Behind the Scenes: Filming Superheroes — The Carbons

Standing on top of Rattlesnake Island, looking toward Peachland. Photo by Amanda Christmas

On July 4th, 2021, I found myself in a red and cream pontoon coasting at a comfortable speed over Okanagan Lake with Blake and the three members of the local Kelowna band, The Carbons: Tomy, Paul and Conroy. The cool breeze, cold beer and shade from the pontoon’s Bimini top were a nice contrast to the heatwave we were experiencing at that moment. While everybody socialized and listened to classic rock tunes, I wondered what I had done to be fortunate enough to be here.

A week prior, I had been fishing raw pork chops out of the Okanagan waters in Peachland for a short film we were shooting about the Ogopogo and had a direct line of view to the infamous Rattlesnake Island. Now, I was racing towards that same island at around 18 knots with band equipment, generators, film gear and my director’s binder full of notes.

The pontoon tied off to the remains of the gangway. Photo by Amanda Christmas

We circled the island to find the most appropriate place to anchor and unload gear. We chose the original dock location built on the island for Eddy Haymour’s unrealized Arabic theme park, Moroccan Shadou. All that remained were the concrete foundations to what were likely the gangways. We carefully removed the gear, keeping mindful of our movements with the choppy waters. We were here to shoot a music video for The Carbons.

We knew we wanted to film here and create a beautiful sweeping video showcasing the island and the gorgeous sunset. Tomy (the singer) and I poked around the island to find the perfect spot to set up for maximum effect, and, to the dismay of the rest of the band, it was at the top of the island up the side of craggy loose vertical terrain. As everybody pitched in to get all the amps, guitars, drums, and film gear up this cliff face, we started finding the best way to set up to have the most negligible impact on the area.

Rattlesnake Island, picture from Wikipedia

Rattlesnake Island has always been a barren, rocky geographical pimple off the Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park coast. Further vegetation destruction occurred in 2003 when a firestorm — started on the island by lightning — hopped the narrow channel to the protected provincial mountain, consuming over 25,000 hectares of forest and parkland and leading to the evacuation of 27,000 people. Over 1,000 firefighters and 1,400 members of the Canadian Armed Forces worked to put out the fire for a month.

Smoke from nearby blazes filled the air, blanketing the usually crystal blue sky with an ominous orange blanket. We wanted to be careful because of the area’s past fire issues, but we were also fully aware we were in the very beginnings of BC’s current fire season. It had been clear the previous week, and we were hoping the wind would be in our favour so we could see the beautiful sprays of colour during the sunset.

I left the group for a moment and went exploring the farther end of the island. I had been researching the history of this place and went to find the relics of the past. The Arabic theme park’s mini-golf foundations were still mostly intact. I walked around the perimeter of what was to be the hotel, figuring out what would have had to happen to build on this terrain. There was a hint of a pyramid, but I could find no trace of the ice cream parlour statue in the shape of a 20-foot camel.

One of my passions is researching the history of areas I visit. When I enter the site after reading all I can about it, the stories of people’s lives, the ecology, the turmoil and the beauty all run through my mind. It is like I travel in time and experience the space as it was. I can touch a deliberately placed stone and know what it came from structurally, not just from the foundation of a building but its geographical history. It’s fascinating, and I appreciate the land I’m on much more because of this connection.

After setting up the gear, the wind died down, and we started rolling the cameras. Blake used the Sony A7iii with Rokinon Cine lenses, a DJI Mavic mini drone (249g). Our only lighting sources were natural and extremely unpredictable daylight that we were losing rapidly, along with a battery-powered Neewer 1x1 LED light panel. We fought against the sun and fire smoke, so we got business.

The hotels’ turret foundation. Photo by Amanda Christmas

We got quite a few fantastic shots of the guys, but the real quirky stories happened behind the camera. We were quite wide on our lens during some of the drone shots to capture as much of the island landscape as possible, but we hadn’t thought ahead about hiding our gear or ourselves in this barren rock. We tucked ourselves tight between the scratchy rattlesnake grass and the foundational ruins of Haymours unrealized hotel. What’s humorous now, but we didn’t realize then, was that you could see us awkwardly balled up next to a guitar case and running a generator for some shots. Gear visibility is never an issue on our bigger shows because we have equipment stashes in trucks or tents and hundreds of feet of cable to keep generators far away from the camera. We usually have locations scouts and tech surveys to solve these issues beforehand. This experience of shooting more documentary style added new and exciting technical challenges we were both happy to learn.

Blake and I, laughing, tucked into the foundation, realizing how ridiculous this was. Photo by Amanda Christmas

We also had encounters with the local wildlife. As we were on our final shot with the drone, small swifts from the burnt husk of Okanagan Park came over to investigate the strange new flying life form and determined it would be best to dive out of the sky to figure out what this little electronic friend was. We luckily had finished our shots and brought the drone down to respect their space.

The sunset appeared during a technical glitch with in-ear monitors. We resolved this issue and lost the sky under clouds and smoke. Photos by Amanda Christmas

After we finished our last shot, which is the opening to the video, we had to leave. We carefully hauled all the gear back down the side of the rock face. The pontoon captain needed some twilight for the hour trip back to a marine club in Kelowna, so the guys dove into the lake for a celebratory swim before departure.

Trekking to the island and filming this video was one of the more distinctive experiences I’ve had, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. As we approached the Mission Hill winery, the city’s lights started twinkling in the deep blue sky. A cool breeze was blowing, and exhausted, but joyous laughter filled the air.

The last of the light

The following week, Blake and I were back in Lake Country planning a trip to Prince George when we discovered some devastating news. A fire had broken out in Peachland. Several residents were evacuated, and one house was destroyed. Helicopters flew over and bombed the area with water and suppressants. The fire was under control just before it hit a hectare in size. We are thankful nobody was hurt and the fire was contained.

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Producer | Writer | Director | Environmentalist

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Amanda Christmas

Amanda Christmas

Producer | Writer | Director | Environmentalist

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