The Cabin and The Lake


Of the several locations we were faced with finding, the one that concerned me most was the mountain cabin with a nearby lake. I didn’t have a clue as to where in the area we would find them, and I was not reassured knowing that the people on our staff looking for them were not locals. One day in early February I was talking with my friends, Marijane and Jason Johnson in their jewelry store in Carmel, Le Bijou, a regular stop on my daily morning walk. When Jason asked me about the locations we were going to be seeking, I recounted the list, and when I got to the cabin and the lake, Jason told me his friend, Jim Challis, owned a cabin high in the hills south of Carmel Valley. It was an area totally unknown to me. When Jason offered to contact Challis, I eagerly accepted. Jason’s phone call was placed, and plans were immediately made for Marlyn and me to meet Jim and have him take us to the area. On the appointed morning Marijane and Jason picked up Marlyn and me, and we drove to the Safeway parking lot in the mid-valley, where we met and were introduced to Jim Challis. We then followed Jim’s car, as he led us to a road just east of the parking lot, where he turned off and headed south. The drive was mildly winding, and the countryside contained California rolling hills that were still green, not yet turning the shimmering gold that we knew would arrive sooner this year because of the lack of rainfall. After about twenty-five minutes Jim stopped at a low double gate, where I assumed he either said “Open, Sesame,” or he had the required “key”, as the gate swung open, and we entered what turned out to be much different terrain. As the road ascended, I did not know if we were traveling into a low mountain range or just higher hills.


We soon arrived at a different entrance, the entrance to the preserve where Jim owned a cabin. An elderly lady in a small structure by the side of the road greeted Jim, as he gave her the four names of his guests for the day, which she recorded as she checked us in. I was told that when we left, we would be checked out. We then followed Jim as he drove through a magical winding forest road. Even before seeing the cabin or the lake, I was impressed with the filming possibilities offered by the location.


We passed several rustic cabins, and I later learned they served only as recreational abodes; no owner of a cabin was permitted to live in it full time. Jim told me he had started coming to the area as a child, when he visited the cabins owned by parents of friends. At that time a love for the area developed, and he hoped some day he would own a cabin on the preserve. And then as we followed Jim, he pulled up and stopped in front of his cabin.


The cabin had a large deck that with the scenically perfect surrounding area provided an ideal location for the arrival and departure scenes I would be staging with Marlyn and Maxwell. The interior of the cabin was small, very rustic and sparsely furnished, but again visually interesting. There was a living room and dining area with a small kitchen in the corner, two bedrooms (one of which we would use as a dressing room, the second as a storage room for equipment), a bathroom and a loft, which was reached by climbing a ladder. Jim told us he had had as many as twenty-two sleepover guests on a weekend. Hearing that Marlyn, knowing there were two days’ work at the location, suggested we might even plan to stay overnight. The impracticality of that idea soon sank it.

So far we were batting a thousand. Now on to the lake! Jim told us there were two man-made lakes on the preserve. The larger one was conveniently close and accessible; the smaller lake was a twenty-minute drive over a rugged, steep, winding and difficult road. We of course opted to see the larger lake, and after showing us their impressive recreation center, Jim took us to it. It was a large body of water with several cabins around it. I had envisioned staging the picnic scene between Marlyn and Maxwell with them sitting on a pier with their feet dangling in the water. The lake had a pier, but it was not anchored; it was a floating pier that moved up and down with the movement of the water. I knew the scene I had planned would not work, but there was a small bench at the end of the pier. Although not ideal, the scene could be played there. As we returned to our cars, I tacitly gave the location my approval. As the car engine started, I suddenly said, “While we’re here, I think we should look at the other lake.” Since leaving the cabin the five of us were traveling in Jim’s car, so he graciously agreed, and we started what turned out to be a very interesting ride. As we had been told, the poorly paved road was winding and at times steep and precipitous, and no longer were there towering trees with verdant leaves lining our path.


Part way up Jim pointed out a concrete landing strip alongside the road that he told us was for small planes to arrive and depart the preserve. Near the top we passed a tennis court that would have felt at home on the estate of Norma Desmond on SUNSET BOULEVARD.


And then Jim stopped the car at our final destination. We got out, and he led us on a path through a wildly untamed area. I was excited. These surroundings were what I needed for the first scene at the lake when Marlyn’s character arrives.


And then we saw the lake.


Primitive. Even a bit eerie. My approval was no longer reluctant, nor tacit. The most difficult location on our list had been the first to be found, and it would be several weeks before we would return to film. The week before filming began I returned with the director of photography and his crew for them to scout both the cabin and the lake. Our planned schedule had us filming the lake on the second day and the cabin on the third day, but filming schedules don’t always follow schedules as planned. That’s another interesting story — next as …

The journey continues

The spectacular photographs are by
David Potigian
owner of GALLERY SUR in Carmel, CA.
David was with us as set photographer for
eight of our nine days of filming.
He shot close to 1,500 stills (all candid),
plus many video clips.

This entry was posted in The Right Regrets. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Cabin and The Lake

  1. Marlyn Mason says:

    Ralph, this is GREAT and so vividly written! Even though I lived it I can’t wait for what comes after the “next as”.
    I’ll give nary a hint about the drama ahead other than to say to readers that “Ralph will definitely give you a feel for how filmmakers are often in a state of adjustment. It’s almost like going to the chiropractor! Some might wince but for me I welcomed the unexpected twists and tweaks reminding myself with each one, and there were many, what George Burns said…’Everything in life is attitude’! And Bruce Lee’s words, “what is is”! Cheers to cast and crews flexibility for the story I’m guessing Ralph is going to tell next. Stay tuned.

    I love the photo, Ralph, of you in the middle of the eerily narrow and winding forest road with arms raised. Were you directing my ‘drive by’ or did you have a Big Foot sighting?!

  2. Jamie Bundy says:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *