Wednesday, November 17, 2010

These Two Rise Above Santa Barbara

To many of us around here, local cinematographer Brent Sumner is best known for his work on Citizen McCaw, the 2008 documentary that chronicled the meltdown of the Santa Barbara News-Press and its impact on the community.

Brent is above the "News-Press mess" now. In fact he's above everything in Santa Barbara. Earlier this year Brent spent 11 hours in a helicopter flying over and looking down on Santa Barbara County from Carpinteria to Santa Maria and documenting what he saw. The result is his latest film project, a 40 minute feature entitled Above Santa Barbara.

I was invited to a 20 minute preview of the film last week and although it's not in the large screen IMAX format and no one is blowing wind into your face, the experience of watching the footage and seeing Santa Barbara from above is quite similar to the Soarin' Over California ride at Disney's California Adventure.

It's a vantage point that most of us aren't accustomed to and, I think it's safe to say that Santa Barbara from high above is a spectacle that will exceed any and all expectations you may have.

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Brent's partner in this project is another name you might recall from Citizen McCaw, Sam Tyler. Make that, Sam Tyler, Jr., the son of the director/co-producer of the News-Press documentary, Sam Senior. Sam Senior wanted to introduce his son to the film making craft so Senior introduced Junior to Brent and the two started working together on this project with Sam Junior acting as the film's producer.

Hovering in a helicopter isn't comparable to floating in a balloon. At least one part of the experience of filming Santa Barbara from above involved a white knuckle ride. When it came time to fly over the lighthouse at Pt. Conception, which is located on Vandenberg Air Force base, they had to get clearance from the base's control tower. Unless they had clearance, the pilot warned, the Air Force might scramble F-15's to intercept them. While no jets were scrambled some stomachs were. As they hovered off shore, for what seemed like an eternity, waiting for the okay the small helicopter was buffeted by turbulent winds. The eventually got clearance and based on the footage they got, it was worth the wait. Of course that's easy for me to say.

A big part of the impact of the film is the music with the film's score being written by yet another Citizen McCaw alum, local musician Jesse Rhodes.

One of the narrators of the film is one of my students at Santa Barbara College of Law, Kraig Rice. Local writer Nancy Shobe and Sam Senior share the writing credit on the film.

Above Santa Barbara will have its world premiere at the Lobero Theater on Tuesday, December 7 at 6:30 pm. Tickets, which cost $10, can be purchased at the Lobero box office.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and