INSTANT sci-fi set dressing. Just add nuclear.
I was still resonating from that feature film in Detroit, minding my own business, when Bliss Holloway, a killer DP that I knew via an Art Director in NYC was phoning me from Seattle telling me that I needed to hop on a plane and to make sure I brought my multi-rotor aircraft with me (I hate the word "Drone" because it has become synonymous with aircraft that carry weapons and conduct surveillance) . The next afternoon I'm being driven up Seattle highway 99 by a PA nicknamed "Swifty", and she's telling me about the project (Science Fiction), the crew (amazing), and apologizing for the rush hour traffic (unreal) which, to me was just fine, because most of the time we were surrounded by lots of trees, and I was enjoying the conversation.
I also liked the Director, and his mohawk, right away. A funny dude with an affectation for video games and the intensity of a bulldog that's ready to rip the throat out of some poor animal that mistakes his haircut for a fashion statement. That's Don Thacker. Shortly after he shakes my hand, he's got the lot of us standing around in a circle, briefing us on the who what why, when and where.
Turns out, the where is the "abandoned" Satsop Nuclear Power Plant, just outside of Aberdeen, Washington. I love the story about this place- construction started in 1977, only to be shut down in the eighties at 75% completion. Wiki will tell you that they ran out of funding. But an anonymous source recently regaled me with tales of secret geological surveys, resulting in the discovery of a fault line directly underneath. Regardless of the truth, I find the latter to be much, much sexier, plus I'm attached to the romantic notion of human beings shutting down an industrial machine because of the potential harm it could cause to other human beings. And as you can see, it's strangely beautiful.
The DP got a crash course in gimbal operation, and I tried my best to fly and not crash- no easy task. Inside the tower, my GPS and gyro stabilizers were sending strange telemetry, forcing the craft to fly erratically- the first and only time that has happened. "It's like one giant Farraday cage" Don turns his head and says to me. "Yeah, I'm feeling that" I say, hoping to hide my frustration. Manual flight control was the only way to make the aircraft behave predictably, and get a stable shot.
But Bliss and I toughed it out, and by the end of the day we transferred several gigs of useable shots onto the backup hard drive- always a good feeling. At the time of this writing, they're still in post- but I can't wait to see this shot- and to go back and shoot there again.