Best Job Ever

I wrote this article for the ASC newsletter -

 

GIG OF A LIFETIME... BY MARK VARGO, ASC

"THE WAY BACK"  (2010)

DIRECTED BY PETER WEIR  *   DP: RUSSELL BOYD, ACS, ASC

NOTABLE CAST  *  ED HARRIS, COLIN FARRELL & JIM STURGESS

FILMED IN BULGARIA, MOROCCO & INDIA

BASED ON THE TRUE STORY: "THE LONG WALK"  BY SLAVOMIR RAWICZ

THE STORY:  WINTER 1940, , 7 POLITICAL PRISONERS ESCAPE FROM A  RUSSIAN GULAG IN SIBERIA, THEN WALK 4,000 MILES TO FREEDOM.

PANAVISION UK -  SUPER 35    KODAK STOCK &  LAB IN SOFIA, BULGARIA

I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED HUMAN ENDURANCE STORIES BECAUSE FOR ME, NOTHING GENERATES DRAMA BETTER THAN REAL : LIFE AND DEATH SITUATIONS. "THE WAY BACK" EPITOMIZES THE HUMAN WILL TO SURVIVE ON MANY LEVELS - BRUTAL, MALNOURISHED INCARCERATION, THEN ESCAPE, AND ON THE RUN THROUGH SIBERIAN BLIZZARDS.  WATERLESS, AND THE GAMBLE TO FIND SOME, WHILE CROSSING THE SCORCHING GOBI DESERT.  AND THEN FINALLY, SCALING THE HIMALAYA'S  TO FREEDOM, IN INDIA.  WOW.  AND IT'S ALL TRUE!

FILMING THE MOVIE

IF YOU SET PERSONAL ECONOMICS ASIDE, MOST OF US CHOOSE OUR PROJECTS CAREFULLY WITH THE MAIN CRITERIA BEING  STORY AND DIRECTOR.  THIS PROJECT WAS OFF THE CHART ON BOTH! I LIKED THE CHALLENGES THIS SCREENPLAY PRESENTED AND HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO WORK FOR PETER WEIR.  RUSSELL BOYD AS FIRST CAMERA, WAS AN ADDITIONAL BONUS SINCE I HAVE WORKED AS HIS 2ND UNIT DP TWICE BEFORE, (COBB. TIN CUP). I ACCEPTED THE OFFER AND SIGNED ON AS "B" CAMERA OPERATOR AND 2ND UNIT DP. LORENZO SENATORE WAS THE "A" CAMERA AND STEADICAM OPERATOR.

TO WORK ON A CREW WITH SO MANY NATIONS REPRESENTED WAS FASCINATING. FILMMAKING IS TRULY AN INTERNATIONAL ENDEAVOR WHERE THE TECHNIQUES ARE PRETTY MUCH UNIVERSAL AND THE DESIRE TO SUCCEED IS SHARED BY ALL, REGARDLESS OF CULTURE AND LANGUAGE.

I COULD TALK ABOUT SHOOTING IN SNOWSTORMS AND SANDSTORMS, THE LACK OF REHEARSALS DUE TO VIRGIN SNOW AND SAND. PUTTING CAMERA'S IN UNUSUAL SPOTS FOR UNUSUAL REASONS. THE POISONOUS SNAKES AND SCORPIONS.  OR I COULD EXPRESS MY FRUSTRATION AT THE LANGUAGE BARRIER OR THE "SANDY" SANDWICHES IN THE SAHARA!

BUT  ALAS, I'M NOT GOING TO REHASH WHAT WE HAVE ALL EXPERIENCED  FROM TIME TO TIME IN OUR CAREERS AS CINEMATOGRAPHERS.

INSTEAD, I JUST WANT TO LET ALL OF YOU KNOW THAT I FEEL LIKE I WAS PART OF AN OLD TIME, OLD SCHOOL, FILMMAKING EXPERIENCE THAT MAY NOT EVER COME MY WAY AGAIN.  AND THAT I CHERISH THE TIME SPENT WITH MASTER FILMMAKERS WHO DEMONSTRATED AMAZING TOUGHNESS WHILE MAKING A VERY DIFFICULT FILM. 

MY HEARTFELT THANKS TO PETER WEIR AND RUSSELL BOYD FOR HAVING ME ALONG ON THIS "GIG OF A LIFETIME".  MARK VARGO, ASC


photo - peter weir surveying the western sahara in morocco

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