The Art of Film Making: I’m Glad No Ones Looking


(The following post is a true story, the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and the not so innocent.)

Jesse and I have been getting more and more involved with activities at Salt Fork State Park so when an opportunity came up to create a film about the history of the park we jumped at the chance. Cindy Coss, the park naturalist, had the idea to build a small theater at the nature center (located by the main beach) and have a “History of Salt Fork” film produced to show there. So, with our past history of film making (well we managed to do one anyway) and the equipment we already had, it was an obvious pairing. We setup some interviews and planned a trip down Route 77.

It was October 3rd, 2015 and Jesse and I arrived at Salt Fork with our newly purchased drone capable of shooting stellar HD video. Our plan was to park the car over by the park office and fly the drone up over the tree line to film the road by the entrance of the park. Our drone pilot “Bessie” fired up the rotors and took to the sky. As the aircraft headed over the tree-line, on its way to the main road, a strange noise was heard, zzzzzzzzzz, zzzz, zz, z… then all was quiet. The live video feed just showed tree branches and they were very close to the camera lens. With the drone now firmly stuck somewhere high up in the trees we began our search. After 30 minutes, still no sign of the drone.

We could hear a car driving down the main road and then we could see it in the drone video feed. Quickly packing ourselves in the car we headed to the main road on the other side of the tree-line. We arrived at the main road and positioned ourselves in the path of the drone’s camera as it began to rain (the drone is very far from being waterproof). After another hour and a half of searching we located the drone…150ft up, wedged in a tree. With no other options we called our friend “Mindy”, who works for the park, and explained our situation. She arrived, just as it began to downpour, with a bow and arrow, some rope, some fishing line, a ladder, a hand saw on a stick, a military flashlight and a whole lot of crazy ideas. To fully understand what happens next you need to understand “Mindy”. She is a fearless, never quit, you can always count on me badass with no filter and no shame. SHE IS AWESOME!!

First up was the bow and arrow, “Mindy’s” plan was to tie fishing line around the arrow and shoot it up over the tree branch then use the fishing line to pull a rope over. Then, use the rope to pull real hard shaking the drone loose. “Mindy” shot the arrow perfectly over the branch, we then realized the clear fishing line was impossible to see and the arrow was somewhere in the trees. Not gonna work. Next up, just the rope…with the military flashlight tied to the end for weight. We all tried, whipping that flashlight around with the rope as fast as we could then releasing it just to come up short or miss the branch all together. Try after try, over an hour passed when finally I got it, I think everyone was as shocked as I was. Of all the participants I’m the last one anybody thought could complete this task. We all pulled and pulled but the tree branch barely shook and the drone never moved. Not gonna work. The ladder and hand saw on a stick combo came up way too short. Soaking wet and defeated we finally called it. Nothing worked.

We received a call later that evening from “Mindy”, she had enlisted the help of “Budney”, one of the maintenance guys. He was going to cut down the branch the drone was stuck in first thing in the morning and bring us the aircraft. As nightfall set in we retreated to our tent and that was the end to our counterproductive day of filming. The phone rang the next morning and we received word “Budney” had safely retrieved our drone and was on his way. We were shortly reunited with our water logged, slightly dinged up aircraft, worse for wear but salvageable. After a week of drying out and the replacement of one damaged propeller we were back and flying again. I guess we’ll have to try our luck again next time.