About six weeks before the deadline for the Wyoming Short Film Contest, several of my filmmaking friends and I decided we should submit something, so we began brainstorming. We were all up to our necks in work with hideous deadlines, but after doing the math we realized that we would have about one week to shoot and one week to edit our film. Had we been in our right minds, we wouldn’t have gone through with the idea of making a film on such a ridiculously short schedule. Obviously, we need adult supervision the next time a film competition comes along.
Luckily, one member of our group had written a book about “Wyoming Curiosities” which included a piece on Bill Briggs. That brief piece convinced us that Bill met our qualifications for the subject of a short film: a compelling personality, the patience to help a gaggle of women do a short film, and a home in
During the filming, I think I found myself more drawn to the music, while Marni found herself more drawn to the skiing. On more than one occasion, my “higher than normal tolerance” for yodeling was mentioned. The fact that we were drawn to different aspects of his story probably benefited the film.
Because of the short shooting schedule, we picked one person from each of Bill’s “worlds” to interview: Jim Sullivan, for the skiing, and John Cooke, for the music. Jim, the general manager of the Snow King ski area, had just had eye surgery and we inadvertently set up his interview outside so that he stared directly into a bright sun. We questioned him relentlessly until he begged for his sunglasses (see “Wyoming Yodeler” outtakes). John is a musician, an author and a good (if not, by his own admission, always a concise) storyteller. He, perhaps in part because he didn’t have to stare into a bright sun, enjoyed having an audience of three woman filmmakers hanging on his every word. We also managed to squeeze in a short interview with Virginia Huidekoper, a real
We of course also interviewed Bill and took footage of him playing music and skiing. I filmed twice at the Stagecoach Bar and was able to capture him in his element – playing the banjo and autoharp and yodeling up a storm. I also received some uninvited comments from the peanut gallery about the quality of my hindquarters given that I was occasionally blocking the audience seated at the bar.
In the end the most nerve-wracking part of filming was trying to get footage of Bill skiing. Our shooting schedule dictated that the skiing be shot last, so we were dealing with waning spring conditions. For reasons of time and safety, we were reduced to filming on Snow King. Ah…Snow King in the spring, after the lifts have closed. Between the lung-burning bootpack up, marginal snow conditions and the “gifts” left by dogs, Snow King can be quite a challenge.
Bill was a gracious subject and invited us into his world with the enthusiasm of a teenager. All of our interview subjects were patient, thoughtful and gave us insight into Bill’s personality. Making “Wyoming Yodeler” was an utter joy. I am delighted that none of us did the sensible thing and never launched our effort on its nearly-impossible schedule.