Mission San Juan Capistrano

The connection with Mission San Juan Capistrano started in 2000, after the completion of “The Swallows of Capistrano.”

The administration liked “The Swallows of Capistrano” so much that they hired Swallow Creek Productions to produce many other projects for them through the next few years.  Several projects were completed between 2000 and 2003, beginning with a documentary on the Great Stone Church.

“The Great Stone Church – A Treasure in Trust for Tomorrow” (2000)

The ruins of the Great Stone Church were crumbling. Earthquakes had taken a toll on the structure. Mission San Juan Capistrano had to do something to save the remains. Enter the structural engineers who developed a plan.

This project was my first for the mission, and it was an honor to  document the efforts of so many amazing people who were dedicated to preserving the ruins of the Great Stone Church, known as the “Acropolis of the West.”

The challenge: How to make the star of the show interesting? Since the building didn’t move, the camera had to. So I had to learn to operate a camera crane. (Mr. Crane didn’t have the only crane on site!)

It was great to ascend the scaffolding inside the great dome – and see the site where the famous swallow colony began in the early 1800s, after the church fell.

Little known fact: The historical preservation experts who were researching the pigments used on the frescoes discovered paint flakes that were protected from the elements by swallow nests. Very cool. Thank you, swallows.

Of course, to do the preservation work, all the swallows nests had to be removed. When the swallows returned to the mission to find their homes gone, they relocated to Saddleback College and other sites in the Capistrano Valley. But that’s another story.

This 10-minute video captured the Great Stone Church’s past, present, and plans for the future.

“The Mission Blooms Again” (2000)

The mission has spectacular gardens, a legacy created over the years by people who love the mission grounds. There are a number of garden areas, and the video presented a tour of each unique location.

One day while wrangling the camera crane, I wasn’t getting the exact shot I wanted and stepped away for a minute. A mission visitor approached me, and we chatted about how wonderful the mission was and how great it was to have a second career that allowed me to document so many beautiful things. The visitor observed that I was truly “living my dream.” And he was right. Whenever things are not going exactly as I would like them to, I remember that day and the truth about my life – I AM living my dream!

This 16-minute video includes a tour of the mission’s gardens and a celebration of the gardens.

Here’s an excerpt from the video – a video montage set to Pachelbel’s Canon in D.  Just flowers and music.

“Russian Heritage Day” (2001)

A connection between Mission San Juan Capistrano and Russia? Who knew?

This 5-minute video traces the history of this connection and the celebration to honor the art and culture of Russia – “Russian Heritage Day.” What fun!

“Pirates at the Mission” (2002)

And who knew that the mission had been raided by pirates?

This 9-minute video reenacts the raid by Hipolito Bouchard and his men, and the celebration of this event at “Pirates Day.”

I learned an important difference between working with humans and wildlife – humans will actually do second takes! With wildlife, you either get it or you miss it. No discussion with the talent. What a concept!

“Secrets of the Vestry Dome” (2003)

During the restoration of the Great Stone Church, an amazing architectural discovery was made. The vestry dome was built using a unique method that made news in the historical preservation community.

This 10-minute video documented the historical findings.

“World Monument Watch News” (2003)

In 2003, the Great Stone Church was added to the World Monument Watch list of endangered sites.

This 2-minute news format video covers the ceremony to present a donation from the World Monument Fund to support the mission’s preservation efforts.

“Art at the Mission” (2003)

Plein air artists are amazing. For a week, the mission grounds were open to plein air artists who came to capture the beauty which surrounded them. The week culminated in an event to honor the artists and celebrate their work.

This 15-minute captured the weeks’ events.

“Christmas at the Mission” (2003)

The Christmas holiday is always a special time at the mission. This 4-minute video montage captures the event that offers entertainment and activities for all ages.