Harvesting the High Plains

Panasonic AJ-HPX3700 helps “Harvest the High Plains” as filmmakers wrap documentary about staring down the dust bowl.

Filmmakers Sydney Duvall and Kay Kriss of Inspirit Creative had an elemental challenge.

The duo wanted to shine the spotlight on a little known tale of perseverance and overcoming astronomical odds. With the support of the AJ-HPX3700, Panasonic’s premier solid-state P2 HD VariCam camcorder, that dream has become a reality. The full-length documentary Harvesting the High Plains, will be broadcast nationally on PBS in 2012 and then circulate the film festival circuit.

Harvesting, is an evocative tale of two visionaries who wouldn’t let a little dust stand in the way of agricultural greatness. Undaunted by the Dust Bowl’s severe storms and rampant soil erosion, former field hand John Kriss (a distant relative of the filmmaker) and Wichita entrepreneur Ray Garvey realized that the underlying soil was fertile enough to produce wheat. The pair developed then-radical agricultural techniques that led to a record production in 1947 (a record that still stands).

Duvall and Kriss (filmmaker) were inspired by the extensive correspondence between Kriss and Garvey and brought the story to life using interviews from family members, former employees and neighboring farmers. The pair also captured reenactments of the events in black-and-white. The film celebrates the common heritage shared by the region and devastating times it once faced.

Principle photography was shot in western Kansas and Nebraska and eastern Colorado during the grueling summers of 2010 and 2011.

“Every day, for weeks on end, had temperatures in the triple digits,” said Kriss. “We consistently dealt with wind and enormous gales of dust. A constant challenge was to get really close to the tractors and combines, which we accomplished by shooting with the HPX3700 handheld for low angles on the dirt, as well as on a Steadicam and tripod.”

The contemporary footage will be spliced with a dynamic mix of 16mm historic footage, and moving video of photographs and artifacts shot utilizing a probe lens to paint a full picture of what transpired in the country’s “breadbasket” during the 30s and 40s.

Kriss utilized the HPX3700’s enhanced Film-Rec 600% setting, which provides additional latitude, and recorded in 1080/24p, 10-bit, 4:2:2 full-raster AVC-Intra 100. “The HPX3700 delivers the depth I want from a sensor, and shooting at 24fps facilitated matching our historic footage.” the filmmaker said. “We would off-load two or three times a day, with no data loss, to Panasonic’s AJ-HPM200 P2 Mobile, which we also used to review footage.”

Kriss’ HPX3700 camera package includes a Fujinon HAe10x10 E-Series digital cinema zoom lens as well as Fujinon E-series Cine Prime lenses. Harvesting the High Plains is being edited in Final Cut Pro, with a planned transfer to 35mm.

Kriss also owns an AG-HPX250 P2 HD handheld, which he and Duvall are currently using to shoot a second full-length documentary, Voices from America, featuring day-in-the-life interviews with a cross-section of well-known and unsung Americans.

For information on Harvesting the High Plains go to: http://www.harvestingthehighplains.com/Welcome.html

For information on Panasonic’s AJ-HPX3700 Camcorder go to: http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/AJ-HPX3700.asp