How NOT to screen video of farmers baling hay that you shot on your first day of your first location:
1) Watch Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, in which nearly every scene looks like a Vermeer, a Hopper, shot at "magic hour."[note: this link's a bit random; a blurb on magic hour from a home entertainment center dealer]
2)Watch your own. shot on DV.
You know, I have to say, I started writing this entry before I screened our tape, immediately after being blown away again by Malick's daunting images. I was intimidated, and I expected the stuff we shot to be totally unwatchable by comparison. You know, it's not the case. Our footage is certainly different, very rough in spots, and will probably not win the cinematography prize at Cannes like Nestor Almendros' work did, but it's not bad.
The first third of the tape were exterior shots of the barn/shed and the fields behind my grandparents' house; their neighbor's corral with its tired old horse; and the lawn, huge evergreen bushes and a willow tree in the backyard. (I remember when these bushes were small enough to see through, if not quite over.) There's no sound, though. At all. I remember that.
The middle third is of my grandmother driving through Mapleton, discussing the town and their land and farming as we searched for hay being baled. We'd missed most of the harvest by a week or so, as it turns out, due to scheduling exigencies. She's pretty good. Decades of teaching elementary school show themselves in her clear, descriptive manner.
The last third was new to me. We'd found a crew loading bales of hay onto a trailer, and Jeff got out to shoot them while I went back to get our car. There's an interesting poetry in the footage. Two teenagers with T-shirts and baseball caps and a late 30's guy with a walrus mustache, a paunch, and those glasses that darken automatically when you go outside. It's hot (100+) and it's clearly hard work. Every once in a while, you can see where the guys are hamming for the camera. No way are they gonna be caught on film struggling with a bale of hay. Jeff kept the tape rolling nonstop, so myriad adjustments and setups punctuate the footage. As he jogged towards my approaching car, he said, "that loud sound is the A/C. I could use some water."
The mountains in the background, the cloud-streaked blue sky, the deep green field, these young guys doing essentially 100-year old work that's not so different from that of Malick's farmers. It's encouraging. (and late. good night.)