Local filmmaker John Waller teamed up with Oregon Field Guide cinematographer Michael Bendixen on the recent outdoor film Treeverse, which is currently traveling with the BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour.
Waller’s 16-minute film documents two arborists as they set out to travel along a 1-kilometer stand of oak trees, moving from tree to tree high in the canopy and never touching the ground. In addition, Oregon Field Guide produced a story on the making of Treeverse (see video at top).
Treeverse isn’t the first of Waller’s films to be featured in the BANFF Film Festival — but it did grow out of a conversation that took place when his film Into Darkness was part of the 2010 festival.
“About two years ago, I sat in a bar with a friend of mine in Banff and we sat and thought about what the next project would be,” remembers Waller. From that conversation, Treeverse was born.
Production for Treeverse required the time and creativity of many people working together. Among the large and well-coordinated crew was OPB’s Michael Bendixen. Bendixen has worked with Waller in the past and, in addition to shooting footage for the Oregon Field Guide story on Treeverse, Bendixen volunteered some of his time as the director of photography for this film. He was responsible for many of the shots in the film that seemed a bit precarious.
“Michael is obviously very experienced in the world of adventure documentary where the action is unpredictable,” says Waller. “He’s really a great team player and has the endurance to really keep going and keep working in conditions that aren’t the most comfortable.”
“Shooting this was painful,” agrees Bendixen. “I spent 10-15 hours a day straddling tree trunks, dangling on limbs and generally just trying to endure the rain — all with a full-size broadcast camera. I’d have to shake my legs every five minutes so I wouldn’t go numb. It was difficult to find the balance between a body position that wasn’t extremely painful and one that allowed for the best shot. I usually chose the latter.”
Some of the signature elements of the film include breathtaking time-lapse sequences that show the beauty of the trees and landscape, but also serve to give the audience a sense of chronological scale. To capture those sequences, Waller called upon award-winning photographer Ben Canales, who also worked on a time-lapse film called Finding Oregon.
“Time-lapse is really appealing to me because it gives you the opportunity to see the world through a different measure of time,” says Waller. “It’s a different way of experiencing the world around us.”
When all is said and done, Waller feels honored to be part of the Banff Film Festival for a second time.
“It was a real validation for me and a lot of other people who worked on the project. The Banff Mountain Film Festival represents the upper echelon in the adventure film world.”
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