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A film under the stars

Castaic filmmaker shares his latest work with his neighbors

Posted: August 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Moviegoers watch as filmmaker Jim Tompkins narrates his film “4Corners: A Southwest Adventure” at Castaic Lake on Friday. Moviegoers watch as filmmaker Jim Tompkins narrates his film “4Corners: A Southwest Adventure” at Castaic Lake on Friday.
Moviegoers watch as filmmaker Jim Tompkins narrates his film “4Corners: A Southwest Adventure” at Castaic Lake on Friday.

Viewers tossed back popcorn on the beach at Castaic Lake recently, watching a travel adventure documentary about the Four Corners area presented by the community’s own award-winning filmmaker Jim Tompkins.

The Paradise Cove shore and open sky composed the perfect backdrop to watch “4Corners: A Southwest Adventure,” a look into the nature and culture of Four Corners country, where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah come together.

“(The movie) is about the mountains, rivers, canyons and cultures of the American Southwest,” said Tompkins, a resident of Castaic. The film covers many national parks and towns within a 180-mile radius of the Four Corners.

Tompkins’ live narration of the film allowed the audience to explore the Four Corners area from four different seasons, landscapes and points of the compass.

“I liked it because I’ve been to many of the places. It was a blast from the past,” viewer and Newhall resident RuthAnne Murthy said. “He was so poetic.”

“It has a real character that’s all its own,” Tompkins said of Four Corners country.

The free movie event was sponsored by the Castaic Lake Kayaking Club and Friends of Castaic Lake as part of a summer film series screened on the shore of Castaic Lake.

Though Tompkins has performed his three travel adventure documentaries at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., at Carnegie Music Hall and at the Center of Performing Arts in Seattle and the Palmdale Playhouse, Tompkins’ first home town screening Friday night was special, he said.

“I have done so many shows in the past, but I’ve never been able to do one in my bare feet!” said the local filmmaker, who normally wears a tuxedo to narrative performances — not to mention shoes. “I get to perform this one live, which not even (famed filmmaker Steven) Spielberg gets to do.”  

Tompkins grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and moved to California after earning his bachelor’s degree in cinematography.

He has spent his life practicing every aspect of filmmaking, and for the last 10 years he has directed, produced, written, edited and scored his own travel adventure cinema.

Tompkins has narrated more than 400 viewings in his career and connected with more than 120,000 audience members.

The Travel Adventure Cinema Society, a long-established group of professionals in the industry, awarded Tompkins the Hall of Fame award in 2003, and he was one of the first to introduce digital video to his genre.

Tompkins’ most difficult task for “4Corners” was capturing the four seasons change at exactly the same spots during the two years he spent making the film, he said.

“Each season adventure reinvents itself,” Tompkins said during his narration.

“It’s constantly changing,” he said. “There are a zillion shades of color in the Four Corners. You just have to wait for the right light, and once you do, it’s magic.”


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