Indie Filmmakers in Nature

My husband – Chris Benker/DP extraordinaire – requested that I tell the tale of our first camping trip together. Here it goes…

Chris decided to take me camping. Being that I’m from the city, I had never been camping before and he thought I was missing out. We spent two hours in traffic in New Jersey, discovered the people in the tent next to us brought their loudest speakers and house music, and when we were finishing up our hike later that day, we ran in to a bear. And I thought as the final incident began, “This is my last camping trip. If the bear mauls us to death, no more camping. If we survive – no more camping and possible divorce.”

Chris spotted the trouble first and remained calm. He whispered for me not to look to my left, not to ask any questions (ah, he knows me so well) and to slowly back up. (He had that sound in his voice like when your producer walks onto set and says, “Can I see you for a minute? In private…”) I knew there was trouble.

Behind us was a mountain we had just climbed down (okay a very steep hill), in front of us a bear that luckily was drinking water from a stream not paying attention to us and nearby was our dog– a 22 pound appetizer – clueless and having the time of her life. (Just like that PA (Production Assistant) fresh out of college who has no idea what he or she is in for when the producer says, “So our stunt man didn’t show up today and I was wondering…”)

We had a decision to make. We could go back up the “mountain” or we could try to get past the bear without the bear noticing us. Now, I don’t know much about bears, but apparently they are not good at steep inclines – if they are going down. They do quite well going up though. We on the other hand had been hiking for four hours and I knew I’d personally never make it up the “mountain” if the bear spotted us. I might as well have decided to walk over to the bear and said, “when you’re done drinking your cocktail – dinner is ready in the main dining room.” (Just like when the producer gets you alone and says, “The EP (Executive Producer) just chewed me out and is still pissed off…you’re up next…good luck…he’s in the kitchen…where the knives live…”)

In the end, we decided to take the long way around the bear. We got away. Got back to camp. Pretended to sleep on the hard ground as the dance party next door cranked it up. And, went home sweaty and exhausted.


In the end, we figured out a way around the problem on set, did not actually put the PA in the middle of the fire scene, disarmed the EP, shot in a way so that it would be easy to dub the scene due to Con-Edison deciding to dig in the middle of the night, and made it through the day.)

And yes, we will be going camping again.

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