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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“The Only Tough Part about Having To Film in Idaho Is When You Have To Leave” (Clint Eastwood)

Enlightening Eastwood’s Pale Rider

With a Statewide Movie Signage Proposal

By Jim Banholzer

With special lights from Brad Nottingham & Professor Tom Trusky

Watching Clint Eastwood movies, particularly his well-crafted Westerns are almost like enrapturing religious experiences for some big screen buffs. Each of his movies project priceless lessons, even when he portrays an antagonist, such as the callous elephant hunter in White Hunter, Black Heart. Astoundingly enough, Clint filmed much of Pale Rider right here in Idaho, with a theme as ageless as the Boulder Mountains. Clint plays a nameless preacher protecting a poor prospecting town from a gang of ruffians sent by a greedy mining corporation, to intrude on their claim. This striking film, the first Western of which he was the producer, was created in 1984 around Boulder City north of Ketchum and over by the Vienna Mine near Smiley Creek. Pale Rider was the predecessor to Clint’s 1992 Academy award-winning gem, Unforgiven.

Each time I watch Pale Rider, I focus on the recognizable background terrain, sometimes freezing specific frames to find my way around in the mountains. As my friend Brad Nottingham was a local then, he reminds us:

“For Pale Rider, there were some filming issues evident in the film as you see it today, which brought comment: it was filmed in our typically beautiful late Indian summer, and some of the riding scenes were filmed just before and after an unpredictable early season snow, which frosted the upper parts of the ranges, while quickly melting off the lower elevations. As a film viewer, a period of time that seemed to be about a week, appeared to toggle from summer to winter, which brought some criticism, I remember, but any of us mountain folk wouldn’t give it a second thought.


In addition, Clint made tremendous effort to restore the site that was disturbed by the building fronts, construction crew, and later the feet pounding of the actors and production crew on the little ridge and river drainage near the quaking aspen groves. Winter seemed to come quickly that year and for a bunch of us, it was hard to spot evidence of the film set trampling that next spring, though we tried. We also tried to find some kind of film crew item or something. Lon and I located “the rock” that one of the miners was chipping on in an early scene from the film.
When it finally came out, Pale Rider sort of stunned people, because it was a break from the Eastwood tradition. He played an even quieter, low-key character, and I remember people being confused about connecting a “preacher” role to him. Others, expecting the active dashing and violent Dirty Harry traditions found this movie kind of slow and spacey, features I didn’t mind at all this time. I just soaked in the scenery that I knew was almost in my backyard. I had driven my old Buick Wagon up there, and forded the rocky river crossing half a dozen times, hiking up to some of the “real” old mining cabins and diggings.


Soon afterward, a local man,
David Butterfield had us typeset and produce an exhausting field guide to good locations across Idaho, including information about accommodations, prices, in order to drum up more filmmaking interest from Hollywood. After the book was published, I remember that there wasn’t much response, until the Bruce Willis engine began churning up sleepy Hailey in the 90s. I still have not rented that weird, forgotten-about movie (Town & Country (2001)) filmed in Bellevue that included Warren Beatty that had a fly-fishing connection, nor the one about Hemingway, but I did see that odd Twin Falls picture(Breakfast of Champions (1999)) that Willis was working on when his marriage to Demi was fast unraveling.”

While reading Brad’s insights, it occurred to me that the filming of this picture was a significant enough event that we should commemorate it with a historical sign. Folks at The Idaho Transportation Department were receptive to this idea and revised the Wood River Mine sign to include such a tribute.

Photo courtesy of Steve Linden

Soon after we relayed this information to Boise State University English Professor Tom Trusky, head of the Idaho Film Collection, Tom became enthusiastic about the Pale Rider tribute and expanded the idea with a “Statewide Movie Signage Proposal.” To quote Professor Trusky:

The tourist / publicity value of such signage is apparent and locals might appreciate such knowledge, too, if they are unaware of their cinematic heritage. As well, given the recent interest in bringing film production to the state, such signage would not only be public acknowledgement of Idaho’s considerable contribution to the film industry but also serve as a reminder to contemporary filmmakers of the Gem State possibilities.”

Although we now face uncertain economic times, and are unsure where money will come from to fix and maintain highways, Tom’s Statewide Movie Signage proposal is exactly the type of project we need to enrich Idaho’s future. By merging the information superhighway with our back road signage, we could show the world how we stand on the cutting edge, as well as being able to cut through bureaucracy in hard times.

As technological capabilities continue advancing in affordable ways, it would be uplifting to see Idaho embrace the techno-generation by attaching to our already successful historical signage program, interactive items. For instance, when traveling up Highway 75 past the North Fork Store, when reaching the perimeter of interest where Marilyn Monroe starred in Bus Stop, we could make an alert available for interested traveler’s digital devices. A short holographic film of Marilyn hypnotically dancing with a billowing skirt on driver’s dashboards would keep dozing dads chipper and alert, lending to driver safety. Then, for the next fistful of history, when reaching Pale Rider’s Phantom Hill, we could create the sound of bullets whizzing by your ear, for the subsequent alert. After a quick Galena Lodge pit stop for perusal over photographs stuffed with Idaho’s’ rich silver history, proprietors of the Sawtooth Valley could smilingly profit by making related material available to satisfy recently whetted traveler appetites.

Eventually, we could develop inexpensive solar powered information kiosks for our pullout areas. Our transportation department research and development teams could further engineer signposts to include emergency communication devices. We could imbed a camera-eye within the untouchable hologram to thwart vandals and when tampering is detected, program the sign to announce in Clint Eastwood’s sternest voice, “Go ahead! Make my day! Because you are now being filmed by an interactive sign commemorating Idaho films!” Stranded drivers in remote areas where cell phones misfire could come to know these signposts as secure places. Drivers passing the Pale Rider signpost might be inspired to take after the nameless preacher’s lead to assist marooned travelers.

Certainly, ITD already has some technologically savvy leaders aboard. This is my third positive experience with ITD leadership, which leads me to believe they use a high standard of innovativeness in their daily working environment. I hope that someday soon, our leaders will advance these landmark ideas past the incubation stage to transform these signpost pullouts into something that truly enhances our landscape.

~

You can read more of Brad Nottingham’s insights on the “good guys” in the Idaho Film Archive on Pale Rider: http://www.boisestate.edu/hemingway/film.htm

Complete text here:

http://privateidahoconversationleague.blogspot.com/2008/03/brad-nottinghams-pale-rider-memories.html

Lastly a related poem:

The Rock

I know about where it is
this big rock with a candy vein of gold in it
scintillating under the stars

I want to find this Idaho Sword of Shannara
and lay me down under the silver fruit
Press the gold of my ear to the vibration
to sense if I can detect the echo of
when Lurch -or was it Jaws?
Split this baby in half
with an old 1863 hickory stick sledgehammer

Yepperdoodle
I’ll bend up over the hill tonite
a-foot
Too itchy and scratchy for a truck in that rough spot
to see if I can’t see how these hills have changed

Yeah that’s it
I’ll pack up the DVD player
better bring a spare battery juice-pack
Cause it’s cold in those Idaho hills
I’ll freeze frame on the DVD
sections of Mountains in that backdrop
and compare it to our current status

I think of the nameless preacher in the movie
and for some reason the Beatles real nowhere man
jangles my juices like Satchel Paige on opening day

On spectacular evenings like these
Sometimes it feels like we’ll still be standing strong
long after these hills have fast eroded away

Original URL for Enlightening Eastwood story:

http://greenvanholzer.blogspot.com/2007/04/enlightening-eastwoods-pale-rider-by.html

Footnote: Not long after posting the earlier missive to my personal blog, I noticed that it was getting twice as many visits as the rest of my stories combined. A year ago, Dave Worrall from the U.K. contacted me, mentioning that he is writing a book for Solo Publishing about Clint Eastwood’s Westerns and looking for some old photos of the Boulder City territory. After we exchanged a few e-mails, including a photo of the Wood River Mines sign, I suggested he subtitle his book “Clint Eastwood = Old West Action” since they are anagrams of each other. Furthermore, with a little photoshopping, he could design the equals-sign to resemble a smoking rifle barrel.

Footnote 2: With the Senate recently passing a bill, to create a fund to offer incentives to film movies and TV shows within the state, and with the newly created Idaho Film Bureau ready to offer these incentives as soon their funding comes through, perhaps portions of this funding could help with such a program. As the next logical step in the evolution of Idaho’s popular Highway Historical Marker program, perhaps the Idaho Film Bureau could even ask for donations on their website, from those who have favorite Idaho movies and would like to see those specific movies commemorated in such fashion.

Elaborations on vision for Statewide Movie Signage proposal

When ITD amended the Wood River Mines sign to include a tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider it was not a full commemoration as we had hoped, however, they did recognize the historical significance of the movie. From my previous experience with Idaho Transportation Department personnel, I sense they have some highly capable leaders aboard and would likely be open to a proposal, which better honors Idaho films.

We should start with a prototype interactive movie sign, sticking with Pale Rider. After developing it, we then present it to ITD and the Idaho Historical Commission; perhaps even the governor. Besides the gimmick, I suggested earlier, by utilizing Clint Eastwood’s stern voice; we could design the sign to be vandalism resistant. Although millions of tourists have driven by the mountain goat observation telescopes near the same highway area as our proposed Pale Rider tribute, those instruments have been left mostly unscathed, since installed a decade ago. Interactive kiosks featuring short movie clips, designed in a similarly excellent manner, would automatically gain respect from most passerby. An editor I spoke with recently mentioned that arts and humanities grants are readily available to help jumpstart such projects.

Once we install the first interactive sign, we should have a press release. The movie industry will take note and want more of the same. This might be all we need for the project to take on a life of its own. After the movie signage proposal merges better with Idaho’s already successful Historical Signage program, we can enhance the project’s evolution by doing several things. For one, the film bureau could develop a “donate to your favorite movie” button on their website. Idaho’s Historical Society, Transportation Department and The Internet Movie Data Base ought to consider a similar donation option. After reading a few items about Idaho movies, some fanzines will likely find themselves wanting to contribute to a cool commemoration. Another timely follow-up would be to commission someone to write a guidebook to Idaho movies, including a map of the landmarks. The signs themselves could direct film buffs to other nearby movie signs.

If this highway project takes off, eventually the Idaho Tourism Bureau could develop Idaho or Northwest movie tour packages, including visits to movies under production. After tourists enjoy brief clips or holograms of the movie near the same site where it was filmed, an educated tour guide could speak more about the movie and answer relative questions. We could also program questions and answers into the interactive signs, along with a suggestion box that sends e-mails to the pertinent film bureau manager, etc.

Another thing the project could focus on is the surrounding areas where scenes from the various movies were filmed. For instance: When there is a diner where a breakfast scene was filmed, or a dance scene at a lodge, those places could be mentioned in the interactive signs / companion guidebook / interface devices and might be encouraged to display a plaque or aptly named items on their menus relating to silver screen scenes filmed in their establishments.

Although Idaho faces a budget shortfall, I believe this project is the kind we need to enrich Idaho’s future. The team at the Idaho Film Bureau is already aiming to do this, albeit on a larger scale. Now is an important time as any for us to invest in innovative ways in Idaho’s future.

Final footnote:

JEREMIAH ROBERT WIERENGA wrote a recent in depth article for Boise Weekly about Idaho struggling to gain a foothold in the film industry.

From the article:

“Although a late contender in this cinematic boxing match, the Idaho Film Office hopes our state’s celebrated scenery and enticing rebate incentives will bring film productions back to Idaho, which hasn’t billeted a big-budget movie since Dante’s Peak was filmed here more than 10 years ago.

“The film offices in individual states are economic development agencies,” Kathleen Haase (an industry specialist at the Idaho Film Office) said. “What we try to do is create an attractive environment in the state to lure productions to come to the state, spend their budgets, which are sizable … and hire our crew here. We hope to create jobs, and we bring in economic activity in [the] form of investment in the state from outside the state.”

The passage of the bill represents a major coup for the filmmakers who call Idaho home, but the battle is only half won. Although the measure has been approved, financial backing for the rebate still has not come through.

“We’re still hoping to have ours funded,” Haase said. “We’re at the mercy of the governor, our department and the Legislature as to funding.”
Initially, the
Idaho Film Office received a flurry of calls in response to the adoption of the bill but interest has waned.

“We had to be very clear that indeed we have not yet been funded, so we’re sort of in a bit of a holding pattern until that does happen … [We're] ready to go out there in anticipation of it being funded sometime,” Haase said.

There is hope that financing for the measure will be approved by next summer. Because the incentive is funded through the Idaho Department of Commerce’s budget, which in turn is approved by state government, passing the measure is merely the first step in implementing the program. Haase encourages local voters to call their legislators in support of budget approval. While the bill received a good deal of support from local filmmakers and public figures, she hopes that the public will now take an active hand bringing the backing necessary to expand Idaho’s film industry.”

Full article here:
http://www.boiseweekly.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A319320

3 comments:

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JBanholzer said...

"A fistful of history" - Courtesy of Aaron Baker.

JBanholzer said...

"A fistful of history" - Courtesy of Aaron Baker.