On scene: GJ filmmaker Mara Ferris gathers footage at Driggs Mansion
Watching Mara Ferris work is proof that filmmaking isn’t always glamorous.
On scene at her most recent shoot, Ferris didn’t have the professional assistants or enclosed, weather-controlled sound stages that some movie directors have.
Instead, the environmental documentarian hauled her gear around in a backpack as wind gusts nearing 60 mph almost blew her over.
“Sometimes, you just have to make it work,” said Ferris, who is making a video for Western Colorado Interpretive Association chronicling the restabilization of Driggs Mansion near Gateway.
The third week of October found Ferris, 39, gathering nearly 11 hours of footage during five separate trips to Driggs Mansion. Her final video will be at the most five minutes long.
“I always shoot more than I need,” said Ferris, whose filmmaking business is named Gen9 Productions.
The process of collecting information about Driggs Mansion, originally built out of stone and mortar in the early-1900s, began at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 15, when Ferris arrived at the mansion before the three-man restabilization crew got there. She wanted to check lighting and observe how the sun crested over the Unaweep Canyon walls. She stayed until 4 p.m.
“I took quite a few still photographs,” Ferris said.
She plans to incorporate historic and current photographs, plus interviews about the restabilization and history of Driggs Mansion, into the video.
Once the crew from Alpine Archaeological Consultants Inc. of Montrose arrived, Ferris introduced herself and spent the remainder of the week filming the men and helping them grow comfortable with her so interviews with each man would be easier on the final day of filming.
Ferris filmed the men working in different lighting and from different vantage points. She worked efficiently because she couldn’t replicate anything if it was missed.
“She takes lots of photos,” said Jim Firor, the Hotchkiss resident directing the restabilization project for the Montrose firm.
Ferris planned to finish shooting Oct. 22. Like always, she had loaded her gear into her Subaru Forester the night before, making sure the equipment was clean, charged and safely packed.
Ferris left Grand Junction that Monday morning with a small cup of soy yogurt and travel container of coffee.
“It’s pretty cool just to be up close on the grounds,” Ferris said of the project. “It’s technically on private land, so it’s a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the mansion.”
She noted the weather had been ideal during the previous week.
Then, she arrived at the mansion and was greeted by wind gusts so strong that sand and dust seemed to blow from every direction, threatening the day’s filming, which was to include outdoor interviews with each member of the work crew.
“Some wind is fine,” Ferris said. “This ...”
Despite being less than enthusiastic about the conditions, Ferris decided to brave the elements and see what happened. She put new batteries in her microphones, tucked her video camera into her backpack and grabbed the tripod to walk down the gravel path to the mansion ruins.
Ferris braced herself against the ruin walls to get some shots. She set up her tripod at various angles while the men worked at different points of the mansion.
“She’s been really easy to work around,” Firor said. “She’s quiet. She’s very polite about asking if she can stand somewhere to not be in the way.”
At lunch, despite the wind gusts, Ferris decided to record the interviews in a small spot she found near the mansion’s main archway. Using the protection of the walls, she hoped the wind wouldn’t overpower the audio.
With a microphone clipped to his shirt, each man answered Ferris’ questions about Driggs Mansion, its history and the work to restabilize the location.
Ferris rarely broke eye contact, but her camera and tripod blew over once during the interviews, so she planned to file an insurance claim to get it fixed.
Ferris left the site shortly after 1:30 p.m., optimistic all the footage and interviews she filmed looked great even with the obstacles thrown at her.
“I feel like I have a really awesome job,” Ferris said. “It was just a reminder that even though it was off a main highway, it still feels pretty isolated. It’s pretty nice.”
When Ferris got home, she listened to the interviews to make sure she did not need to return to Driggs Mansion to repeat that day’s work.
“Success!” Ferris wrote later in an email. “The audio turned out great.”
Turning 11 hours of footage into a five-minute video.