who now owns the house my great-great grandfather built for his family. The dinner is attended by all the wonderful new people we have met in Surprise Valley  that have generously allowed us to shoot on their properties and helped us to make  the film.

I film Bonnie's house which was built by my great-great grandfather as the sun goes down in Surprise Valley.

Photo by Sierra Bay Robinson

Only 3 scenes and  82 miles today but we've spanned 4 generations of my family's history.  Like the summers of my youth, Surprise Valley remained suffused with sweet smells and beautiful light  and the immeasurable gift of friends and family.

Day 6

673 miles to home.

​We stop only for necessities and to throw shoes on the shoe tree and sign our names with other travelers and wonder how many years it will remain.

3 photos by Sierra Bay Robinson

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