We were honoured when Brokeback Mountain Locations Manager Darryl Solly graciously agreed to be interviewed by us. From his offices in Calgary, AB, Solly spoke with Jim Bond, Rob Freeman, and Steve Gin. A PDF version of the the complete interview is available in Downloads at www.FindingBrokeback.com The interview is re-printed here with permission from Jim Bond of www.FindingBrokeback.com.
Tell us something about your early life and how you got into this industry.
Well, I spent my high school years in Vancouver and then I moved to Edmonton. In my high school we had a television course where they had VHS cameras and we were allowed to experiment and make programs. When our family moved to Edmonton there was an art school there, Victoria Composite, where I got into theatre and television production and was exposed to a lot more of the behind-the-scenes process.
From there, I went into technical theatre school, learning about lighting and set construction and seeing things evolve from an empty stage to a full blown production. I then decided to jump into filmmaking and went to SAIT  to study film production. Once that was done, I starved for a year. This is a fairly difficult business to get into; it is definitely “who you know.” Cool Runnings was my first show. From there, slowly but steadily, I kept working and getting to know more people to the point where I am now a location manager on an Oscar winning film, it’s cool.
An understatement, no?
There are not many opportunities to, if you want to use the term, “climb to the top of the mountain” and it’s inarguable that Ang is one of the top directors on the planet. So I guess when you get the chance, you really know that this is something that is going to last forever. When you first read the script, you sort of look behind yourself to see if I am really in this position.
You don’t fully grasp the opportunity you have until you start. Then, as the film takes form, you realize you are going to be working with a legendary director on a truly great project. Everyone involved is an icon: that’s who they are, and they are doing their part. During that time you are only getting six hours of sleep a night, just trying to get the movie done, but when it’s all said and done, upon reflection you say, “That was an incredibly special time.” That’s why you do this, to be part of, to be given the opportunity to be part of, something great.
I didn’t know Brokeback was going to be as successful as it was. Of course, it was going to be a good movie, but I didn’t know how much the greater public would appreciate it. But I was certain that it would be around for a long time because Ang has always done remarkable things.
 Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary, AB.
What in your own approach to filmmaking helped you most in the context of making Brokeback?
Well, I think that when you make movies that it is very much a team effort. It should be a team-oriented thing.
What can you say about your approach to finding locations? Do any of the locations in the film have special importance to you?
I don’t know if you read that Chicago Tribune article  where they came here and they went to Wyoming. There is a line in that article that is absolutely perfect. The author first drove to all the small towns and made his snappy remarks, and then he went to the Kananaskis Lakes.
In that article he says, “Now I know why I am here.” That’s exactly the reaction that you are supposed to get: you go there, and you know right away that this is where it is going to be done. This is it.
Walk us through the process of securing a site. Once you have found a location that works for you and works for the producer, what do you do?
Well, even before a site gets selected, you have to filter some things yourself. The big question you have to answer before you show it to anyone is can you physically get the cameras, the trucks carrying all of the equipment, the sheep; can you get all of that stuff there in an amount of time that will make it reasonable for you to film there?
Next, are there any things about the site that are going to cause trouble? As I am sure you witnessed in Carseland, trains go through there quite a fair bit, and so those are the things that are on your internal checklist.
Sometimes our scouts were showing things where that was not necessarily the case. And as beautiful as those places were, it would mean having an eleven-hour shooting day with your actors instead of an eight-hour shooting day with your actors. Yet, you know it is all about getting that ideal performance. So there are a lot of places that you must eliminate before you show them to anyone.
Once the site gets selected, outdoors and indoors are two very different scenarios. Outdoors is a little bit easier. Usually, when you present locations you already have a plan in your head of what you are hoping to do. For example, we’ll use Mud Lake which was one of the camping scenes  with the stream that flows right beside it. We were driving down the road and said “You know what? This is a pretty spot here,” and we parked and walked out. We started wandering around and quickly we saw the spot. Inevitably, always, you gravitate to the spot. You usually see the spot right away. You wander over, and you find a position you like and begin feverishly taking pictures.
It was at some point. It was gutted, but it was a post office, and it was used as a storage facility by the local gas company. It is where they kept their hoses and tools. Obviously, we were able to put the phone booth wherever we wanted because it was our phone booth.
The Set Decoration department forgot to bring the phone booth to Rockyford the day before filming. The night before filming everyone wanted to know, “Where is the phone booth?” “I don’t know. Where is the phone booth?” “Oh my God!” I drove back to Calgary in the middle of the night. I got the phone booth and strapped it in the truck, ratcheting it in there, and drove back up to Rockyford. (laughter) Thankfully, we were able to get it there in time.
There is a huge demand for a director’s cut.
This is now basic strategy for movie companies. They put out as little as they can for the first one. The first DVD is literally a teaser. Look at Star Wars. There are all of these other DVDs that they know people are going to buy later.
That is what’s happening with DVDs now. They will provide the absolute bare minimum on the release day and then Christmas or whatever, they’ll come out with a Silver Screen edition. And then two or three years later, they’ll come out with the director’s edition, and they are going to keep doing this because that is what the market demands. When I saw the extras on the Brokeback DVD, I was disappointed as well. I am quite certain there is going to be more. This is now a part of the cultural fabric; it’s not going to go away. And they know this is going to be a project that is going to go on forever.
I am quite certain that Criterion is going to get a license and you are going to see the Criterion Collection of Brokeback Mountain. I have been very tempted to phone Focus and phone Michael Hausman and offer to pay my own way to go down to do a commentary track. I will even pay for [Assistant Locations Manager] Jay St. Louis to go do a commentary track just about the locations on the show. I would love to do that.
There is talk about tours and other Brokeback projects.
Yes, I would want to suggest that [prospective tour operators] talk to the private property owners first, for one reason, to offer better tours.
There are a few places that have already gone away like the Twist Thanksgiving Dinner site  and the King Eddie,  and Jack’s parents’ place is going to fall over at some point. This is too bad. When we did a tour with tour guides from Shanghai and Korea, who obviously think that the sun rises and sets with Ang Lee, they were stunned when they went to the supermarket in Crossfield to find that it was for lease. They could not believe it. They were blown away. They thought why is this not a museum? Literally. “This is crazy,” they said, “In China the government would have bought this place and turned it into a museum.”
 The Calgary house was condemned and destroyed for a road widening project.
 Calgary’s King Eddie Bar was the site of the Electra (Clown) Bar scene. It has been closed and boarded up.
And then they went to the [Twist Ranch] house and when they saw that they could not see inside,  they could not believe it.
Making the Brokeback sites accessible will be a slow process but I think we will see progress. Every year come Stampede  time there are going to be people who are going to ask for a Brokeback tour. There were this year, there will be next year, and there will be the year after that. I am sure there are going to be tour companies that will do a Brokeback tour two or three times a year. But initially, that is going to be a slow process; someone is going to have to roll the dice first.
There are very few movies that connect to a specific niche market where people will go to the ends of the earth to follow it to its conclusion. Lord of the Rings is one. Saving Private Ryan, with its beach scene, is perhaps another. They have such remarkable impact that people say, “We have to go there.”
(by Steve Gin:) Being a resident of Alberta and running a gay and lesbian theater company,  I am aware of the environment here and was happy to hear that you encountered so few problems. Are there any other stories you care to share? I know that in Fort Macleod when they first showed the film, people lined up for a block to see it.
People in Fort Macleod are really hopeful that this will create an opportunity. It has, it does, and it will. I believe that is how you make progress in those communities. They are going to accept you initially by your wallet. Money is an easy way to make that first inroad and to be accepted. That approach has worked in Vancouver, New York, San Francisco, and a lot of communities. We shop in your stores, we eat in your restaurants; if you accept us, we will support you. Then, you vote and that becomes a very important factor.
 The Twist Ranch near Beiseker, AB is also boarded up.
 The Calgary Stampede is an annual festival celebrating western life and culture. It draws in excess of a million visitors to the city every July.
 Steve Gin is the founder of Calgary’s gay and lesbian theatre company, Teatro Berdache.
The Brokeback success story lies in the fact that a lot of people saw this film that you would not expect were going to see it. You can almost see a sociological pattern in the box office results from all over the US. It first opened in Los Angeles and New York and then Calgary. And then there was the event in Fort Macleod, which was a great triumph for the Economic Development Coordinator there.
I think that in the grand scheme of things, as Roger Ebert’s review pointed out, more than just the gay and lesbian community can identify with Brokeback. Anybody can recognize something that they regret passing up in their youth. “You know, I am going to wait until I am older before I do this.” “I am going to work for a year before I get my masters, my doctorate, whatever,” and you pass up that chance. “I wish I’d followed my heart and traveled to Europe that summer,” but you never did. “I wish I had taken flying lessons,” or “I wish I had tried to be a painter instead of being trapped in a cubicle.” These are the sort of regrets that, just as at the very end of the movie when Ennis, having given advice to Alma, Jr., realizes that he did not follow that advice himself, are universal.
Additionally, although there are a lot of scenes in the movie with which the straight community might not connect right away, everyone feels judged at some point for something, anything; everyone does. The movie touches all people there.
When you chart how people saw this movie, Brokeback did not follow the expected pattern. In fact, in L.A. and New York it broke records for the amount of money generated, given the number of theatre seats available. Of course, for films such as Pirates of the Caribbean they use, like, 3,000 theaters. For Brokeback they had to keep it small, but they were sold out everywhere. That started the talk, “Damn, it was sold out; we’ll have to go back next weekend,” and that created demand. Then the reviews came out and people were saying, “Wow, this is a good movie,” and then it built and built.
When it opened in the red states, women saw this movie and identified it as a love story. They saw it in droves. Had Brokeback stayed in select theatres, this would never have happened. They [the distributors] were very smart.
You are a young man, but it has undoubtedly occurred to you that this might be the film that defines your career.
I would echo what our Script Supervisor [Karen Bedard] said in the Swerve magazine article.  It is somewhat depressing knowing that you have already climbed to the top of the mountain. You’ve got this excellent film experience and everyone acknowledges the film’s importance. It will be very difficult to top.
The movie we are now doing, of course we will do our best, but odds are, it won’t do as well as Brokeback. But we are still aiming for the stars.
 Jacquie Moore, “The Real Brokeback Mountain,” Swerve Calgary Herald, 3 Mar. 2006: 18-28.
I know what you mean. Ten years from now I do not want to be saying “Life stopped in 2004. I remember when…” I want to be able to refer to things in the future, to anticipate.
It is a sad thing to realize that Ang is not going to be back. There is a chance that Michael might be back. He has a place in Montana and works on a number of different projects throughout North America, but when Ang is finished with a project, he likes to move on to different things. He likes to go from genre, to genre, to genre. The odds of him coming back here are very, very slim and it makes me sad.
But at least I got the opportunity. I suppose it is one of those things like on Oscar night when we were just devastated. You’d thought that you were going to be able to tell the whole world, “I worked on the movie that won Best Picture.” Then you say, “Well, that is a nice problem to have. I worked on a fantastic movie that got nominated, that won a bunch of other awards, but it did not win Best Picture.” What a shame, another Oscar-worthy show; bummer! (laughter) In the moment you are crushed, but it is a nice problem to have.
Speaking of opportunities, we treasure this time. Thank you very much for making this possible.
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