Our mission: to find a bridge in Guatemala that was visually epic!
Scott and I recently got back from Guatemala after spending over two weeks in country. We were capturing footage for a new short story video for the organization AMG International. We are not strangers to filming in Guatemala. In fact, it’s at times very automatic, we are aware of the hurdles as well as some of the benefits of producing visual content in this beautiful Central American country.
In many ways it’s much more different to film in Guatemala than filming in the United States. You have the sense at times that everyone is watching you when you have a camera out… for me, personally, its unnerving at times. But there are many moments in which we’ve pulled off shooting in some locations that we’d never be able to achieve in the States!
So as part of our concept for this new short story video, the challenge of finding a bridge that was epic visually in some ways didn’t really phase us but at the same time, we weren’t really sure what to expect.
For the first four days after our arrival we visited some bridges around Guatemala City, even taking a 90 minute jaunt outside the capital to see an old Spanish bridge built in the 1500’s. We viewed many photos and videos and asked many locals about bridges in the area. The process was a little tedious and we didn’t want to settle on something less than epic!
After we had ruled out most of the possibilities, our friend and fellow filmmaker Rafa Tres suggested a hanging bridge and showed us video of it from when he had shot some footage for a short film. Scott and I had wide eyes after seeing the footage. It was truly epic! Not necessarily the type of bridge we had in mind but the scenery around the bridge was beautiful!
Rafa had informed us the bridge was a couple of hours outside the city so after looking at the calendar, we gathered our two cast members and some local help and we set the date!
We set off for the location. There was a slight caveat however. No one in our circle really knew the exact location of this bridge. We knew the general area according to Rafa’s instructions but even he could not remember the exact location. But, not to be deterred we set off.
After about 90 minutes of driving we stumbled across a little village that bordered a river. it so happened to have an old railroad bridge that the villagers used to get across the river from the village to the market areas. The railroad is no longer there but the bridge still remains. We decided to stop and observe to see if this could be another possible location for what we needed. After a few minutes of walking around and scouting the area we decided to go ahead and get some shots at this particular bridge given the uncertainty of finding the hanging bridge we set out to find.
We filmed enough footage that we felt good about what we captured that if we did not find the hanging bridge, we got what we needed. Yet, at least for me, we have already come out this far, nearly two hours from Guatemala City, it seemed like a waste to turn around now and settle for what we just captured. Thinking we only had about another 30 or 45 minutes to go, I urged us to continue and the group agreed.
About 30 minutes later we decided to stop and ask someone if they knew the where a bouts of the bridge, thinking we were getting close. When we found someone that knew the bridge we were describing, they stated it was on the other side of Mazatenango, about 30 minutes down the road. Feeling a little discouraged we continued on.
Another 30 minutes later we still hadn’t come upon Mazatenango so we stopped again. This time, we were told that Mazatenango was still another 30 minutes away! Ugh! Well, we have come this far, may as well keep going. But by now, the afternoon rains had started to come and we were starting to wonder if we would ever find the bridge.
We finally came upon Mazatenango and some relief was felt among the group. While in town we decided to stop and ask someone if they knew where exactly the bridge was. To our amazement, the person we asked had said… you guessed it… another 30 minutes outside the city. By now the situation was getting comical! But, we still continued on.
By now we had been driving collectively for for nearly 4 hours. We were tired, it had been raining, the time taking to get to the bridge now was twice as long than what we planned for. The doubt that we would ever find this bridge was so plentiful you could cut it with a knife!
But then we started to see a deep ravine and some water falls. We saw the mile marker in which we were told to look for and we turned off the main road. We could sense we were getting closer. The road followed the deep ravine so we knew we were in the right place. We went through a small village where we stopped again to ask someone where the bridge was. They told us it was in the direction we were headed. It was still raining but it didn’t matter, at this point we were not turning back.
Finally after the coming off the paved road and we were sloshing through mud and water, up ahead we saw where the road ended… at the ravine. But, we still couldn’t see the bridge. We pulled up near the edge where a few locals were huddled under a simple open air roof. We asked them if this is where the bridge was and they all pointed just off to our right. Excited, we parked the van, jumped out to have a look. And there it was!
Just then, the rain had pretty much stopped but we heard thunder in the background. We needed to take advantage of this break in the rain so quickly Scott and I grabbed the camera bags and shouted out orders to have out cast ready to begin walking across the bridge as we rushed to our vantage point in which we were going to shoot, a second, older bridge about 200 feet away!
As you can see, the shoot was a success and the location of the bridge was grand, beautiful and very much epic! Not only did determination paid off but God rewarded us by halting the rain just long enough for us to capture some amazing footage. Literally, after about 30 minutes of shooting the rain started again but we knew we had what we needed.