Interview of Garrett Batty director of Scout Camp The Movie
By: Scott Robertson
Posted On: 2009-09-04
I recently had the chance to interview Garrett Batty, Director of Scout Camp the Movie. Hope you enjoy it and find it enlightening. Here is the interview....
I understand that most of the actors are/were actually Scouts. While filming did they have time to work on any awards, badges, Climatology merit badge, etc? I understand you brought in a military honor guard to teach the Scout to put on a proper flag ceremony, is there anything else along these lines?
Most of the "Fire Dragons" are active scouts. Even though we did keep them busy while filming, some did work on merit badges. In fact, Tanner Mudrow, who plays Jared, actually caught a fish in the lake one evening, for one of the requirements of his fishing merit badge.
We wanted to make sure that we treated scouting traditions with the honor and respect that they deserve. While on set, we had a Scout Adviser, who was able to give great insight as to the scouting traditions. In the commentary on the DVD, you can hear the actors telling about experiences with learning the flag ceremony.
Can you tell us about any scenes that were cut from the film? Any chance cut scenes may show up online some where?
The original script was cut down to 90 pages, from 120 pages, so there is actually quite a bit of material behind these characters that wasn't in the film. Perhaps we'll reincorporate some of those scenes in a sequel...;-)
I understand that there was an on going joke regarding the kybo / outhouse where every time you were using it they would act like they were going to send it rolling with you in it. Where there any other jokes that occurred on set you can tell us about?
Yes, the kybo... Not the safest place for a film director to spend some alone time. The cast and crew kept the film set really fun with all the joking that went on behind the scenes. My assistant directors are both part-time comedians, so there was rarely a moment when somebody wasn't laughing.
I guess this is the biggest praise that can be given, but I kept finding myself thinking that the Scouts were actually at summer camp and the camera's were just following them around. What difficulties did you have in choosing the actors so that they would carry the roles so well? How much of themselves did they add to their roles?
Thanks for the compliment. All of the actors did a great job actually living their characters. A lot of it has to do with these guys just being really good actors. Shawn Carter, (York) is one of the nicest kids I know. And yet when he had to play some of York's "mean" scenes, he just slipped right into character. He came to our film after doing the "High School Musical" movies, so he has a great resume. He is really quite talented. The same can be said about the talent of Nate Harper (Reggie) or any of other the actors.
Also, I wanted the actors to really understand their characters, so before filming, I sent around a questionnaire to each actor. I had them fill it out as if they were the character they were playing. The questions had nothing to do with Scouts. It was more like "What are you good at in school?" "What is your family relationship like..." etc. I think by the time these kids all got to set, they had a pretty solid foundation of the characters they were playing.
The question I think everyone is dying to know, what kind of food did the actors request? On average how many people a day were feed on set?
We had GREAT food on the set. Each day we fed between 30 to 40 people. Our Craft Service team consisted of one girl and her mini-van. She worked tirelessly to bring up food and snacks to anyone who needed them. In fact, one day she won over the entire crew when she showed up with ice cream sandwiches. Imagine that...we're shooting about an hour from nowhere, it's about 90 degrees outside, and she is hand delivering ice cream to the crew. She definitely won the "hero" badge that day.
Do you have any suggestions to offer any young film makers out there?
I would suggest to any filmmaker that they consider the power of film. It is an incredible tool, and can have significant influence. Like Scouting, you should do your best to do your duty to God and Country, even in the films you make and view.
How long did it take you to complete the film?
The idea began several years ago. Once the script was complete we were in development for 4 months, pre-production for 2 months, and production for 3 weeks. Then we were in post production for about 4 months.
Was there a time you can tell us about when you were like "Oh %#$" because everything just went wrong? Is there a moment you were just beaming with joy or pride?
It was a rare experience on the set to feel like everything was going wrong. We were fortunate to have great talent on set, great talent in front of the camera, and we were even blessed with great weather. We did have one experience where an actor called the during the day to say that he couldn't come in for his night shoot. Our wardrobe and make-up department convinced me to step in and play his part as a "director's cameo." It worked out, and the shoot rolled forward, though I will likely never be on camera again.
Another moment that was a little nerve-racking was filming on the rifle range. We had arranged for guns and blanks to arrive on the set, but when the actors fired the weapons, the visual look was really disappointing. You could barely tell that the rifles were being fired. Then someone suggested that we dip the barrel of the rifles into flour, which would give them a cool "smoke puff" when the guns were fired. Flour, combined with some great sound effects in the final scene, made the rifles sound and look much better.
As for moments of pride, I was very pleased with the way the flag ceremony scenes turned out. We wanted to give the flag the respect it deserved, so it was nice to see everyone on set being reverent during the filming of the scene.
I'm also proud of the way the campfire explosion scene worked. It was a fun scene to write, but directing it was a bit of a feat. It was a moment of pride to look at the dailies, and see the explosion fill the entire frame of film. We knew the shot would get a good reaction among scoutmasters.
What kind of cameras, audio, lighting, editing software, etc did you use in making the film?
We shot the film with 3 Sony HD cameras, equipped with film lens adapters, to enhance the look. Most of the audio was actual sound, with about 25% being looped during post production. Our lighting technician had worked on dozens of feature films, so he was excellent in lighting each scene. The film was edited at Three Coin Productions, using Final Cut Studio, before being mastered and color corrected.
I understand that you used a real Scout camp to film the movie and that you just had to add a few things here and there. Can you tell us more about how the set was modified. designed, laid out to help carry the film?
We filmed at a working scout camp, but many of the locations had to be transformed into the fictional "Camp Rakhouta." All of the canoes, signs, trading post, and anything else in the camp was dressed with "Camp Rakhouta" labels and identifiers. Also we wanted to have kybos that would be more iconic than the standard green or blue outhouses. So our art department made the three kybos that are seen in the film. The art department also constructed the three-sided cabin that the scouts sleep in. Because the actual trading post we shot in was empty, we had to bring in everything that is seen there. The "Scoutmobile" was also really dressed up to look like a beat up, old Scout truck.
What were your motivations for making the film?
I wanted to make a film that would celebrate the great times that scouts have each summer as they go to camp. Everyone has a scout camp story, and I wanted to create something that could visually capture that. It was also my goal not to make this an over-the-top Hollywood-style "Kids save the camp," or "Scouts save the world" story. I wanted an honest and humorous portrayal that kids and leaders could actually relate to. Finally, I wanted to share a positive message about growing up. Based on feedback from scout organizations, I think we've achieved what we set out to do. I often hear comments like "Oh, that happened to me!" or "That part is great. It hits pretty close to home." That's exactly what we were going for.
If those who watch the film only take one thing home with them, what do you hope that will be?
I hope that people get excited about scouting. It's a great organization, with a variety of people involved. It provides a phenomenal opportunity for boys to create a foundation of principles that will have a lifelong effect on them. If this film helps kids and leaders get excited to have positive camp experiences, I'll be pleased.
Thanks Garrett for taking the time to let me ask you these questions and for all your hard work in making such a wonderful film.
Thanks Scott. Great work on your site. Congratulations on your success.