Talented Sisters filmmaker and producer Sam Pyke is documenting the world with his Hill Shadow Pictures, an independent-based, full service video production company founded in 2011.
His polished work focuses on a variety of creative products, from scripted shorts to professional commercial productions and educational narrative documentaries. Tracing the genesis of his passion for movies, Pyke targets his engaging youth in beautiful Central Oregon.
“Ever since I was a kid my brothers and I have been doing these fun or scary little films,” he recalled. “It started with my dad, he’s a huge sci-fi buff and from there we picked up one of those big VCR cameras and started doing talk show films starring ourselves and celebrities we’d dress up as. In middle school and high school we’d spend our time doing full length video movies in the summer. One of them was called Mortal Wombat, a goofy takeoff on Mortal Kombat. We wrote a script and did storyboards, filmed and edited it. We were inspired by movies with good narratives, good drama and good cinematography.”
One of his brothers, Eli Pyke and his Zion Pictures, has produced several regional documentaries, commercials, book trailers and outdoor instructional videos featuring local businesses such as Sisters Coffee Company and Rescue Response Gear. He’s also traveled around the world to support and document charitable, humanitarian causes in underdeveloped countries. Eli and his wife have recently relocated to Colorado Springs to pursue creative opportunities amid the Rocky Mountains.
“After high school I did a lot of photography, not much in the way of video and veered off that path for a while,” he said.
“In 2010, my last year fighting wild land fires, I was over at OSU in Corvallis and Eli called and asked if I wanted to intern for him for an outdoorsman tv show. I had four days to decide whether I’d moved back to Bend and totally change my campus and major. Loving film and video, I decided to jump in and from then on, I buried myself in work and practiced my craft.”
Pyke took on some independent projects and eventually picked up a Canon 550D, the first fully manual digital SLR camera and did a few jobs doing time-lapse experimentation, small events and weddings. Last summer he traveled to Ecuador for an independent study and created a 45-minute documentary film about pre-med students working and learning in a foreign hospital.
“I’d drawn up a proposal for my professor and what came out of it was a film called Cascade Medical Ambassadors, about this non-profit endeavor highlighting learning struggles and inspirational drama in the medical field. It was received very well and had two showings up on the OSU Cascades campus. Everybody was impressed and thankful for bringing their plight to an audience.”
Pyke graduates this June and is going to be busy with the Gary Lewis Adventure Journal, a locally-produced storytelling outdoorsman show told through the medium of hunting and fishing. The program is broadcast to six stations in four states in the Pacific Northwest and has a loyal following.
“We add in a lot of history and geography to appeal to those not interested solely in the outdoor world,” he explained. “I’m also getting a lot of proposals to produce a piece for some manufacturers of products. I do mostly commercial productions and promotional films for businesses and organizations like Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Running Y Resort in Klamath Falls and Guides Choice clothing and active wear. I also try and concentrate on realty videos promoting properties for sale and assorted video projects and shorts emphasizing a variety of issues such as recycling and homelessness awareness.”
Upcoming, Hill Shadow Pictures is possibly producing a pilot for an entrepreneurial television show for a product called a Fikkes Fly Hiker, a custom trekking pole that breaks down into a fishing rod. Many cable and tv shows are based on instructional themes introducing and explaining new ideas and products in a particular consumer arena. Pyke is hopeful four pilot episodes will be shot in the next few months and he’s really excited about that prospect.
“Where my focus lies right now is choosing projects that will best befit me. I’m trying to put together a feature film project about the Oregon Range Wars that has an interesting, violent history based on cattlemen and sheep herders fighting in the late 1800s. I’ve fallen in love with the western genre and see a lot of potential there in telling folks a little known period of Oregon’s past. The hardest part of that is finding the funding for a project. When you ask for money the people want to make sure you’re not wasting their money. Working with Zion Pictures I developed a strict business model to ensure optimum quality and ensure legitimate and qualitative use of all resources, whether it’s equipment, actors, props and volunteers. That’s extremely important to me, maintaining a professional reputation with good work.”
In his art Pyke wants people to feel something when viewing his company’s films.
“Creating a scene that will really reach people is what I strive for,” he said. “When I watch a movie and shed a tear I know that movie has done its job – the music, compositions, editing and acting meld together to create a lasting human experience that resonates with the audience. I bring a unique filmmakers eye and total involvement to all my projects. I work long hours and sleep very little but it pays off when that final product can affect someone’s emotions. That’s a beautiful thing.”