Oregon Caves films premiere

Old-time bear hunter Elijah Davidson will chase a bear into the Oregon Caves Wednesday night.

Best known for having discovered the Oregon Caves while bear hunting with his dog in the fall of 1874, the legendary Southern Oregon hunter — actually, a re-enactor in this case — will be the lead-in to a documentary to be shown that night on Southern Oregon Public Television.

"The Marble Halls of Oregon: Exploring the Oregon Caves National Monument" will begin at 10 p.m. Wednesday, followed by "Great Lodge of the Marble Halls of Oregon: The Chateau at the Oregon Caves." Both documentaries are 30 minutes long.

The showing by the Medford-based SOPT will be a local preview with a wider distribution planned for this fall.

Funded by the National Park Service, the films were made on location at the monument, situated about 20 miles east of Cave Junction.

The films are a collaboration among SOPT, the park service, local producer Greg Frederick and Pilot Rock Productions in Medford. Re-enactments were provided by the local Blackpowder Sports Club.

The documentaries are hosted and narrated by Russell Sadler, a Northwest radio and TV commentator and newspaper columnist.

"The films cover the discovery and history of the caves,and goes into the current understanding of the science of cave formation," explained SOPT spokeswoman Linda Pinkham. "It looks at the geology that made this region."

The second film focuses on the chateau built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depths of the Great Depression. It captures everything from the period Monterey-style, hand-painted furniture of Oregon alder to the rustic Port Orford cedar siding, she noted.

The films were shot in high definition and feature 3-D illustrative animations, she said, adding that they also include historic photographs and documents to tell the monumental story.

The production culminates in a live cave concert featuring guitarist Jeff Pevar, a local musician who formerly played with David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

"The music that accompanies the films is really fabulous," she said.

The soundtrack was made in the Ghost Room deep in the caves, said Frederick.

"We set Jeff up on a ledge in the Ghost Room," he said. "We put mikes in different areas in the caves. He started playing. He played with the drips and the drops for about an hour and a half."

Out of that live concert emerged a CD and music video, he added.

The film crew also made a point to capture the natural sound of the caves.

"They are actually quite noisy," he said of the first shoot in May of 2010. "You can hear the River Styx (a small stream in the cave). You hear all the water dripping everywhere from above.

"All through that shoot it was raining on us," he added. "The sound was incredible."

Working closely with George Herring, chief of interpretation at monument, the film crew made a special effort to have little impact on the cave and its natural inhabitants, Frederick said.

"We tried as best we could to shoot a program in a sensitive area with the least amount of impact," said the independent producer, who also worked with SOPT in producing the 2005 documentary, "Crater Lake: Mirror of Heaven."

But the caves shoot had challenges he didn't find in the national park, he noted.

"Shooting in the caves was very interesting because you are shooting something that inherently wants to be dark," he said. "But you don't want to make it look like you brought Kmart lighting into it.

"Plus we had the challenge of the cave ecosystem being very sensitive to light," he added. "What we did, working with Pilot Rock, was design lighting specifically for this shoot."

The subdued lighting, which couldn't be too heavy since it had to be packed a mile or so into the cave, included a combination of LEDs and fluorescent lights that were user-friendly to the cave fauna, he said.

No bats were harmed in the filming of the documentaries, he noted, then added, "I like bats now — I didn't going in."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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