Sunday, December 12, 2010


Sooo, where was I.... Two day weekend in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. You must start your day at TierAdentro, the Zapatista coop where food is GOOD and CHEAP and the internet is FAST. 

Chiapas is a very troubled region politically and I have tried to educate myself but other people will still explain better than me. They have a violent history with battling between the indigenous Tzotzil Indians and the government. The Zapatistas have been active in the region since the early 1900's fighting for freedom for the people. 

Standard breakfast at TierAdentro. Huevos revueltos con tocino (scrammies with bacon but better) beans with cheese, tortillas, café Americano and fresh squeezed OJ. For under seven bucks. 

After breakfast a trip to the market and around town to look at the great, colorful houses.

Store front on main street showing their Zapatista pride.


We are visiting during a very important religious holiday, the celebration of Our Lady of Gudalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. 

The big day is today, Sunday December 12th, but for a week now we have seen the pilgrimage on the roads we travel. People come in trucks from all over and take turns running next to the vehicle carrying a torch. The party really kicked off last night at 11pm and the parade was constant down main street that leads to the important church in town.

San Cristóbal is dressed up to honor the Lady.

Zach the actor, Marietta the stills photographer and I made our own pilgrimage up to the church.

Behind us the whole way was a party making the journey to pay their respects with a band and flowers arrangements.

They stopped outside and we waited with them until the priest came out to give them a blessing.

An early night to bed to ready myself for the week to come. Little did I realize that nothing could have prepared me for what was in store.

MONDAY: Sumidero Cañon. The most prehistoric place I have ever seen. Complete with crocodiles that looked like they have roamed the shores for millions of years.

I was busy working when we passed the COCODRILOS (that amazingly enough is crocodile in Spanish and I never want to call them anything else ever again!) and my 2nd Stefania took these awesome croc-shots with my camera.

Working on a boat is hard, very hard - far away from power, only a limited amount of people can be close to camera for support, keeping a steady frame... 

But we get through it with some gorgeous stuff in the can!

TUESDAY: The Witch's Cave.

We love practical locations - we do! They always look better than a studio and here's the trade off. You wanna shoot in a real cave - leave your claustrophobia at home. The camera wouldn't fit built through some of the holes we had to pass.

Stefania and Ruben taking a breather after bringing our gear half way to set.

Crazy awesome view straight down!

The trekk up to the cave was peligroso enough in the daylight so getting down at night - forget about it. 

Between takes. Contemplating my career choice.

Irving, our chief lighting technician, is the King of the Cave.

The FAB THREE. These guys need a band just to go with the photo. Irving, Sebastian and Ivanhoe.

WEDNESDAY: The market in San Cristóbal. No pictures. Too crazy. Bad mood. My camera doesn't come out of the bag. Counting the days to New York.

THURSDAY: The mountains in Patosil. We arrive and the temperature is without exaggerating ARCTIC. This memorable Thursday flies right up on my top 10 worst shoot days of all times. Up a hill down a hill up a hill down a hill. Trying to ignore the local Tzotzil indians who keep passing through on the little paths. If you take their picture or they get caught in frame we will steal their souls, but for 100 pesos (8 dollars) they can get it back... My shutter button finger is ITCHING cause I'm seeing one National Geographic photo after another pass me by. But the camera stays in the bag one more day. Grrrrrrr... The women are all dressed in beautifully embroidered long skirts and blouses and their hair is tied in a bun in the forehead. We speculated on why and perhaps the reason is because when they carry their bundles of wood and fruit the straps are attached to a headband. 

What an amazing clash of cultures. We are getting set up in the morning. A group of Tzotzil women are coming out of the woods after their daily ritual of collecting sticks for firewood. They are barefoot in the frosty grass. Camera is on the steadicam rig, a strange sight for anyone outside the film biz. A man with a steel arm coming out of his chest and attached is something that looks more like a robot than a camera. What would you think?

FRIDAY: Shack on a hill, same mountains. Tension is building between 2 neighboring villages and we are caught in the middle. We have a big day and need to get everything done before things blow up. The weather is a little kinder to us and once the frost breaks we all start shedding layers. We had to wait for the sun to come around the mountain so I got the camera out finally and started snapping away.

Set is right through the corn and then hang a right.

One of the extras.

Standing in one place all day chewing is HARD work. I'm gonna take a nap.

Are you kidding with all this nature!?!?! Every place is more breathtaking than the last.

Basecamp is what we call the place where we park our trucks and campers, and basecamp for this location is right in front of a cemetery that is used by all neighboring villages. The village that agreed to host us made immediate enemies with the villages who wouldn't. There has been political tension for a long time in the area and our little film seemed like the perfect time to get some attention and some more cash in the village treasury. At around 3pm a man came running on our set saying a mob was forming by our trucks. I don't speak Spanish and manage to stay in a state of blissful ignorance. People will tell me the important things and I will follow their lead. So when our assistant director suddenly says an hour later "we are packing up and leaving NOW" having not finished our day yet, I realized the seriousness of the situation. We had been sending our gear down the hill little by little in case we had to leave in a hurry, so in one trip we brought all our stuff to the van and started loading up. I was then told to get in a van FAST - NOW! "Let's get the Americans out" was the order. Apparently the barricade of people was building at basecamp and the rumor was they were not going to let us pass. A man from the government was there to negotiate and the local police had been providing security for us all along. Our van somehow slipped through the cracks and we got out pretty fast. The rest of the crew weren't so lucky and got stuck for a few more hours. There were threats of burning cars and our production manager, the only female left from our crew was told to "get in a van because they won't negotiate with women." After all was said and done and everyone was safely back at the hotel the worst that had happened was that we lost our location and had to pick up a few more shots on another day. 

SATURDAY: The ranch. 

In the Mexican film biz you can only do a half day on Saturdays. You work till lunch and catering provides the beer, tequila and mezcal. I was so tired I was seeing double without the tequila and had two polite beers and then excused myself. 

On track in the jungle.

One of Saturday's extras.

Phew. This became a very intense post indeed but it was an intense week. Next week is our last full one and we are mostly working around town. For starters, on Monday we are shooting in our own hotel. Thank you!!!!

Our lobby at Hotel Casa Mexicana.

Our planned destination for our next (and last) day off is the mystical Indian church in San Juan Chamula. It's supposed to be a surrreal and magical experience!


  1. Question: What blog takes you from braising pork chops and Alfredo sauce to the RAIN FOREST and ancient MAYAN RUINS ?

    Is it the Clintondale Cronicle ? Close

    Looking forward to Crocodrilos Stew........R

  2. Clintondale: Cooler than you ever thought possible. (Mostly thanks to you, of course.) I look forward to your return and an evening or two of slides and drinks and stories!