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February 28, 2008
Searching for Cloud
|Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens leads her horse Trace through the Pryor Mountain landscape in search of wild mustangs that are the stars of her films.|
|Matt Dillon photo|
LOVELL, Wyoming (STPNS) -- As winter turns to spring, ice turns to water, cold cliffs turn to babbling brooks and the Pryor Mountain wild mustangs make their way up the mountain, following the thawing frost and looking for food. This marks the beginning of the season where the wild horses are active and can be seen in their home on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range northeast of Lovell.
Filmmaker Ginger Kathrens was in Lovell during the week of Feb. 11 to film for the third movie in her series that chronicles the life of Cloud, a palomino colt that Kathrens has known since his birth 13 years ago.
Kathrens has been gathering footage since last May, but this time was different, as she and her crew would focus on using a helicopter-mounted camera to capture the Pryor Mountain landscape in a new way.
A high-definition Cineflex camera, the same kind used on the Discovery Channel?s Planet Earth series, was mounted to the front of the heli with a gyroscope that keeps the camera from bouncing. Kathrens said she thinks the gyroscope was developed by the military and refined for the motion picture industry.
?I think it?s going to transform natural history filming,? Kathrens said. ?Because you don?t have to be on top of the animals to get shots of them, therefore, they?re going to do their natural stuff.?
On Monday, Feb. 11, Mustang Center Director Matt Dillon was in the chopper with a pilot from Sky Aviation in Worland and Simon Werry, a renowned aerial camera operator, best known for his aerial shots in Memphis Belle, the Harry Potter series and many other Hollywood productions.
Matt was the eyes and ears of the operation, talking to Kathrens on one channel of a radio and directing the pilot and camera operator to her location on the ground. The helicopter circled the Pryors, filming Kathrens as she rode her horse Trace. Her helper Makendra Silverman rode on another mustang and attempted to guide Trace around the range.
?I knew where Ginger would be, so I was able to take them right to her,? Dillon said.
Kathrens said Trace noticed the helicopter far off into the distance, and it looked like the Mustang might have confused it with a raven flying overhead. The chopper didn?t spook the horse, though, she said.
The state-of-the-art camera was connected to a computer and monitor in the back for Werry to view while filming. Dillon had a monitor to see what was being recorded, too, and said the scenery looked great. The aerial crew shot not only Ginger, but also scenic views of Big Horn Canyon, the face of the Pryors and Big Coulee.
?We were hoping to see horses to film them from the air, but there weren?t any horses because it was pretty windy,? Dillon said. ?We were lucky we even got up into the air.?
He mentioned that the film crew was grounded in Yellowstone for four days because of weather before coming to the Pryors, and the weather was only slightly better here.
Kathrens had given the chopper crew a list of possible shots, which they weren?t able to get all of due to weather, but they got a good number of them. Dillon said what he saw on the monitor looked good and the camera was left recording anytime the helicopter was moving.
One item on Kathrens? list was a continuous shot of the Pryor Mountain landscape.
?It turned out to be a really hard shot,? Dillon said. ?[Ginger] wanted from Crooked Creek Canyon to Big Horn Canyon and we had to get really far back. I really hope it works and I think if it was ever going to be done, she had the guy that would be able to do it [Werry]. It?s just such a big area that you have to zoom out so far that you get other things as well.?
After filming aerials, the crew returned to the range on foot and hoof to get more footage Tuesday. While Ginger and Makrenda rode, cameraman Mario Banellis and Dillon hiked, carrying a heavy tripod and backpacks filled with the camera, film and batteries. They trekked through the Big Horn Canyon area Tuesday and up Sykes Ridge Wednesday. Kathrens had planned to return and explore the rest of the week, as well.
Past Cloud films have been shot on super 16mm film and 35mm film and the crew is using the same film for the newest movie, aside from aerials, which were shot in digital high definition.
The crew located Boulder, who was first seen in the second film, Cloud?s Legacy, when he was a baby. Boulder was born into a different family group than Cloud, but still is his (blood) son. Kathrens is hoping Boulder?s mare will have a foal this year (Cloud?s grandchild) that she saw being bred last May.
?The Cloud saga lets you have a very personal look at the lives of the wild horses. It?s unlike anything we?ve got in this hemisphere because it details the life of a wild animal since birth.?
Ginger shot most of the previous movies and continues to be the primary cinematographer, but in the newest film, producers of Nature wanted Kathrens on the other side of the camera to narrate because they thought it made the film more interesting and personal. She didn?t want to at first, but they convinced her to.
?In retrospect, it has allowed me to be Cloud?s voice,? Kathrens said, ?and it?s a big responsibility because I feel like the animals have empowered me to tell their story and share it with the public.?
Ginger will film through the coming year and expects the new film to air in the first quarter or spring of 2009 on the PBS Nature series. She said her films were voted the most popular out of any other show broadcasted on Nature during its 25-year span.
Kathrens has been filming in the Pryors for 14 years for productions of the BBC, Wild America, National Geographic and her own productions. The Cloud series began with a contract from PBS in 1999, and includes the films Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies (2001) and Cloud?s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns (2003).
Kathrens said she loves being among the wild horses in their home on the range, and loves all the other wildlife and how the different species work together to make a balanced ecosystem.
?Its almost like you?re in a primordial world, where you have a great big grazer that used to be here back in the time when we had giant sloths and things like that, and these big glamorous animals interact and are beneficial to the land and are such an elegant prey species.?
?It?s transforming,? Kathrens said about being on the Pryors. ?It?s a spiritual place, it was the heart of the Crow Indian nation and the spirit is alive up there, in the form of their Crow ponies and the memories of their ancestors.?
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