Fallen Tree – Nalini Nadkarni

Last summer University of Utah biologist Nalini Nadkarni fell out of a tree.

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Climbing trees is a blissful adventure most of us remember from our youth, Nalini Nadkarni made climbing and studying trees into her passion and lifes work; up until she fell 50ft from a massive maple tree in the Olympic National Rain Forest on the Washington Pennisula.

We had the opportunity to collaborate with the team at Radiowest and Doug Fabrizio, for an interview with Nalini post tree descent and full recovery. Consistent with Doug Fabrizios style, he was able to explore her near death catastrophy and was able to delve deep into the root of the outcome with swift and exacting questions. Nalini nonetheless offers up eloquently expressed stories from the beginning of waking up on the forest floor to the recovery and long process of healing with patience. Her poetic ideals and statements are thoughts that we are sure everyone at some point in their life will think about, “wait…this isn’t how I am suppose to die”, “I want a big brass band”. Nalini explores the priorities in her life and the unwanted force to change her direction. Helpless to the forces that had changed her life and what she is going to do to after being forced to start over. The outcome is inspiring to hear and her story is amazing.

After the interview was captured we were left with finding images to follow her story. Between working and thinking we concluded that the only proper images of trees would have to be the same forest of trees that she had originally fell from, the Olympic National Forest in Washington. Three months later we find ourselves finally driving to the forest via Aberdeen, WA with our nerd bird in tow, with hopes of capturing the essence of the forest and the massive size of the trees. Nalini had given us a paragraph describing where we should go and how to get there- something like this:

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Director Skylar Nielsen finding his way.

Up the road from the Hwy 101 is a bridge over Willoughby Creek. On the river side of the bride is a gate with a pull out. Park there and walk down a few hundred feet and you will have to crash through a thin wall of young alders and behind them you will find a rare grouping of big giant old maples. The road hasn’t been used in years so it’s a little over grown.

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Lance Clayton prepares the octocopter for flight.

Needless to say, we found the location in the dark the night before. We also found out the sunset in December on the coast in the forest is more like 4 pm, not the proclaimed 5:32 pm, which is actually darkness. Driving into and through the forest gives you the classic sense of how minuscule human beings are and quite insignificant to the massive trees. Settling into the Forks Motel that night, yes, the same Forks that the Twilight Series was based upon; We got ourselves some Coronitas and a place to prep for our sunrise shoot in the rain forest. Sunrise is brisk and beautiful, we hurried to the “special spot” as the sun is beginning to shine through the trees. Seeing the location only in the dark gave way to a serene green moss covered grove of trees. This time of year, the canopy of leaves has fallen to the ground and the only thing that remains are the Dr. Seuss inspired tree trunks and branches covered in bright lush moss. We rush to prepare the nerd bird and get some shots before the sun gets too high. The first flight is short and we have to crash land due to a malfunction in the octocopter. After wiping the mud off the booms and propellers, we go for a second attempt. The ship is flying smoothly and peaceful, only to give way to what seems to be a flare like fire shooting from the side. Being up in the air for about 2 short minutes a water droplet from one of the tree branches shorts out a controller and we hear a scream, “its on FIRE?”. It crashes as it so often does without too much damage and we rush to save the camera and footage- safe but there is not more flying…..all that way for less than 5 minutes of flight. We then spend the remaining time exploring the macro side of the forest, from the rain drops to the green fuzzy moss we shot it all. Sometimes its good to be forced to create outside of “ what was planned”, it seems like this entire piece beginning to end is about change and sometimes……its not as you planned.




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  • Director Skylar Nielsen
  • Interviewer Doug Fabrizio
  • Producer Elaine Clark
  • Producer Doug Fabrizio
  • Cinematography Lance Clayton & Skylar Nielsen
  • Editing Jordon Utley
  • Grading Jake Penrose
  • Sound Mark Batzel
801.860.8522 | info@vitabrevisfilms.com


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