Field Notes – Steve Spence

Watch his film “The Venom Trail” on TERRA
and check out Steve’s website at Orange Goose Television.

Steve's Biography:

Steve's Biography:

Steve Spence is a creative and talented storyteller with a long background in broadcasting and video production. After earning a degree in broadcasting from Western Kentucky University, Steve worked for a variety of media outlets including news, a natural history firm and a corporate video production company. Steve now resides in Bozeman, Montana where he attended Montana State University pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Film. Before starting Orange Goose Television, Steve was a successful freelancer working for organizations such as The NPS, NOAA, Scripts Network, PBS, Montana State University, TEDx and more. Steve’s goal is to produce high quality television programming that includes aspects of education, science and our natural world.

TERRA: What're you working on right now and what's the story behind it?

TERRA: What're you working on right now and what's the story behind it?

SS: I’m currently working on a film about the Pacific Northwest Coast. It focuses on how people have been shaped by the coast and it’s animals. I grew up on the coast of Ireland and I know how the ocean shaped me. I wanted to see if it was similar here in the USA. I picked the PNW coast because of its rugged beauty and interesting history. People have lived there for eons, and along highway 101 you can find everything from the biggest cities to the smallest fishing villages. It’s super diverse.

TERRA: How long have you/ will you be working on it?

TERRA: How long have you/ will you be working on it?

SS: I have been working on this film for about a year now. Most of that time went into research, the primary shooting took about three weeks and I plan on going back for another week once the fall salmon run begins. The edit has started…I hope to be all wrapped up by the end of September and will just have to insert the salmon footage.

TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what life is like in the field.

TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what life is like in the field.

SS: This was a pretty organized shoot, and was planned to a tee. Early mornings and late nights. “Shooting” people is the easy part, you setup and press record. With the animals it was different; the sea lions for instance were the easiest to shoot but sure did stink. The orcas were pretty hard because you never knew where they would pop up next. The living conditions on the shoot were great, we had a great base in Seattle and then stayed in cabins out on the San Juan Islands. I have stayed at some pretty ratty places on shoots, but not this time around. I once stayed in a shed for a few weeks while working on a piece on the Blue River in Indiana.

TERRA: What has surprised you the most about the project?

TERRA: What has surprised you the most about the project?

SS: I never knew how much of a role salmon played on the PNW ecosystem and environment. They are everywhere and will be a big part of my film.

TERRA: What equipment have you used? Do you have a favorite piece?

TERRA: What equipment have you used? Do you have a favorite piece?

SS: We had a TON of gear for this shoot and had to rent a big SUV to get it all to the coast. The main camera was a Pana HPX600 with some nice glass on the front end. We also used a Black Magic pocket camera for some extra beauties. My favorite piece was definitely the 600, it’s a really rugged camera with a great image.

TERRA: How much of the field production work are you personally involved with?

TERRA: How much of the field production work are you personally involved with?

SS: I was there for everything but I had a crew that has designated roles. I spent a week alone at the beginning shooting, but when you have a tight schedule, miles a day to drive and specific ideas, you need a team. I conducted all of the interviews and “directed” the rest of the shoots but I had a crew that I could trust so I didn't worry. Make sure you have a good crew!

TERRA: What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking?

TERRA: What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking?

SS: I love the travel and being in places that aren't familiar and homely. I also like learning about those places as I go. This was a great trip for that as I got to see most of the coast from Florence OR, to the top of the Olympic Peninsula.

TERRA: Have you had any crazy or dangerous moments in the field?

TERRA: Have you had any crazy or dangerous moments in the field?

SS: This shoot was super tame…nothing too wild at all. One time though on a previous trip, my camera guy almost got bitten by a king cobra, that was pretty funny afterwards, scary at the time.

TERRA: What does the immediate future hold for you after this?

TERRA: What does the immediate future hold for you after this?

SS: I want to edit a pitch video from the footage, a sizzle reel of sorts, and try to see if I can get it picked up as a short series. I think it would be a great show. I’d like to see it feature all the way from California to Alaska.

TERRA: What are your occupational goals? What's your dream project?

TERRA: What are your occupational goals? What's your dream project?

SS: I have a lot of dream projects but my goal is just to produce interesting television programming. I’d like to do a travel show next, take a host around the world on some strange route…something like that.

TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

SS: The BBC. I always loved watching wildlife/adventure/travel programs as a kid and I always thought: damm, I want to do that and go there. I like to tell stories so it’s a perfect job.

TERRA: What has been a particularly rewarding moment for you in the field?

TERRA: What has been a particularly rewarding moment for you in the field?

SS: Early on this trip I went out to shoot a sunset on a beach in Oregon. I was solo that night and had to hike through some dunes to get to where I wanted to be. I was the only person on this huge beach that stretched for miles. There was fog rolling in and seagulls were fighting near by. I realized that I was the only one witnessing that scene and I was happy that through video, I would be able to tell others about it. That’s why we do what we do… to tell stories and show people things that they don't normally see. It just felt good.

TERRA: What are the 3 things you would never go into the field without a why?

TERRA: What are the 3 things you would never go into the field without a why?

SS: 1) A good camera - no point on shooting something that will look like garbage in the end because you made the wrong choice of rig. 2) A binder - I find a lot of paperwork pops up on shoots, even in the middle of nowhere someone usually has to sign something. A good binder keeps it all secure. 3) A sense of wonder - If you don't have this, stay at home…this job isn't for you, as soon as you loose this, your project will suffer and your audience will see.

TERRA: What's your favorite project you've worked on and why?

TERRA: What's your favorite project you've worked on and why?

SS: I have worked on some great projects and some not so great. It’s hard to pick a favorite. I really enjoyed a NOAA shoot I was on last year in California as I got to hang out with some of the greatest minds in oceanic science in the world…I even sat next to Dr. Sylvia Earle at dinner…how cool is that? This PNW shoot was great too, we got all the stuff we wanted and more and got to explore some amazing coastline. What more could you want?

TERRA: If you could be a sea animal, which one would you be?

TERRA: If you could be a sea animal, which one would you be?

SS: A great white shark…I freaking love great white sharks, they are amazing animals. If that was taken then a humpback whale, I’d just cruise the oceans looking for schools of fish to swallow. What a life!