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  • Writer's pictureAndre Betz

Who wants to burn a horse?

An old friend, Lawson Clarke, asked if I knew someone who would shoot a 1950's horse ride while it was engulfed in flames. He was starting a new agency with his partner Jude Senese and Hell Horse is it's name. I thought to myself, "no one is going to let us do this. Someone will say no."

I told him, you have to find the horse. He said, already done. It's on its way. I said, "I'm in."

I asked, "Where do you want to burn it?" He said, "We were thinking your house!" This was the first and only time someone said "no."

Weeks went by, and I thought, this is going away. It didn't. Lawson texted me and said, "We are going to burn it at Dave's lighthouse."

Dave Waller, the owner of Brickyard VFX in Boston, just happens to own The Graves Lighthouse at the entrance to Boston Harbor. I thought,"Oh boy, lets add some danger to the mix. No one would expect someone to drown while burning something."

The day of the burn came and I met the guys at the dock where a landing craft was already loaded with the horse. We named him Charlie. I know that's not a wise thing to do, but neither is burning a plastic and iron horse.

Our first challenge, of course, was the weather and tide. The Graves is an inhospitable place even on a nice day. A small breeze can create havoc. The island is really only a jumble of rocks that are exposed at low tide. There is no dock and no way to easily disembark. The captain of the landing craft just nosed his boat against the rocks and told us "It's now or never." We hauled the 200+ pound metal horse up onto the rocks with a few scraped fingers and bruises. There would be many times during the day where we were lucky to not die.

Its actually amazing what you can do with a couple of dedicated people keen on burning something.

We had done a few tests regarding the frame-rate for the burn. Lawson and Jude wanted the film to last a long time and be mesmerizing for the entire length of it. We decided to shoot at 240fps in 2k Raw using the Sony FS7MkII. The final film would actually play out as a 1 hour and 38 minute clip.

The pyrotechnic guys arrived by dinghy and climbed up onto our little rock in the middle of the harbor. They carried 40 pound propane tanks and a cooler of what appeared to be chalky bird crap. Apparently this bird crap is highly flammable.

When everyone was set and composition had been decided, someone said "Let's light this candle!" It's amazing how much smoke and flame was created by this thing. I'm sure people in Portugal could see it. I can't show you the burning horse just yet. The boys are still working on the website and I wouldn't want to take away their glory. It'll be worth the wait. - Andre

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