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Behold the Earth is a feature-length musical documentary that inquires into America's divorce from nature, built out of conversations with leading biologists and evangelical Christians, and directed by David Conover. Filmmakers' blog is below.

Filmmaking is a dance between the FIRE and the SMOKE.  Out in the world, the fire burns.  It is the filmmaker’s duty and craft to organize and convey the smoke (and mirrors) of that fire to others in a compelling and beautiful way.  Here are the pieces of this film organized for the independent filmmaker and media enthusiast.

Behold in 360

One of the topic areas that has surfaced in my inquiry into America’s divorce from the outdoors is the experience of perception itself.  How do we sense the world around us?

Because these days, for many of us, this sensing is often immediately mediated with some sort of “smart-device,” these devices are actually objects to behold themselves.  How can they evoke wonder themselves?  What is the purpose of the iPhone?  What is it’s role?  Among advocates of a stronger engagement with the outdoors, these devices are commonly seen as impediments, as distractions.  But is there any potential for such a device to amplify our experience of place and deepen our connection to the outdoors?  Are there any ways that these devices are necessary to a healthy future?  What adaptive capacities do they offer us, as we engage the landscapes at our feet?  What new problem-solving capacities, regarding the thorny issues American society faces today, like a changing climate and the growing losses of diverse life on earth?

For the past year or so, I’ve been playing with an iPhone App called 360 Panorama.  Its productions are startling.  Any one spot on earth, any “locality,” is rather quickly recorded and formatted as a planet in its own right.  In this way, these 360 degree composites have the potential for a bit of the same impact as humanity’s first photograph of earth from space.  Seducing us into believing we can see, know, and wrap our arms 360 degrees around the entire outdoors… all the while truly realizing that we cannot.  All-seeing eyes are not human eyes. Omniscience is not a human trait.

Above, the local harbor park in Rockland, Maine.  Recorded last winter.  Yes, the image has made this place more -rather than less- visible in my own experience.  More on these 360s later.

Score Composer Don

We lost a much valued professional colleague yesterday.  Don Grady, the Score Composer for BEHOLD THE EARTH, died of cancer.  Most of the world will celebrate him as the child actor playing the role of the oldest son “Robbie” in MY THREE SONS.  But for us, over the past ten years, Don has been a composer and occasional performer for several Compass Light documentaries (Quest for Captain Kidd, Cracking the Ocean Code, Creating Synthetic Life, Block Island Blankie, among others).  He was one of the most patient, creative, and decent people I’ve ever worked alongside.

Don, I’ll sorely miss your talents, sensibility, and comforting voice on the other end of the telephone.  D

River Time

Torrential rainfall. A rising river. Time passing amidst the drive for survival and direction at the water’s edge. Below, a timelapse created by cinematographer Hunter Snyder. He has joined our visual study of the surrounding landscape. Here, we visit the nearby Ducktrap River in the last days before snowfall on the coast of Maine. Melody is Dirk’s evocative banjo from WATERBOUND (see previous blog entry).

Renascence

We are fortunate enough to have recent graduate Eleanor Conover (no relation) working with us this summer, and applying her artist’s eye and work ethic to generating new timelapse sequences from the surrounding landscapes… and now also adding to this blog. This morning we recorded sunrise over Penobscot Bay from nearby Beech Hill.

Eleanor is getting to know this hill pretty well, having made several trips now to record time lapsing. The hill is also a location where my crew shot with musician Tim Eriksen and friends for BEHOLD THE EARTH. Her observations…

“We had an Edna St. Vincent Millay type morning on Beech Hill, shooting a timelapse of the sunrise. The bay was flat due to the air from the northwest, and as the sun rose and banked right, the reflection looked almost like the water does when the moon rises in the early night.

I keep returning to the islands, anchored stoically in the landscape. From above, you don’t encounter them face-to-face, but their articulated treetops that stretch across the view is, I think, at the heart of a dramatic encounter with the entire bay. The wind turbines that stretch from their foundations on Vinalhaven granite are the newest—and tallest—break in the horizontal composition. They interact with the natural environment in their own way, picking up the rhythm of the wind, and ceding their macbook white color to the oranges of the sunrise, later silhouetted with the pine trees against a pale, daytime horizon.”

DC NOTE: In 1917 Edna St Vincent Milay published a collection of poetry which included the poem Renascence. The first 16 lines are below. She penned this after hiking up another hill nearby in Camden, Maine.

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see:
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.

Light Within Shallow Water

Just returned from a multi-day canoe trip with my son, exploring the North Woods of New England.

Here, on the shore of Lake Umbagog.

I watch him sitting at sunset and recall lyrics from a song that asks a question…”If you knew that you would die today, would you change? Would you change?”

My son, on the other hand, awakes the next morning and marvels at the movement of light and small fish within shallow water.