Clippings: Timber! The making of a movie

I finally made it on the big screen.
But it’s not as I once imagined.
And, to be honest, this ‘big screen’ isn’t all that big. Rather than appear in some cameo spot on the movie screen (a la Sen. Patrick Leahy’s roles in the Batman movies), my two-minute gig generally shows up on a smart phone or computer screen. But at least I’m the star, albeit in a saga that takes a turn for the worse.
Here’s the setting:
My oldest daughter, Polly, and her boyfriend/partner bought an 800-square-foot fixer-upper in Killington a few months ago, and have been feverishly working throughout the summer and fall to get it ready to move into before winter. The object has been to move into their home before December so they don’t have to continue the 45-minute commute from my house to their jobs at the newspaper there.
A couple of months ago, we walked the five-acre property and noted some big trees (80-footers) that, in a big wind, could come down on the newly refurbished house. We marked a few to take down for another day.
What we missed, however, was an older, rotten 60-foot tree that was hanging out over the driveway right where they intended to build a 16’x12’ tool shed. A few days later, the excavator took out a couple more trees and leveled the area, and before anyone knew it the carpenter had the floor, walls and roof up and ready to put the metal roof on when he spotted the hazard. The 24-inch diameter trunk was solid 4 feet up, but rotten for the next 20. Worse, the biggest branch was ominously hanging out over the shed’s roof about 20 feet overhead; and the trunk had a pretty good lean toward the shed with little else to act as a counter-balance. The 40-foot branch was dead and had to be moved; the tree trunk would come down sooner or later — and it was headed right for the shed.
We thought of taking it out the weekend before, but had second thoughts. Better let the pros handle this one. That week they called around and had a few guys come look it over. No one would touch it. Too risky. And the one firm with the bucket-truck that could take it out piece-by-piece wanted half-again more than the shed was worth.
We went back the next weekend to take it out. We figured we might as well try it now before the metal roof went on. We climbed up into the tree, threw an old climbing rope around a notch about 20-feet up, and looked for a big enough tree to the right to pull against with other ropes and come-a-longs (hand-winches). Couldn’t find a suitable anchor; so we settled on just having a couple guys try to pull the tree in that direction in the hopes we could get it to snap that way once we had cut a good wedge. With the rope in place and fingers crossed, I began cutting the wedge.
Polly had her I-phone and began documenting the show.
Action: With my big Husqvarna I cut a wedge that took out 7/8ths of the trunk. By then, it should have encouraged the tree to break in that direction. No go. The weight hanging out over the shed kept it upright. We pulled and pulled, trying to get the tree to snap in that direction, but no luck. I trimmed some more out of the wedge, but it still didn’t crack, then I cut another half-inch out of the wedge on the uphill side, and crack… it snapped right where the gravity was taking it.
Being the good journalist she is, Polly had just turned on the video for the finale. But instead of that carefully planned shot that split the distance between the shed and the house, she captured that sinking feeling when things go wrong with a few expletives (for those with sensitive ears) vocalized at the height of the drama.
And that’s how I made the big screen. Suddenly, I stand the chance of semi-famous, or infamous. Whichever. Just go to YouTube and see for yourself at www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy701ZErmfQ. The two-minute spot is actually embellished with the introduction being created by Jason (Polly’s beau), complete with some older photos and previous feats of daring-do along with a few cameos (including his Holiness the Dalai Lama.) And there’s the deer-in-the-headlights shot that everyone does once in their lifetime and which is routinely used to good effect. The music is the song “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC off their 1990 album The Razors Edge (good lyrics, great beat); the graphics are quite cleverly conceived and well-scripted; and the dialogue, while limited to a dozen words, is at once emphatic and understated.
If you view it, you’ll be one of 800,000,000 viewers to routinely use YouTube each month, which, you might think, could potentially deliver a big audience to our video. But then there is this: Our two minutes is part of the 60 hours of new videos uploaded to the site every minute. More than 14 billion videos were viewed in just the month of May 2010 (the last time anyone bothered to count that high, I suppose.) Not a bad circulation for a business that started in 2005.
So while the audience is enormous, the quantity of material is even greater. Makes me think that Andy Warhol’s famous comment about 15-minutes of fame has turned to about 90 seconds, if that.
No matter. I’m the anti-hero in a video that could go sick (or is it viral?), and that’s more than I ever expected. 

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