Chasing Chisos | Conversations In Big Bend (Documentary, 4K)


(dramatic electronic music) – Good morning. – Yeah.
– Got some sort of shallow focus, so you’re gonna have to kinda constantly turn that–
– Yeah. So, we are out in the Chihuahuan
Desert, is that right? What desert are we in? – [Landon] Yeah, yeah. – We’re in Terlingua, an
Airbnb, it’s like seven o’clock in the mornin’ and we’re
tryin’ to get a time-lapse of the sunrise. (dramatic electronic music) (camera beeping softly) Wow, dude, can you see that? Can you see it at all? – [Cameraman] No. (dramatic electronic music) Focus, oh wow. – You’re not tryin’ to
film it, but it’s cool. For a second, you get a
little more stars, watch. That’s freakin’ cool. Some point there must’ve
been a car that went by. (dramatic electronic music) – [Cameraman] Why is this the first time you’ve ever done this? – Well, I’m just not really
a traditional photographer. I never really have a
full-frame camera on hand. We use RED cameras, video cameras. This is a stills camera. I just got this super-wide
angle 10 millimeter lens and this is one of the
designated natural dark spots in the world, as far as
star sightseeing goes, whatever the word is. – [Cameraman] (chuckles) I
guess astrophotography, right? – [Evan] Yeah, it’s like one of the hot, if you’re into photography at all, it’s kinda one of the
things to do out here, so. – [Landon] Watch out for the cactus. – For 16 seconds of video,
it’s gonna take two hours and four minutes. – [Cameraman] Wow. – This camera’s cool in
that it compiles it for you. (dramatic electronic music) I think it’s rollin’. Let’s go make some coffee. – [Cameraman] I heard that. – Well, there’s only one
question that really matters. (coffee pot lid clicking) Should we–
– Onyx or Merit? – Yes (chuckles). – Well, perhaps–
– Texas, Arkansas? – Uh, maybe, we tick off–
– Texas. – [Evan] Texas with Texas. – There might be some good for nothin’s, but these are good for somethin’. (dramatic electronic music)
(guitar strings plucking) – Get me a cup of coffee. So, we can actually have it where we’re just sitting here, huh? – We can just have a actual conversation–
– An actual conversation. – about what we’re gonna do. So, yeah, I guess, uh– (coffee mugs clanking) Kick it off with a cheer. So, we’re on a mad
mission to make somethin’ and it’s been a long
time since we’ve gone out to make somethin’ without a
100% clear idea what it is. We always try to be open to things and when we do our little
traveling faces documentaries we usually have a pretty clear subject, but we’re always open to the circumstances of that subject and those have gone awry and gone in weird directions. But, I guess sort of the
impedance of this whole thing was that I’ve never been to Big Bend. I moved to Texas last year,
’bout six hours from Big Bend and it feels like a
quest that must be made. You’ve been here before. You’ve written songs about this area. – You know, I was thinking
about it, actually, this morning when I woke up it’s so strange about what
we’re doing is that like most people come here
to get away from their schedules and shit–
– Not have to think about stuff.
– Yeah. And so, it’s like, to
be waking up at dawn, I just realized we’re crazy people no matter what–
– On a mission, right. We’re not here to relax. – [Landon] We finally got
to the artist retreat, in the furthest remote place in Texas where there’s barely any 3G coverage and we’re still waking up
at dawn with an agenda. – For a time-lapse.
– (laughs) and we’re waking up with an agenda, – It’s almost–
– it is we have no agenda. – [Evan] Right, and that’s
almost more refreshing and recharging for me
(chuckles) than doing nothing. – Right.
– Doing nothing becomes stressful for me. – Sort of the lostness
or the what might we find or the, I don’t know. – Yeah, the magic that–
– It’s appealing. – is it for me when I look back is the getting up at dawn to
get a time-lapse of the sunrise and walking away with that
piece of thing that I’ve made or captured or whatever. ‘Cause the park’s just
something’s that sort of a uniquely American thing. It’s something my family, at
least my grandparents traveled the whole country, multiple times over. Road trip in a RV,
they’ve been to every park and as a kid, I traveled a lot,
but we never really traveled to the parks. I’ve still never been to Grand Canyon. By the time I was a
sophomore in high school, I’ve been to every continent
except for Antarctica. – Wow. – I’ve never been to– – The Grand Canyon.
– Grand Canyon, and, like Louisiana, if you look at a map of all the national parks in the country, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama, Arkansas, all that, Arkansas’s got one, but
a lot of those states, there’s no national parks. They’re state parks, but
it’s sort of a reminder that we didn’t grow up
in a grand landscape. – [Landon] Sure. – We grew up in flat farm swampland. And so, there’s something about
you cross a certain border and even the two national
parks in Texas are both on the far west borders. – I haven’t thought about it like that.
– Considering how big Texas is, but, anyway, I mean there’s something
about these are places you have to trek to
and for whatever reason I’ve never trekked to and they seem like aside from the naturalistic to get some natural beautiful footage
of landscapes and nature, like what are the stories
out in these places and what are the people, it’s a desert. How do you live out here? What attracts people out here? So, on some level, I think that’s what we’re tryin’ to look for, is get some perspectives
from people about it. Embrace them–
– And, on the national parks topic, at a glance, I
think, people would say, well, the parks were
established to preserve land, but the rest of that
sentence is preserve land for the American people to explore. So, it’s like, we are
allowed to come out here. You live in San Antonio. This is Big Bend National
Park for you paid by your tax dollars and if it weren’t for the growing population– – [Evan] That’s what
keeps the parks runnin’. – [Landon] Well, yeah, because, I mean–
– The fees to go into the park are what maintain the park. – [Landon] Yeah, and there’s
all this talk right now of the president cutting
funding to the parks. The parks are not, they’re not holy. They’re maintained by people
who visit them and care and renew their care. – [Evan] It’s about tourism, almost (laughs).
– It’s about tourism, yeah, and not just about get out
here with your sunscreen and camera, but have a
quiet moment in nature which is why I mean we’re
a little bit absurd. – Right (laughs).
– (laughs) We’re not seeking a quiet moment. – I think we already had a, it gets pretty quiet out here (chuckles). – No, totally, I just, we’re not here for the solitude necessarily. Well, on your draw as a photographer, what’s exciting, just as
far as doing the night shots and then dawn shots–
– Doin’ some new stuff, right.
– I just would point out that your grandpa, the
reason you have photos– – He had–
– is ’cause he was out here with the same impulse. It wasn’t video, but he was
taking photos and, I don’t know, I think that’s special. I feel guilty about that all the time. My parents had all these
photos of us when we were kids and I barely take any photos of my kids. – What’s weird is how recently
all this came together too, ’cause it was Christmas before last, ’bout a year and a half ago, I started scanning all my grandfather’s, he passed away three years ago, and he had 30 boxes of reels of slides. They’re all in the reel. There ended up being about 3000 slides and it goes from when he and
my grandmother first met, all the travels they did in
their 20s before they had kids, all the way through to my
mom and uncles growin’ up and it’s crazy, like their
first house being built. And then, this past Christmas, crossing paths with my
godmother from Miami that I never see, but she’s livin’ back
in her hometown again, and she pulls out some
photos just haphazardly of my parents ’cause we’re talkin’ about how we like lookin’ at
old photos and most of ’em are my parents and her goin’
to Big Bend in the ’80s before they had kids. So, there was this family rhythm, I just happen to move to Texas. There’s a calling out here, I guess. (mellow guitar music) So, yeah, this is one of the first photos I have of my grandparents out here. I think there’s cars in the shot too. So, they must’ve used to be
able to drive up right here. This was a post office. I have a photo of my grandfather,
probably 70 years ago, standing right here. It’s kind of a weird thing,
so I pulled the picture. (mellow guitar music) Weirdest analogy I can
think of, I mean, I know, hang up here, it’s a really nerdy thing, but in Assassin’s Creed,
where you have to synchronize your memories at the
points of the building. That’s what this feels
like ’cause I had to go to these points and
synchronize (chuckles). Some weird familial spirit, like 70 years, I don’t know the exact
time, it was roughly that. That’s a long time. I know it’s old ’cause
my grandfather had hair. I’d never known him to
have hair in my whole life. So, that was before he had kids. He was cruisin’ around the
country in this little car. It’s so crazy. See, Landon just pointed out
for reference how this tree is and it’s not even somethin’,
some other kinda bush or somethin’ that’s in this photo there. Oh no, it is back there. Look, you can see it
through the car window. – Oh yeah.
– That’s it, I think. It’s a little further back, but that’s it. It’s like 70 years of growth or so. – [Landon] That’s crazy. – I do wonder too, there is a feeling too, when my grandfather passed
away three years ago, four years ago in December,
there’s like that feeling like I wonder if this would
feel as weird and sort of as much of a spiritual journey,
if that wasn’t the case and there’s somethin’ about
the echoes of previous people. (dramatic indie rock music) – So, if you’ve ever wondered
what Mexico looked like, there she is (chuckles). It’s really amazing to think
about all the fuss of the walls and the borders and then just see this and it’s like– – [Cameraman] You’re standin’
in America, lookin’ at Mexico. – One, just how it’s one thing, like it doesn’t look like another, actually, the grass
looks better over there. It’s weird to wanna feel
like I wanna play Red Dead. I’m just like, what are you talkin’ about? I’m here! – [Evan] I keep making
video game references and I think that’s the sign of the times– – Right.
(Evan laughing) – I just think that it’s remarkable that this is the southern
most bit of America, but it used to be Mexico,
but now, that’s Mexico and I just sit here and
think, it’s unnatural for us to even be here. ‘Cause you have to go
pretty far to the wilderness to get to this nice piece of water. But, I feel like I’m at the
edge of the map definitively. (dramatic indie rock music) – The other side of nowhere is what we say at the state park. This is not something that
I was raised, growing up, my family, outside of the
trip I took with the camp with my cub scouts. My father, camping was a Holiday Inn with a black and white TV. And so, nothing had prepared
me to have a composting toilet where I shovel shit every six
months, but that’s my life and I love it and to
go six days in January without electricity
because a truck took out 30 poles north of Alpine. That’s not something I’m prepared for. I am now, I have a generator. But, I have people that I
grew up that were colleagues that they were under the
impression that I just lost my mind and maybe I did, but– – [Evan] But, you found it
too, so that’s what counts. – But, the reality is is
that I’m happier, healthier, sleep better, mentally,
spiritually, emotionally, this is what I needed to do. And, I can’t really quantify it. I can’t say that, well, x equals eight. I don’t know what x equals. I don’t know why this worked, why I had the panic
attack at the Starlight, why I didn’t go back to my business. At the time, I was working for networks. I was making more money a
day than I had ever seen. I was climbing the career
ladder in both camera and sound, I had it all laid out in front of me and I walked away from
it to go shovel shit and I’m happier. (mellow post-rock music) – From a practical photography
standpoint, like yesterday was overcast and cloudy all day. It wasn’t a great day
to photograph the park. We still did some of our stuff out there and I think from a filmmaker’s standpoint, me coming here was thinking
how do we get creative images of this beautiful place. There’s nature everywhere. There’s interesting people. Just seems like there’s so much to get, but at the same time, I don’t
think I let myself believe that there was more than I could get and I think, today, it sorta hit me. Goin’ through the park and just realizing, we can’t see all of this in perfect light. At every time, all the time-lapses that I’m seein’ as we’re doin’
this drive out of the park as the sun’s goin’ down today and like there’s so many
opportunities and realizing, oh, this is something I can’t, Big Bend’s too big to capture (chuckles). – Yeah, it is. It’s untamed, it’s wild and
it’s changing constantly. Even the stories you hear,
you know, I talked to people as we’re goin’ about what their experience were here last time, everybody’s gonna have a different time. ‘Cause the river was
either higher or lower or there’s certain, you know,
one person mentioned to me, like you’re saying that they tried to come to Big Bend before, but it was closed ’cause
of the government shut down and they felt gypped that
they’d come all this way and then the gate was closed and then it’s just crazy to
think about when you’re driving through such a huge landscape with– – [Evan] That it could ever be closed–
– That it could ever be closed and that we put a wall around that or that the border could
exist is the same thing. How do you enclose this, you know, it’s just you got to reckon
with landscapes like this it just is what it is. You can’t claim it. You can’t fence it in. You can’t control it. I mean that’s part of what
Buckner was tellin’ us yesterday about resources in state
park and it is something, he can’t keep up with
it, not enough funding to maintain things and people go out and make mistakes all the time out there ’cause they underestimate it. We can run with the theme
of a mile’s not a mile, then you have people
comin’ in here and think, oh, we could do four,
five, 10, 20, 50 miles, but a mile out here, it’s
a long mile (chuckles). – [Landon] Yeah, I mean
Santa Elena Canyon, we’re goin’– – We did the easiest trails
and we were still gettin’, feelin’ worn out and lack of water–
– It’s just you’re climbin’ staircases up into the canyon– – And, we’re here in January. It’s as cool as it gets (chuckles). – Right. (mellow post-rock music) – And, we’re commenting
on the drive down that everything from a
distance is kinda rising. You see some hills and that’s Big Bend. There’s a lot of desert and
then there’s some hills. And then, you take an hour long
off-road drive down to this and really the last five minutes and then the walk from the car is where this actually
just goes, it’s like crazy. Suddenly there’s this crazy
canyon, this beautiful river, the temperature changed. Suddenly, you’re not in a dry air place, you’re in a wet, almost cool place. It’s very strange. (river water running) So, we’re on the Santa Elena Canyon trail and we just recreated another one of my grandparent’s photographs. This was my grandmother sit down on this ledge, somewhere. We tried our best to match
it up with the shadows on the rock wall, the darker spots. It’s all roughly the
same spot, but, I think, maybe this trail wasn’t even quite cut the same way back then. Obviously, I think cactus
don’t live that long. Some of these rocks might’ve
moved, but we did our best to recreate it, so just
another kinda repeat scenario of following in grandparent’s steps. (ethereal ambient music) We’re gettin’ to the end of our trekkin’ in the national park. This is our last trail and tomorrow, we move on to Santa Fe and
slowly get back to normal life. (ethereal post-rock music) I guess this is just part of the habit of feeling like I have to
record it to make it special. We’ve been talkin’ about a lot
sort of trying to figure out what we’re gonna do with this trip and the need, I think I have to, you know, filming is art in my way
of capturing emotion, expressing emotion, capturing memories, all goes through storytelling. So, the story of this
trip has been wrestling to find what my story here is. (mellow post-rock music) – Well, this is where the misfits fit and it’s where I fit,
so I guess I’m a misfit and I’m okay with that. Because, just a physical example, I’ve lost 45 pounds in 12 years and not because I try, not because I like
(breathes in heavily) today, I’m gonna go hike. Today, I’m gonna go work out. It just happened and I had friends in Austin
that would pull me aside and when I would come
back and they’d be like, are you okay? Oh yeah, no, I’m fine, why? Well, you’re goin’ all
“Dallas Buyers Club” on us (Evan laughing in background)
and I don’t understand what’s happening, we think you’re sick. And, I’m like, no, I’m
not, I don’t have access to Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken and I’m not eating my emotions. I sit and stare at
nothing and it’s amazing. – [Landon] Well, it seems like everybody has a different reason that they go to a park like
some folks are just having an athletic challenge climbing and seeing how far they
can go, how long of hikes can they do–
– For a lot of people to checklist, like, well,
let’s just see how long. That’s kinda how we talked
about framing this too, it’s like that would be
a good reason to go try to tell some stories
in interesting places, but you do sort of have to, I guess part of what I’m struggling with is what kind of filmmaker
am I trying to be and what are we tryin’ to accomplish and sometimes, it’s
exciting to not have a goal and then sometimes, you feel
like you really need a goal. – You’re floundering without one. – It seems like anytime we’re
making a narrative project, I’m dreaming of trips
like this where we find something cool–
– Photography trips. – [Evan] Yeah, and you just let it be and you don’t know what you’ll come across ’cause a lot of our good
pieces have come out that way. And then, likewise, when
I’m doin’ stuff like this, all we’ve been talkin’
about is our next narrative. We’re writing a narrative film out here, a western or somethin’. And, surprisingly, pieces
of even outside of us are falling to even allow that to happen with connections out here and so. – Well, it’s like you
have to fill yourself up and absorb all the creative energy and want to make something before you can, so you wanna blame yourself
for comin’ out here and not havin’ it all under
control or knowing what to film, but it’s also this is
your first time out here. It wasn’t until we drove on
the way back from the canyon, we saw some beautiful white
rocks and that big hill that you went up on that we
thought, oh, now, this is where we’d like to put a scene. But, it’s like we found
that at the very end of the journey.
– Right, right by the paved road, yeah.
– If we had come out here with a narrative in mind and the actors and everything goin’ on–
– We wouldn’t have found that spot.
– We wouldn’t have found that spot.
– Sure. – [Landon] The things
that a traveler learns are rarely things you can
put a camera on, it’s the– – [Evan] That’s where you
have to write the poetry– – [Landon] The doubt and yeah– – [Evan] You have to write
the script and the dialogue and the, create the poet–
– And even, there’s things that can’t be conveyed that
are boring and normal parts of human experience and it’s
everything that’s everything– – That’s why it would’ve
been easy to be like, well, we’re just not gettin’ anything. Let’s just stop gettin’ the camera out and let’s just let this be for us. It’s I’m tryin’ to make
sure I have, you know– – Be open to know this is
something, new form of something that it was probably some one-off thing, but this is more personal documentary– – I’ll tell you, as a songwriter,
when I pick up my guitar, when we were up on the hill earlier and I’m pickin’ up my guitar,
I don’t have it in mind yet, but you kinda start
gettin’ the movement going and you put yourself in it. Then, I start thinking, what
have I digested recently and some of it comes out and
some of it is on the revision that I finally get the
good idea, but that it’s a leap of faith–
– The trick is for you to write your
song about this experience doesn’t require you to
come back (chuckles). – True.
– For me to make a film out here requires more time
and money and commitment and being physically here again. So, I think that’s where my urgency to keep rolling on things come from. – That’s what it is, that’s what I mean, the equivalent of it as
a songwriter would be if I wanted to be
comfortable, I’d wait until I was back at the desk
with the candle burning and the coffee next to me–
– Write part of it here– – [Landon] But, it’s just while I’m here, while I’m thinkin’ about it, gettin’ my guitar out and just try to play even though this is uncomfortable,
my guitar is not in tune, I feel silly, Evan’s
here with a camera on me, it’s like, should I play
a song that’s finished, if he’s got a camera, no,
I’m just working on a song. – [Evan] Well, that’s
actually where little moments of that felt like we were sort of in sync because I wasn’t getting anything real, but I know that’s a
little clip of something on this journey ’cause there’s a moment where we’re on a hill and maybe it won’t
resonate or mean anything, but it’s somethin’.
– It happened. – Yeah, so I think this would be an interesting thing to edit
in that it is just sort of, it’s much more vague than anything that we kind of tried
to do and, hopefully, try to capture some of
the beauty of a place, but, yeah, I think there has
been a lot of me wrestling with going to a place I’ve never been that feels sort of mystical
and I don’t really know what I’m really getting into
and I definitely feel a little defeated by the landscapes. I think we got some great shots, for sure. But, there’s just no way to capture it. – [Landon] No, you can’t
put it in a bottle. – [Evan] As good of a
photographer or cinematographer as I think I am, and sure,
I can get a great shot right here of this thing, but there’s just infinity out there. There’s no way to convey it all. (upbeat guitar music) ♪ Today there is snow in the valley ♪ ♪ I can see from my place up above ♪ ♪ Sweet mother nature laying
out the blankets of love ♪ ♪ They say that you’re
wearin’ a white gown ♪ ♪ Where beauty is layin’
with her hair down ♪ ♪ I can see it from my
window in the tower ♪ ♪ Valley is fillin’ up with powder ♪ ♪ That stone flower ♪ ♪ Back then there was sun in the grasses ♪ ♪ Can’t blame an egg if the hatches ♪ ♪ And when you’re
feelin’ really restless ♪ ♪ Might as well get on back to Texas ♪ ♪ Meet your exes ♪ ♪ Out there in the worry and the marshes ♪ ♪ Where the horsemen have
blown out their torches ♪ ♪ I know it’s a lot of weight to carry ♪ ♪ There ain’t nobody that
you can’t bury, sanctuary ♪ It’s pretty good.

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