Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Return To The Abandoned Motel

Ever wondered what happened to that old motel on the seldom used highway you came across one drizzly night 20 years ago when you were taking that road trip across the country? Now abandoned, this is a glimpse of the Midway Country Motel.

On May 1st, 2010, I paid my first visit to the motel. I was just starting to film some of the abandoned places I'd checked out, now that I had a decent HD videocamera. The motel was a pretty cool place to check out. It was larger than most houses I'd been inside and there was a lot to see there. The sheets were still on a lot of beds, some belongings were lying around and though there was vandalism, it wasn't the worst I'd seen in an abandoned place.

Some of the highlights for me were the pool, the sink with the bottom smashed out and the upstairs living quarters which people had left more alone than the motel rooms downstairs. I spent a good amount of time there when I was filming, and was more or less happy with the video I came up with, which you can see here:

Abandoned Motel (HD) from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

More or less means I was pretty happy with the feel of it, but some things that were out of my control bugged me. The tripod I was using at the time was an el cheapo tripod that didn't have a fluid pan and tilt. So any shots I was panning or tiling on I had to start my move early and hope that the tripod would let me do a smooth move. Usually the result of this was about 10 to 20 tries and the movement was always faster than I wanted because if I went any slower the tripod head would grab and the move was ruined. You can notice that in this video for the speed of the moves and you can catch it in a lot of my early videos. If you go through them all on my Vimeo account, you'll be able to tell the exact video I got my better tripod. It's pretty obvious, and it was limiting.

The other things were that I taped as I discovered the motel for the first time. So I had no idea what there was to see there. When you know what there is to see, you know what you want to capture. I was also happy with the edit, but I've changed a few things in my editing flow to give my videos a certain look and when I watch this old video, it just seemed "old" to me. There's no other way to put it.

With it being the most viewed out of my abandoned places series (between YouTube and Vimeo), I was planning a return to the motel to give it a 2nd look. Being busy with one thing or another meant that I never returned to the motel for over 2 years, but on July 31st, 2012 I finally had a chance to head back for another go. I had no idea if it was still standing or what condition it'd be in if it was, but I set out to find out.

My aim the 2nd time around was simple. I wanted to capture a few shots that were similar to what I filmed 2 years ago to show what was the same and what had changed, but I didn't want to re-do everything I did back then. I wanted a new video that took it in a different direction and showed different things. I loved the sink shot I got in the first video and I knew I'd recreate it as close as possible to how I originally filmed it. Other than that, the stuff I wanted to compare my plan was to use different, but similar angles. (You can see this on the front shot of the building, the pool shots, and the blue room.) The kitchen is the kitchen. There's just no great way to film it because of the dimensions of everything up there, so I went with how I did it in the first video. That one turned out kind of neat because you can really see how the last 2 years have taken their toll on that one part.

My first big shock was how much more trashed the rooms were compared to the last time I was there. Bed sheets were stolen, metal fittings were stolen, more stuff was smashed, peeled or just heaped up in broken piles in rooms. I wanted to capture the desolation of the motel, but filming the mounds of trashed things just really didn't seem to fit. Instead I went for things that kind of stood out by themselves, like the old wooden toolbox sitting outside of an open door, the opened cabinet that held a record player, or the porcelain soap holders and towel rack on the wall. The praying mantis on the bathroom door upstairs was really something to see. To me, that symbolizes nature taking over.

The wind was blowing a bit during while I was there, slamming doors and spooking me from time to time, but what really got me were the old drapes in the big picture window upstairs blowing in the wind. I knew I had to get that captured the moment I saw it.

The shot in the first video with the wagon wheel on the roof of the outbuilding was one I always liked the idea of. I wanted to try to recreate in some way, but the wagon wheel had been broken some time in the last 2 years. It made for a neat close-up of the wagon wheel hub lying on the worn out shingles of the roof. The stairs to the upstairs are now broken apart, and I got that in the new video. It was interesting finding a way to get myself and my gear safely up and down.

It was a weird experience being back and seeing the difference 2 years made. In my mind it was the same as it was back then until I set foot back there again. I can't see myself going back again. The motel's only going to go more downhill from here as more looters and vandals hit it, or when it finally gets torn down. I've done my job telling its story. I'd like to remember it as I saw it on the two times I visited.

So without anymore preamble, check out Return To The Midway Country Motel!

Return To The Midway Country Motel from Steve Savage on Vimeo.

No comments:

Post a Comment