Author’s Note: The subject matter of this article is actually one that is very dear to me. Over my years of working in New Media, I have always admired the tight-knit community that has grown around the group of people who work in this field. So when I hear about tragedy hitting a member of this community, it touches me very deeply.
Mountain Man, the surreal comedy that follows ex-folk star turned anti-government survivalist Jonas Hawkinus, recently relauched after a brief hiatus. As writer-director Matthew Mangs discussed in an e-mail correspondence with me, “We took a break from releasing Mountain Man every week because we could not keep up with the heavy post-production workload (editing, color-correcting, special FX, sound and music) when everyone involved has their own separate projects, careers, social obligations, vacations, etc. Mountain Man has never had a crew in the double digits. Producer Matt Enlow and I built Jonas’ Sanctuary by hand, with a few friends helping out with the painting and paper mache. There have never been more than a handful of people carrying quite a workload.”
The return of the series has been much-anticipated by the loyal following the series has developed. And with an additional 7 or 8 more full episodes to go, as well as about 7 Jonas Journals (shorter episodes that are shot by the character “Echo” on the series), there is still plenty of time to jump into the strange world that Jonas has built for himself. But the return is also bittersweet…Mountain Man was entirely shot in a series of cabins in the Angeles National Forest called The Ranch, which was effected by the recent rash of wildfires that swept across much of Los Angeles. As Mangs explained, “the wildfire swept through the canyon, destroying most everything in its path (many people’s homes, possessions, and of course all of our sets and props). Everything you see in Mountain Man is now ash. Literally. The whole valley is a flattened, gray moonscape. This only further affected our work flow, since many of those involved in Mountain Man were left homeless and without most of their possessions.”
This unfortunately makes the hopes for a season 2 much more dim, though Mangs isn’t totally against the idea of exploring other options that take the series in a different direction. The episodes shot before the fire covered about half the material Mangs wrote for the series, the other half of which he has offered to put on the website if people are interested in learning the full arc of the story.
I’d like to end this by letting Mang say a few more words: “Obviously, Mountain Man is very important to me, but the effects of the fire are far more painful to the people who actually lived up there, like Andy Rydzewski, who played Whitby in Episodes 2 through 5, producer/land owner Kevin Rosen-Quan, Mike Miller, the Mountain Man himself, and other dear friends, residents, and neighbors. I can only speak for the Ranch residents in saying that they literally lost everything, save their computers, the clothes on their backs, and a few portable belongings.”
Photos courtesy of Andy Rydzewski.