Gretchen’s Lock was our first independent film. Both Danielle and I spent a lot of time visiting Beaver Creek State Park with family as we grew up not knowing each other. Five and a half years ago, before we got into photography and way before video, we went to explore Gretchen’s Lock for the first time together with our pug, Norris. It was an early Autumn day and there was a chill in there air. Of course, that was heightened as we approached the lock.
After exploring we made our way back to the parking lot. Jokingly we said, “Someone should make a movie about this place.” Like I said before, this is way before we even got into the industry and we didn’t remember that we talked about it until just before we started to film. Digging in the Facebook archives today we found this post that blew our mind! Seriously, this is CRAZY!!
Fast forward to last July, after photographing over 100 weddings and dabbling in a few promotional videos, I had the idea of making an independent film. I wanted to make a film about something local, something outdoors, and something relatively low budget. Beaver Creek came to mind because of its beauty and wonder. As I started to develop ideas, Gretchen’s Lock popped into my head. I began research and found out even more legends in the area that I’ve heard in passing but had never connected.
I began writing a screenplay in mid-July and finished the bulk of it sitting on the porch of a cabin in Amish country near Sugarcreek while we were on vacation in August. As soon as we returned home I quickly wanted to get things underway. I drove down to the park, hiked to Gretchen’s Lock, snapped a few photos of the lock and Hambleton’s Mill before I left and put a poster for a cast & crew call. Danielle and I joked in the evenings saying, “Who do you think we can pull into this production?” We thought maybe some family friends and perhaps a handful of people could be dragged in. After posting the cast and crew call poster our phone, email, and social media blew up with interest of people wanting to be a part of the production. I think my phone rang nonstop for 3 or 4 days! The reach of the poster was over 67,000 people! Yikes!
After sending out hundreds of emails and receiving information forms from those who were interested we narrowed down the crew members and the potential actors we’d be auditioning. We set up the auditions for September 20th, 2015 and got things moving at Beaver Creek by applying for a permit to film there and reserved the Group 3 campsite. We were blown away by some of the auditions and started to assemble the cast.
After reaching out to fill in a couple of the roles we had our team! I finished tweaking the script and we had one and only production meeting and table read. Due to the quick nature of wanting to film at the end of October, a good handful of cast and crew couldn’t make it to the meeting. Despite that fact, after the meeting I felt energized and ready to get more things rolling.
October is usually the busiest time of the year for our photography business. From weddings to family sessions to high school seniors our schedule was jam packed. What a great idea to schedule films dates in the busiest month of the year, NOT! Danielle sometimes looked at me like I was crazy. We were running around from all of the sessions, taking care of our 8 month old, and gathering equipment, supplies, and working around everyone’s schedule to come up with a solid film schedule for the three days we filmed in October. October was surely a whirlwind of chaos, but things started falling into place.
The week before filming we had photo sessions almost every evening, a wedding on Saturday, and another session on Sunday before we began filming on Monday, October 26th. That Friday, the 23rd, I got up at 3:30 am, went to Walmart to get supplies, went to a few hardware stores when they opened, hit up Hobby Lobby to get some other supplies, and then, of course, stopped at Chick-Fil-A for an early lunch.
I sped my way back home to begin working on things. As the day quickly faded away I realized there were some things that just weren’t going to get completed. We packed up and headed to our wedding the next day and then to our session Sunday evening (our session was in Bethany, WV so it took an hour and twenty minutes to get there). After arriving home late, we got everything we could together.
As the restless night ensued, I got up at the crack of dawn to load everything up for filming. I was quite tired, very anxious, and hoping everything would go as planned. Everything was loaded up, I headed down to the park, met up with Joe, and we began unloading. It was a beautiful Fall day. The leaves were so colorful, the sun was golden and warm, and there was an Autumn chill in the air. If there was any day to be representative of an ideal Fall day, this was it.
Butterflies were still fluttering away in my stomach as other crew and cast members arrived. When I saw most of the cast coming out of the shuttle, it hit me. This is actually going to happen.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be directing and filming a screenplay that I wrote and that there would be so many people willing to commit most of their time for three days to make it possible. After I met a few for the first time it was back to reality.
We began setting up the cameras and getting the audio equipment ready to go. The cast prepped for the day as the crew gathered equipment to hike to Gretchen’s Lock, which was about a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. I lead the pack with my camera on the glidecam attached to the stabilizing arm and vest still in disbelief that this was actually happening.
I wanted to show everyone Gretchen’s Lock before we began filming to set the tone. After a brief overview it was time….