Interview with Filmmaker Eric Benjamin Parson (Big Basin Will Never Be The Same)

“Big Basin Will Never Be The Same” was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the October 2021 ENVIRONMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

This was supposed to be a very different film. Originally the film contained only the “before” footage – Big Basin State Park in all of its natural beauty. A musical love letter, a celebration of life. I had written about 10 minutes of powerful, motivating, and uplifting music to accompany the film when I left in August 2020 to hike the 210-mile John Muir Trail in the Eastern Sierra. Two weeks without cell phone service, totally off-grid, I end my hike at the summit of Mt. Whitney, which incidentally has cell phone service. Take my phone off airplane mode and I am bombarded with notifications – Calfornia is on fire, the Santa Cruz Mountains are on fire, Big Basin is on fire. My heart sank and I was gripped with anxiety about my beloved hometown and favorite place to run. I knew the film had changed forever.

The idea to do the split screen came naturally after realizing the loss of the place while also possessing documentation of the park prior to the fire. Having extended takes while running meant I could capture the same run again in the transformed environment and sync in post. Simple and direct was the goal and the result.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

About a year. The shooting and editing were done in December 2020 but it took another few months to compose and record the music. Composing the music was the hard part because I wanted to honor the place as well as the grieving process I was going through.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Grief meditation

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Figuring out the responsible way to release the film. I wanted to avoid any type of destruction porn-type aesthetic thay might inspire instagram influencer types from accessing these fragile lands to post photos of the admittedly dramatic looking landscapes for social media clout.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It completed a circuit for me to hear strangers without a direct connection to Big Basin or even the experience of living through California wildfires talk about their experience.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I’ve off and on made informal films but this most recent push was inspired by my relationship to solitude in nature and my desire to create art about that experience.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably not something I would be proud to share to cinema nerds, haha.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

More critical feedback maybe? Loved the positive feedback but also comfortable with constructive criticism.

9. What is your favorite meal?

Big salad

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I would like to do an artist residency at a National Park, filming and composing the soundtrack for a film that celebrates public land while advocating for direct action in response to the climate crisis.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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