“Hollywood” at Point Barrow

ONE

Of all the places I’d never expected to see again in my life—it is this desolate, windswept, tundra coast.

As I said this, Nathaniel Rexford, our North Slope Inupiat driver, turned to me and pulled the 4-wheel drive scouting van to a stop, facing it out toward the Chukchi Sea. We were about 5 miles outside the northernmost town on the North American continent, Barrow, Alaska, and its more affluent “suburb,” Browerville.

Aerial view of Barrow/Browerville.

One of many hardscrabble homes in Barrow.

Whalebone and umiak sculpture on the beach north of Barrow.

“Welcome to Hollywood,” Nathaniel announced to our small crew. Seven of us, including director Ken Kwapis had flown up to Barrow that morning from Anchorage, where we were in pre-production on a film titled Everybody Loves Whales.

Ken Kwapis in foreground inspecting traditional umiak whaling boat.

The whales in question were three California grey whales that were trapped in early sea ice just outside of Barrow in October, 1988. For several weeks an international effort to save the whales and get them herded to open water almost overshadowed the last days of the presidential campaign between Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush. For TV viewers around the world, the fate of the whales was more compelling drama than the outcome of the American presidential election. And now, in 2010, we were preparing to make  a “Hollywood” film of the incident.

Ice-bound whales in cut out hole, Oct. 1988, photo by Jack Smith, AP.

Two of the three Calif. grey whales, Photo by Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News.

A beautiful 40 image slideshow of that whale rescue is here:

Alaska Daily News.com—“Trapped Whales in Barrow” slideshow link

And here, a brief, silent clip of the whales, from the Alaska Film Archives:

We had flown up to Barrow to scout second unit scenes to be directed by Peter Collister. But for me personally, it was also a return to a place where I had worked on one of my very first jobs as an assistant cameraman— a 16mm Disney film for the Wonderful World of Disney television program. That film, Snow Bear, was broadcast in two parts in November 1970. It is the story of a young Eskimo boy, his family and friends, and an orphaned polar bear cub that he adopts. The stars of this Arctic drama were Steve Kaleak, Laura Itta, and Rossman Peetook, all first-time Inupiat actors. The director, Gunther von Fritsch, was a veteran of 50s TV series including Flash Gordon, as well as the Vienna section of This is Cinerama. On frigid evenings, Gunther and I had shared many nostalgic recollections of the fabled city of Strauss, the Waltz King, where Gunther had lived and worked, and where I had been a student only a few years before. It was here in a tiny art house cinema that featured foreign films (subtitled English and American, mainly) that I had first seen The Third Man. Fifteen years after the making of this film there were still traces of WWII rubble within spitting distance of the Stephans Dom.

The town of Barrow, “Ukpeagvik,” (the place where snowy owls are hunted), lies at 71° 17′ 44″ latitude, 320 miles inside the Arctic Circle. For 200 miles to the south there is only snow, tundra, and underlying permafrost. When the sun does down on November 8, it is not seen again (if then) until January 23, 63–65 days of night and dim twilight. Conversely, either side of the summer solstice there are more than two months when the sun never sets. A time exposure of the summer sun skirting the horizon looks like this.

Summer, Arctic midnight sun in time-lapse.

Barrow is also one of the cloudiest places on earth, completely overcast 50% of the time. The temperature is below freezing at least part of 324 days of the year. About four miles north of the town proper is NARL, the Naval Arctic Research Lab, now mostly inactive, but once a thriving community of scientists. It was here, in the spring and summer of 1969, that I had lived and been part of the crew of Snow Bear.

Quonset hut housing at NARL.

I was printing photos of icebergs in the NARL photo darkroom on July 20, 1969, the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Our small crew watched it live on television. I felt excitement and pride like all Americans that day—but I felt as well a special kinship with the astronauts, as our own intrepid but meager crew was also working in an alien, unforgiving place of metaphysical beauty.

I have never felt so alone as when I was walking the 4 miles from NARL, along the Esatkuat Lagoon,on up to the tip of Point Barrow, the northernmost point of land in North America. Cloudy, fogged in, nothing but an ever-narrowing, ever-shifting spit of coarse sand and pebbles lies directly ahead. Slowly, this track of sand falls away ahead of you; suddenly, there is nothing but open water on three sides. To the east is the Beaufort Sea; to the west the Chukchi Sea; and behind, a narrow beach not much wider than an airplane landing strip.

Point Barrow, North America’s “Finisterre.”

It is difficult to conjure up a place as remote as Barrow, but here is a video made from the top of the ASRC (Arctic Slope Regional Corporation) building in Barrow that at one frame per day documents nearly a year, from Sept. 1, 2008 to August 7, 2009.

But even in this most northern outpost of the United States, community and high school life is in many ways not much different than anywhere else in the country.

TWO

When Nathaniel Rexford picked us up at the FAA Flight Service Station at Barrow’s Wiley Post Airport on a foggy, late morning at the end of July, he asked me if I had been the cameraperson who had made the movie years ago here in what he called “Hollywood?” (Ken Kwapis had told me after he had made an earlier scouting trip in April that “Hollywood” is what the locals call a spot 4 miles southwest of Barrow, a tundra promontory overlooking a small tidal basin and the Chukchi Sea).  Scenes of Snow Bear, the Disney TV movie, had been filmed at this very place forty-one years ago, an isolated piece of land outside town, where locals would go to hang out and drink a beer in the warmer (above freezing) months. This was the site of what once had been the fishing village set of sod houses constructed for the film.

After scouting in Barrow and at NARL, we still had an hour of free time before our charter flight back to Anchorage, so we decided to take a tour of “Hollywood,”  but only after stopping at a drive-thru coffee stand in Browerville called Aarigaa Java– the northernmost espresso to be had in North America. Nathaniel’s wife passed out coffees to us. Nathaniel then deflated the vehicle’s tires to negotiate the deep beach ruts ahead. On the way out, we drove past a couple of walrus carcasses, their tusks already harvested. Reaching a turnout, he drove the van up onto a small promontory and parked. Right away I saw the ruins of the sod houses, their plywood frames long exposed to the weather, but with some clumps of earth still at the base.

Barrow High School “Whalers” trophy case.

Site of “Hollywood” at Barrow, Chukchi Sea.

Two “Hollywood” house frames, tundra sod over plywood.

Our location scout, Laura Ganis, took a photo of me standing next to one of them.

John at “Hollywood,” July 2010, photo by Laura Ganis.

Nathaniel came alongside and there were more photos.

John and Nathaniel Rexford, July 2010, photo by Peter Collister.

It’s not that I am at all keen for personal photo ops. I tend to avoid on set production stills, especially if I’m holding a meter or pointing toward something, as if I knew what the hell I was doing. But I sensed that something very unusual was happening here now with everyone taking photos. Ken, Peter, Nathaniel, Robin Le Chanu, and Laura were all part of it.

THREE

I have been a terrible documenter of my own life in film. I have very few production photo records. But I have always been keenly aware that as we make our movies, we are creating something that (god willing) may be more than just the sum of a weekend’s box office grosses. Our films are not just a disposable product to be re-cycled or become deleted after a single viewing. The movies we make offer us personally a record of who we are at a given moment in our lives and history. The best of our films outlast the brief moment of their theatrical distribution and become part of the cultural legacy of our country. Our own lives become embedded in that film record. We cinematographers are privileged to be able to mark ourselves creatively in the images we make. Years later, viewing a scene from one of those films, we can recall the physicality of the location, the aesthetic, exciting moment of its making,  and the hard work of the crew members who were our ad hoc families.

Standing next to the remains of that sod house, a flimsy construct intended just for a few months of shooting, but somehow still surviving in the desert of the Arctic— forty-one years of my life suddenly collapsed. I felt myself standing there, heart racing, as a still twenties-something, struggling camera assistant—no idea what the future would hold, but certainly not ever imagining a decades long career photographing commercial movies.

The next day, back in Anchorage, I emailed Tom Koester, who was the soundman on Snow Bear. It was his brother, John Koester, who had been the cinematographer. John had been a long-time camera operator for Steven Poster before John’s premature death in 1996. Tom found several photos he had taken from spring of 1969 and emailed them to me. Though the photos indicate  it was still cold, they show that the winter snow had  mostly melted.

John B. in parka, next to camera, Inupiat cast seated, actor Steve Kaleak at right, Rossman Peetok in lower right corner, July 1969.

I am standing next to the Arriflex 16mm “S”, which was our principal camera. Steve Kaleak is at the other end of the roof looking into camera. Rossman Peetook, who played his father, is in profile at lower right. The rest of the young cast, including Laura Itta, is seated on camera cases.

If our lives in film are partly delineated by the films themselves, and if those films survive the years, then our work becomes an almost living thing to us, through the years a marker of its cultural time and of our own creative time. Obviously, a movie is not something physically substantive like a book that we can hold in our hands. It is, like music, evanescent, almost vaporous. It disappears before us even as we watch it in the flow of the moment. But the experience of making a movie embeds in our souls, not just for us who make these movies but for those who view them. Until recently, I had not given all that much thought to how deep an imprint a movie can leave on the soul. Sure, I carry hundreds of movies in my own heart; certain images and sounds from great, classic films are a part of who I am. But the thought that somehow, someday, someone would have that same feeling about a movie I may have photographed? It took many years of filmmaking for me to understand that.

Recently, I have had the opportunity, the privilege even, of showing some of my films to cinema students and developing filmmakers. Some of them told me of certain of these films that have become a lodestone for them, just as Conformista, Hud, and Jules et Jim have for me. Young director Shana Feste, who has recently completed postproduction on Country Strong, asked me to photograph her first film, The Greatest, because of the impact that Ordinary People had made on her. It was not just that she had liked the photography; it was the movie’s drama and character that had burrowed deeply into her.

FOUR

Making a movie is an exercise in overcoming near impossible obstacles. François Truffaut likened it to the experience of being on a roller coaster, not the ups and downs of daily filming—but what happens before that. The multiple aspects of pre-production offer to the filmmakers the promise of a dream to be realized. It’s as if you are in the coaster car rising to the top of the incline, surveying the landscape below. It feels great. The view around you is limitless. Once there at the incline’s summit, there is a moment of breathless anticipation, and then the sudden plunge—from then on, you just hang on for dear life. Shooting the movie is the plunge. Sometimes you safely reach the station; sometimes you run off the rails.

Every morning when we rode out to this set of Snow Bear we could expect an unforeseen turn in that plunge, wrenching our necks, twisting our spines. Here is a photo of one day’s ride out to the set.

A typical day's drive to “Hollywood.”

Why do we do this? Why do we sacrifice our family and friends on the altar of cinema? Why do we live these vagabond lives, squirreled away in far-flung hotel rooms? Why do we form and re-form these ad hoc but close- knit surrogate families for months on end, in places we may never choose to visit again on our own time? I’ve asked myself these questions more and more in recent years. I’m not certain I have, or ever will have, any answers, since in a certain sense making fictional movies is a ridiculous and illogical enterprise for adults to undertake. But what I do know and what is reaffirmed to me when I write about other filmmakers in these essays, is that we are all a community— across the years, across the countries.

The recent series of four essays I wrote about the career of Jack Cardiff and the reading of his book Magic Hour has made me feel more aligned with him than with many people I know who lead so-called normal lives. In my travels to other countries, meeting colleagues whose own native cinema I know only piecemeal, I somehow still feel instant rapport. Maybe this is true of any like-minded community of workers. But there is something about filmmaking itself, its connection (we hope) at times with real life experience and drama that binds us in a common enterprise, despite our linguistic and cultural differences. A motion picture camera, documenting a simulacrum of life, with actors playing roles, does not on the surface seem to have much connection to the real world. But even more than great books or great theater, it is these often ephemeral reels of thousands of images, projected on a theater screen at 24 frames per second (or more and more likely, on a digital TV or PDA) that constitute much of the way we look at life.

Forty-one years ago, standing on frozen tundra the day after men had walked on the moon, I had no conception that this remote parcel of earth would ever emerge again into my life. But it did. And, it did so in the context of another film, a film that itself is a re-creation of an incident that happened here twenty-two years ago, an incident still alive in the memory of Inupiats and other Alaskans who lived it and who are now sharing their own experience of it with us.

Filmmaking can be a many-chambered nautilus, some sonorous, some discordant. Still, making a film is an always-surprising experience, even an adventure, this film even more so than most.

Maybe that is part of the answer that I seek. Maybe we filmmakers are adventurers into fictional realms, who sometimes, albeit rarely, have that fiction run smack back into the real world.

And how often are we who tend to live inside these elaborate, indulged fictive domains, even certain of the difference?

Denali, July 29, 2010.

24 Responses to ““Hollywood” at Point Barrow”

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  • Thank you for this very interesting article. You really captured the feel of Point Barrow for me. I am also impressed with the links you added as well.

  • John, so well said. Thanks for reminding me why I am still in this business.

    The films we work on do become a scrapbook of our lives. Certain scenes trigger incredibly vivid memories of people, places, and emotions. Maybe the reason these things we make are called “movies” is because they are able to “move” us at the deepest levels.

    And although the Barrow shoot was difficult, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to experience that location, those people, and exhilarating sense of pure adventure.

  • Thank you John.

    Krev

  • As a patently “ridiculous and illogical adult” engaged in the enterprise of making fictional films, I’ve asked myself the central question of Section 4 many times: “Why do we do this?”

    It’s a wonderful question, one I’ve asked myself many times, usually during the final 45 minutes of a 15-passenger van ride back to the hotel. Like many others, I suspect, I keep coming back to the same answer:

    What the hell else would we do?

    Honestly, I can’t find an answer. Are there other things I could do? Probably…but for the long term? On a daily basis? Like…behind a…desk or something? In a job that doesn’t occasionally scare the crap out of me? Without all the free food and periodic unpaid vacations?

    I think I’d die of boredom!

  • “Why do we sacrifice our family and friends on the altar of cinema?”

    A subject of much debate for me recently, as I become older, and less enthralled with the exotic nature of distant locations.

    Filmmaking sometimes feels like what it must feel like to go to war. You get a phone call, you pack two bags, and you’re on a plane to a place you’ve never been, leaving friends and family behind to live their lives without you. Most of us can’t imagine not doing what we do, even though we sometimes wonder why. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Thanks for this article, Mr. Bailey. It was a pleasure to read. As somebody just trying to get into the business of cinematography, your words give me great hope and comfort, and help me to rationalize away my own trepidations of getting into this illogical business.

    John Sears

  • I have managed to amass a fair amount of visual documents to mark my time in this exhilarating business. The films I have been a part of are indeed a “scrapbook” of my life. I have been fortunate to have been a part of several movies that have become very much the fabric of life and culture of the time they were first shown and many have a life well beyond their original release. When I look back to contemplate, I am awed and humbled.

    I am mostly humbled by the great fortune I have had to become the ad hoc family of some of the greatest artists of cinema, yourself included. To be with, and become a part of, a group of like-minded artists to create something from nothing, is the reason we all keep doing this “ridiculous and illogical” occupation. Those of us who ‘know’ this feeling, understand that we are each others family.

    We do sacrifice our personal and family life to become part of a project that we oftentimes believe in and sometimes those projects do indeed become our lives. Sometimes we have to step back and take care of those at home who don’t completely share our obsession; however, even they know that our love of the movies is never going to be quenched.

    Thank you for your comments here and your “obsessions,” too.

  • Great piece John B. Thanks! As you know, I worked on movie crews for a number of years, then took a ten year writing hiatus, and have been back working as a crew member for a few years now. Experiencing that “on again/off again” really gave me some personal insight as to why I do this for a living. When I returned to work as a script supervisor four years ago I did it because I needed to bank some quick cash. And I didn’t expect to do it for very long, only until I could get back into the financial position to pursue writing again full time. What happened very quickly was this revelation: I’m a circus performer and a carny at heart, and I have sawdust in my veins. I had missed the circus. I missed the road, the chaos, the uncertainties, the risks, even the animals. But mostly I missed the camaraderie. And I missed that marvelous place where glittery costumes fly high through the air over a lot of elephant crap on the ground. And we’re responsible for both. Within days of being back on a movie set, I strangely felt at home again. There are no two worlds more different that the above-the-line world and below-the-line world in “the show business.” I know because I’ve now existed now in both of them. The work ethic of movie crew members, the manners, the sportsmanship, the endurance, the perseverance, and the ability to quickly become team players under all kinds of adverse conditions is unrivaled elsewhere. It can bring tears to my eyes. So why do I do this? It makes me proud and it makes me happy to be a part of it. And as Jimmy McConkey’s brilliant father just reminded me on a video I just watched of a reading he did recently — “Call no man happy until he carries his happiness to the grave in peace.” One day I reckon they’ll put this on my tombstone: “She had the sawdust in her veins.”

  • now i know why i get up every morning and get dressed in three or four layers to go stand out on a pile of ice!! It does sound very romantic and it is. I am sure.. all these feelings will come to me as soon as i thaw out..It is fun but a little stupid!!!

  • John,

    You really captured not only the atmosphere of Barrow but more importantly your emotional memories of that experience 40 years ago. Our lives are, at the end, but a collection of memories and experiences of the places and people that we have touched and that have touched us.

    Perhaps that is what we take away from this business even more than the craft we have shared.

  • Mr. Bailey,

    I hold dearly the notion that my respect is something one has to lose while my admiration is something one must gain.

    You, John, with your thoughtful writings like these as well as my day to day experience with you, gain my admiration more and more each day.

    Thank you for all you’ve been to me in our short lived but enduring adventures.

    -John

  • John–

    Thanks for this. Even shooting here in Anchorage, as the days shorten and the nights flicker with heavy snow, the ineffable experience of making this film on our enormous stage of ice has felt assuredly removed from reality. Rarely have I been so transported.

    What you write strikes at the very nature of distant location. As concrete, mechanical, regimented and businesslike as our work is (a property master friend of mine likens it to “making toasters” in his effort to demystify), what we do is always potentially exotic, no matter how silly the material or desolate the location.

    On WHALES, the material itself, as well as the way it’s being treated by you, Ken, the actors and crew, is gorgeously exotic as we’re reaching back twenty-two years to this odd moment in a very desolate place when the unlikeliest of forces came together to thwart the cruel forces of natural selection. I turned to Drew on set two days ago and said simply, “we are so, so lucky.” Her response was simply to repeat what I’d said back to me with equal fervor. Your piece, as well as your presence on set beautifully illustrate why.

  • John,

    Thanks for the fantastic blog it really captured the spirit of not only this shoot but our career as a whole. I’m impressed that you are able to find time to write on this shooting schedule.

    Maybe one day you will be using your iphone to shoot a picture :).

  • Thanks John, interesting read. Your trip back to “Hollywood” reminded me of the time that I visited a house my mother bought in Garrison New York, sometime in the 80’s. We took a boat ride on the Hudson and she pointed out a bandstand along the shore, telling me it was originally constructed for the film “Hello Dolly”, some twenty odd years before. Since it was only meant to survive for the shoot, it eventually fell down, but the townspeople liked it so much, that they reconstructed it.

    I wandered around the town and found a barbershop with the words, “shave – 5 cents” painted on the glass. The barber too, found it difficult to part with this souvenir from the shoot.

    I always knew that films leave an imprint on society, but this showed me that the filming process leaves an imprint as well. I wonder how many people around the world wax nostalgic when they think about the time one of your film shoots came to town?

  • Othniel Art Oomittuk Jr

    John…. thank you for your blog… I very much enjoyed working with you and the crew in Anchorage, it has been a great experience and an absolute honor to be on the Ice with such great actors… for those of us who grew up in the arctic, anchorage was very mild… Im sorry that I cant be there to help finish but things will get done…. watching Ken with his keen eye, I can see that he is a great director… Thanks for everything…. Anaqulutuq (Othniel Oomittuk Jr)

  • John, I hope you’re thawing out. I can’t wait to see the film!

    When the economy crashed and the low-budget projects I usually shoot dried up, I also started to ask myself why I do this. After working to get into the union and make more money, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t the money or benefits that answered the ‘why’—as much of a plus as those guarantees are. Like my merchant-marine friend, we work long stretches where we’re unable to foster existing relationships, etc. But unlike him, each film creates new and unique memories and friendships, whereas every shipment of Toyotas is the same boring routine for him.

    I had an interesting experience that speaks to the comraderie in filmmakers when I was shooting a short a few weekends ago. We did 44 shooting hours in 3 days with a tiny, inexperienced crew that I had never worked with before, and some of them had never worked on a set before. But the footage looks great and there are parts of the film that I think are some of my best work (insofar as our work is really about supporting the acting rather than necessarily masturbating with backlight and smoke). We did 2.40 on the 5D. During the shoot I started to notice that no one was complaining about things that would have normally been total production BS—my merchant-marine friend would have organized a mutiny. Every day was a walking lunch, for example. But I think because it was a passion project self-produced by a very gracious actress and her really nice non-filmmaker husband, we forgave a lot of the logistical shortcomings. And becuse the footage was looking good on the monitor, it increased the positivity and sense of community that I felt with these people I had never worked with before. I think you captured it perfectly, and I can only imagine how close those friendships can/will get after the course of an entire career of working together.

  • John, this is wonderful. You ask in your post, and quite a few voices in the comments section echo you: “why do we do this? why do we make movies?” There are all kinds of different reasons – it’s fun, it’s noble, it’s hard – but the fundamental reason is I think: it’s who we are. We just gotta. If someone told me I had to chose between a nice respectable, stable desk job and freezing my butt off in Alaska while filming a bunch of people pretend to be other people . . . well the choice would be a no-brainer. Weirdly, it makes me think of a line from Jay-Z, the best summation I’ve ever heard of why any artist anywhere creates:

    “What you about to witness is my thoughts

    Right or wrong

    Just what I was feelin at the time

    You ever felt like this

    Vibe with me”

    I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it does to me. It sums up what I think about movies: they’re just records of what a few crazy people with cameras and a script were feelin’ at the time. If you can manage it, it seems to be the best possible way to live a life. Even now – just a student, straddled by debt, bouncing between insane overconfidence and crushing self-doubt – I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what I live for. It’s what I do. It’s just . . . wonderful.

  • As a twenty-something, student DP, sitting at a laptop, looking through pictures of “Hollywood” Alaska from 40 years ago I can’t help but think of the lasting resonance of this chosen field. Images and iconography created for a purpose but frozen in time that passes down the ages. I loved this article, and the images you attached to it. I mean if you scroll up this one page you get to experience Barrow, 40 years ago, in the present, over the course of a year. Awesome.

    Whether in stills or motion pictures the idea of creating a reality in which individuals and communities are drawn together and attached to something. Be it relationships, whales, or that one dude who made that disney movie out in “Hollywood.”

    Thanks for this article. For me, its nice to be reminded that sometimes we need to look out of the film we are making, take a breath, and recognize what we are creating and that the process is affecting us. What we do is something more than just a cool shot (hopefully). Being a young DP, it’s also comforting to know that a great DP such as your self never knew he would be back in Alaska, retracing your own footsteps in a way. I’m glad I got to read this, and experience Barrow.

  • John,

    While You ponder on the why of these events, people and places in Your life have You considered that Your answer may be within the perspective of the people who inhabit these remote locations ?

    Thank You for another excellent post.

  • John,

    I always feel so thrilled to read your stories and the insights and experiences you share. No matter who, what or where, every time I visit your bailiwick I leave with something beautiful to consider. Words often fail where eyes can flash a memory,like a shutter. Later, the part that makes us human is what flows from your writing. Joining what you have visioned with what your heart tells about it is a great coupling. You have a gift for it. That view of Denali is like a prayer.

    It is always rewarding to be a guest. Thanks for your art.

  • Dear John,

    I very much enjoyed your wonderful article and photos. It is exciting to enter a world that has been given form by a talented and passionate artist and colleagues. I have a small connection with Chukotka and the Eastern Arctic. Years ago, a friend of mine in Paris got a Ph.D. in Russian, and her project was to translate some stories by Yuri Rytkeov, the first Chukchi writer in his village.He was a small boy when the Russians entered and pushed a Stone Age culture into the modern world. I translated some of the stories from French into English (not the best way to go about things) and three of them were published in Canada and the U.S. in literary magazines. He is an important writer, though I’m not sure other work has been translated into English. National Geographics did an article about him and his people.

    In 1975, I had a fellowship from the Lilly Foundation. My project was, among other things, Inuit art and mythology. My husband and I had bought sculptures and prints in Canada. I traveled to Montreal for the museums and then to the Eastern Arctic to Frobisher Bay and Pangnurtung. It was quite an extraordinary experience.

    Very best wishes with you work

    Sincerely,

    Gladys Swan

  • Many months ago I received a phone call to go to Alaska for a film entitled Everybody Loves Whales…questions of distance from home, cold, duration all played into my decision making , giving little thought to the people I would soon spend three months of my life with , but knowing it would be yet another movie experience like so many in the past. It was with great pleasure that I soon found out I had been given the opportunity to work with one of the most talented cinematographers and writers ( although he hasn’t quite accepted the last one) in the film industry. Hearing your stories of films past and your past Alaskan experience convinced me that maybe you didn’t really need pictures of you past…the pictures you described from your mind were more clear than any picture I could have held in my hand. You have a gift of expression that few possess, both on film and the written/ spoken word. The only thing I miss in the written end is your quick, seasoned response to any and/or all conditions or situations but I just got three months of that so I am good for now. Having never responded to a blog….I must say that it is with great pleasure John asked me to respond to this one…..Thanks John, for the opportunity to work with you and witness your creative ability first hand…..some can only display their talents in one fashion…you have bridged the gap keep writing…..I will be reading…..Thanks, Kip Bartlett

  • This brings back so many memories-in fact we were probably at Barrow the same time as you in 1969. My father did research up there and we went for 5 summers and lived at NARL. I am visiting friends in Anchorage this summer and am debating taking the time to run up to Barrow and see how it has changed over the years. WIll I be shocked?

    JOHN’S REPLY: Kim, Barrow is sort of timeless. I think you’ll feel caught in time. I’ll email you more.

  • Love the photos, links and text – I live at NARL now, 2014 and am fascinated with the bldgs and history.

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