Blood Road was a very unique production for multiple reasons, beyond being the first in-house documentary for Red Bull. “Nobody had done this before,” Schrunk says in the making-of video. “Nobody had taken this type of equipment to the middle of the jungle to document something as ambitious as what Rebecca wanted to do.” That equipment included Red digital cinema cameras, Cooke anamorphic lenses, and tons of support gear, including both small and large drones. Carrying all of it along a 1,200 mile bike ride presented numerous challenges.
Episode one deals primarily with how the crew managed that gear, packing what they needed for the day with them on dirt bikes so they could follow in Rusch’s path. The less critical pieces would be transported by truck to the next meet-up location. Episode two looks at one particularly challenging point in the journey: an 11-kilometer cave in Laos. Some of the local guides wouldn’t even venture into the cave with the crew, for fear that it was haunted by spirits.
But the cave also presented complications of a more physical nature. “The problem with shooting in a cave is, of course, there’s no light in it,” Schrunk says. So the crew attached lights to DJI Phantom drones and carefully flew them into the dark, aware of the danger that if a drone crashed, it would likely be lost to the river below.
In the third episode, while filming aerial shots of a field of bomb craters left over from the war, the crew watches in horror as $75,000 worth of camera equipment spirals toward the ground on a malfunctioning drone. Those shots would be critical to the final production, so naturally tensions ran high as the crew desperately worked to locate the drone’s crash site, adding an interesting parallel to the story they were trying to tell in Blood Road.
If you haven’t yet seen the film, Blood Road is available now from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Vimeo. It is also screening around the country.
Updated July 25 to include episode three.