Do you believe in magic? Many of my experiences during the production of the documentary I worked on during the last five years have in many ways been magical for me. Producing a film on any level can be very enjoyable while also being very difficult. As we ended production and began post-production, I knew the documentary would be all I had hoped it could be.
My recording session with Peter Coyote to read the scripts for the documentary was scheduled for January 19th, 2017. Peter could not have been nicer, and the session took approximately an hour. He took a few minutes to read through the scripts and said, “Let’s do a complete first take, and you can tell me if I need do read anything differently.”
When we did start recording, it became apparent to me that he was reading ahead of what he was saying and making changes to portions of sentence as he went. He would stop and say, “Jim did you see what I did there, and, is that okay?”
I, of course, said yes and that it was great. Everything he changed only made the script better.
After the second read was finished, he then said “Jim, I think you have a winner here.” As I pulled myself back down and into my chair, I thanked him for his kindness, saying that I would send him a copy of the film when it was completed. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the recording session.
With Peter’s narration, along with the crew’s interviews, editing could begin in earnest. During the edit, we realized that we must ask the crew to come together again and return to Mickey Basin in the Alvord Desert where it all started. This would be an excellent way of ending the film.
Plans were made and a production shoot was scheduled for the 5th of September, 2017. Twenty-seven years to the day in 1990 when the National Guard first said it had a photo of the Sri Yantra taken from one of their reconnaissance aircraft. That date, like many dates during the production of the film, took six months to happen. September was decided on because Bill was aware that the temperature during the summer months would be intolerable in the desert and after September the weather would be unpredictable there.
The three days we had there proved to be magic on many levels. When we returned to our original camp site, a discovery of a found object used to make the design years ago brought the story full circle for all of us. The experience of 1990 again became fresh for everyone and helped remind us all of the adventure we had experienced.
During the next eight months, John Reichert, my producer and co-editor and I worked long hours editing for the master. We needed to have it completed by June of 2018 in order to submit it to several selected film festivals. Once we had accomplished that, we decided to screen the film locally in the St.Louis area.
I rented a local theater and John and I watch the film on the big screen by ourselves so we could make adjustments if necessary before conducting screening with real audiences. We were happy with the quality of the film and only made a couple of color corrections based on what we saw. I then decided to have a premier screening in Fairfield, Iowa in September. After notifying all the crew members, friends and family about the options for the screening date, September 20th was selected.
Our plan was to advertise in the local paper that free tickets would be given for two screenings of the film on that date starting at 2pm and then again at 5pm at the local theater. We planned to have a meet and greet party afterwards and then a dinner. There were so many requests for tickets that a third screening was scheduled for the next day at 1pm to accommodate everyone. At each screening extra seats were brought in even after arranging for the third showing.
The film was a great success and after each showing we had a question and answer session with the audience which was a lot of fun. The film was awarded the “Gold Award” by the Oregon International Film Awards Festival on November 5th, 2018.
During the late Fall of 2018 and early 2019, we began preparing for a release of the film and a marketing campaign. After meeting with a marketing firm who specializes in promoting products using social media, we realized that the public was beginning to turn more to streaming film content than going to their local theater. After investigating all our options, we decided to market and distribute the film ourselves before going to a mainstream distributor.