The beginning of May 2013 saw the unveiling of Dominator 3 – the new, tornado-intercepting, DeLorean/Batmobile tank backed by Sean Schofer and engineered by Kevin Barton. To celebrate, KFOR shot a special TV promo with all three Dominators and “Chopper 4” flying above. As seen in Episode 1 “Liftoff,” this was the ultimate storm team.
Chris Whiteneck, our director of photography, had finally arrived and was deep into refining the “look” of the season. The guiding photography principles for 2013 were: cinematic and warm. A planned team of three story shooters, along with Terry Rosema and Mike Scantlin, would work together to achieve this look.
It was great to have Whiteneck back – he always brings a personable, professional attitude to a shoot. And he always gets amazing footage. While I had worked with Whiteneck extensively in the edit room in 2012, this was the first time I had the opportunity to shoot with him in the field – which was very exciting.
While it was a lot of fun shooting Reed and team goofing around during downtime, we had a continuing problem: lack of tornadoes. The fear was that this would be another “2012” where we had to rely on the story of the “grind” and flashbacks to prior seasons. That’s okay once in awhile, but we knew our Kickstarter backers wanted something more than that.
So around May 5th, we got a call from The Weather Channel – Jim Cantore was flying out to chase with us on May 8th and May 9th. To say we were ecstatic would be an understatement. For those of you (very few, I’m sure) who aren’t weather fans, Jim Cantore is one of the biggest weather personalities alive today. His in-studio presentations and live reporting have defined a generation, influencing many meteorologists and chasers (including everyone at TVN).
When he arrived with his Weather Channel news crew, he was exactly like his TV persona. The guy is seriously built, and could probably deadlift one of the Dominators. His personality was pure energy – putting him, Reed and Dick McGowan together was fantastic. They all played off each other naturally. Episode 2 “Legends” really captures the fun, easygoing energy of those days.
Unfortunately, May 8th and 9th were major busts. Well, I take it back… there was a nice rainbow on May 8th. Cantore had such a good time, though, he vowed to come back for the next system – after all, he had never seen a tornado in person, and had always dreamed of witnessing one up close. If I we could capture Cantore’s first tornado experience on our series, how amazing would that be?
The other exciting part of the May 8th and 9th chases was that our third shooter-producer, Jason Bagby, had officially signed on board. Bagby had worked with Chris Whiteneck on Ghost Hunters, and had shot a lot of doc-reality TV, so he was an ideal fit for our show. In a way, it was good that those days were busts, giving Bagby some warm-up time before the significant weather events.
Over the next week, it became clear that a major storm system was heading to Oklahoma, arriving in full force on May 18th. Preparations began on May 16th, assuming May 17th would be a “down” day, where we could focus on meeting our top Kickstarter backers, and gear them up for the action on May 18th.
You know what they say about assumptions. May 17th turned out to be the first unforgettable day of 2013.
To be continued next time!
Executive Producer, Tornado Chasers