‘Dakota Skye’ Behind-the-Scenes Pic-of-the-Week #2
This is probably my favorite picture from the making of ‘Dakota Skye’.
I had first written ‘Dakota’ to take place in Atlanta where I went to high school and college, where my family and many, many of my friends are. I’ve called several places ‘home’ but Atlanta is ‘home home’. In the first I don’t know how many drafts, when Jonah and Dakota take their night-time drive to a place where they “couldn’t drive any further”, they ended up in the beautiful Georgia city of Savannah. Their first kiss, the one depicted above, would have taken place overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
When the decision was made to transplant the film from Atlanta to director John Humber’s hometown of Phoenix (for a variety of legitimate reasons), I threw a little hissy fit and then went about adapting the script to shoot in Arizona.
The first worry I had was that without the ocean to stop them, where would they drive all night? Where would they end up? What would be as visually interesting and romantic as one of the South’s most historical destinations?
The answer came quick: The Grand Canyon.
Not that that would be easy. John and his co-producer Shaun O’Banion had to work very hard to make it happen. You see, Grand Canyon National Park is, shockingly, a national park. Which means expensive shooting permits (which could be crippling for such a low-budget film), lots of restrictions, and a mandatory hiring of a park ranger to oversee our activities (also an unwelcome expense).
I wasn’t there for all the logistics of it, but John and Shaun obviously did a great job.
But what does this photo mean to me? What does it make me think of?
Well, first off, it was fucking cold. As hot as Phoenix was most days, the Canyon was that cold, especially since we anted to catch the sun rising, meaning we had to be up and at the location before dawn. This picture of our Assistant Director Chuck says it all.
I also remember locking the keys in the passenger van that morning. I wish I could say it was my only boneheaded mistake, but that would be a vicious lie. It wasn’t even close to the worst of my sins.
The reason this picture sticks out to me, moves me, almost brings me to tears, is simple:
The very first time I saw the Grand Canyon, one of this country’s most gorgeous natural wonders, I was standing on the rim as the sun rose over it, revealing it slowly to me, while we were shooting scene from a film I wrote, a scene that is really an act of romantic wish-fulfillment in a story based on my life that did not include such a moment.
You’ll probably never recreate those exact conditions if you ever get to the Canyon, and that’s too bad. Because I cannot think of a better way to experience it for the first time.
Many of the cast and crew had never seen it either. When Ian and Eileen get out of the car to begin the scene, they come over to the edge as the rising sun transforms something beautiful into something almost other-worldly. It was the first time either one of them had seen the Canyon. The wonder on their faces are real (much like the look on Eileen’s face when she’s driving into New York at the end).
It was a long, cold, tiring day, and after it was over we had to drive several hours back to Phoenix and gear up to shoot the concert scene the next day. It could have been a day that broke us, just because of how physically exhausting it was. But it didn’t. Although the concert almost did.
Just look at that photo up there. Can you have a more perfect first kiss? I don’t think so.
That’s all I can think of to say about this photo. It just fills me with all sorts of fuzzy emotions, or, as the kids say it, I’m told, it hits me all in my feels.