So, as I said, we filmed Sahkanaga in and around Chickamauga in northwest Georgia in June of 2009. The key crew members (Producer, Director, DP, Gaffer, Production Designer, Gaffer and 1st AC) lodged in a house together at Mountain Cove Farms for the duration of pre-production and principal photography.
Our first set of photos is of Mountain Cove Farms, an 11,500 acre tract of picturesque land bordered by Pigeon Mountain on the east and Lookout Mountain on the west. Mountain Cove Farms is at the very southern end of what's known as McLemore Cove, which lives in the greater Chickamauga Valley.
This is the entrance to Mountain Cove Farms from Highway 157. Cows grazed on one side of the road. It led to a winding road cutting through the mountains down into the valley. The heifer in the bottom right corner watched me while I took his or her photograph.
This picture was taken as I was driving away from the house for the last time - back to Atlanta. This was our home during the production of the film. We lived here, worked here and shot many scenes from the film just a stone's throw from the house. It was a newer house meant for tourists I imagine. It had four bedrooms, rented furniture, one phone line with a strange area code, six New Yorkers, a sound mixer from New Jersey, a musician from Birmingham, an adopted kitten named Crash and me living in it. In order to notify the Fedex man, someone hung this homemade cardboard sign with our address: 856. 856 Dougherty Gap Rd. We often had important packages sent to another address because mail service was spotty.
You'll notice in the first black and white photo, the land stretching up to the house is bare, but in the second, it's flush with hay. The second photo was taken before the hay was harvested. We filmed during the fever of hay season and saw the mobile hay balers in action on more than one occasion.
I see the appeal of the living in the mountains, removed from urban life. To be able to wake up every morning and walk outside to the porch and sit in a lawn chair and look at the mountains and drink some orange juice (If I drank coffee, this would sound more literary, but I like orange juice.) is a great luxury. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It's unknowable. It's similar to waking up near the ocean. It's a place where the world seems infinite and human life is intertwined with the Earth. During these moments you feel like a guest, like someone is pampering you, but in reality no one is. I remember talking to John S.(writer/director) about the film we were making and he said, (Forgive my paraphrasing here, John.) "When we die, our bodies become part of the Earth again. As sad as death is, there is something comforting and right about that." He may have never uttered those words, but that's what I took from it. With that, I'll leave you with this photo of John lying on a driveway collecting his thoughts (or catching a quick catnap) during one the shooting days.
Sahkanaga premieres in Atlanta this Friday at 6pm at the Atlanta Film Festival. Go see it.