Unique characters should inhabit a compelling and engaging story, driving it into fresh and unexpected territories, and hopefully giving it a distinctive life of its own. Two very unique ‘characters’ inhabit Dreams Awake. One is a strong, beautiful and magnificent testament to vertical creation, the other a subtle, barely perceptible yet significant harmonic. One an outer landscape, the other an inner landscape, known and unknown, blending and struggling with each other. Together both offer a lush tapestry that blends throughout the narrative, allowing a modern disconnected family to work out their problems in a unique way.
Mount Shasta - “Where Heaven and Earth Meet”
“I consider the evening twilight on Mt. Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
“When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” – John Muir, 1874
“Lonely as God, and white as a winter moon, Mount Shasta starts up sudden and solitary from the heart of the great black forests of Northern California.” – Joaquin Miller, 1874
“And well this Golden State shall thrive, if like its own Mount Shasta, Sovereign Law shall lift itself in pure atmosphere – so high.” — John Rollin Ridge, 1854
“Mount Shasta, a vision of immensity such as pertains to the vast universe rather than to our own planet.” – James Dwight Dana, 1849
Mt. Shasta, a 14,179-foot strato-volcano in northern California, rises abruptly some 10,000 feet above the surrounding level ground that encircles it, and on a clear day is quite a majestic sight for as far away as 100 miles.
This impressive mountain has a very rich cultural history that goes back to the numerous Native American tribes who have inhabited the nearby area for hundreds of years. They have long considered this mountain sacred. In addition, various groups of spiritual seekers consider Shasta a place with mystical powers. A few have been coming since the 1930’s, and there was profound growth for such mystical practices in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. This activity has spawned all types of remarkable stories about the mountain to the point that it is considered one of the seven sacred mountains of the world. The numerous books written the past 100 years about Mt. Shasta’s spiritual energy and the experiences people have had on the mountain have also contributed to an extensive and growing mythology.
There is no doubt that Mt. Shasta is a special place, and the team who created Dreams Awake felt very privileged to have been able to shoot their film in such an extraordinary setting. In addition, the Shasta area does have a bit of film history itself. In 1934 MGM Studios sent a group of cameramen to shoot background shots for their project, The Rear Car. By all accounts it seems the film never actually went into production. In 1972 Climb An Angry Mountain, starring Fess Parker, was shot in the surrounding area, mostly in McCloud and Weed. In 1976 Baby Blue Marine, starring Jan-Michael Vincent, had a couple scenes shot in McCloud and Weed. In 1986 Stand by Me had a scene shot in McCloud. In 2007 Babysitter Wanted had a few scenes shot in Weed and Lake Shastina and various other locations in Siskiyou County. Even though these films had scenes that were shot in the area, Dreams Awake is the first feature film that was completely shot on and around Mt. Shasta.
In Dreams Awake, Mt. Shasta represents a parable for the inner quest and the backdrop to play out the struggle. A place where transformative adventures reveal, purify and free the human spirit for a higher reality and purpose. This magic mountain, with its secret lore from Native American and mystical legends, serves the plot by being the background tapestry for which everything plays out, reinforcing the tenuous, shifting balance between the physical and spiritual worlds. Essentially, this is a spiritual mystery about learning why we could be here on earth and the underlying lesson being that the magic of imagination is one of the fundamental, underlying properties of reality. We just have to learn where and how to look for it, so we can wake up and be more aware to our true inner nature.
Inner Sound – “Music of the Gods”
Historically speaking, most cultures of the world have had some type of creation myth that involved sound, usually sound as the first creation and that everything else created came from such ‘otherworldly’ sound in the ether. A number of spiritual, mystical and religious texts have spoken of this metaphysical equation of sound as an element of their most honored traditions.
Plato wrote that the cosmos was constructed according to musical intervals and proportions. Pythagoras called it ‘Music of the Spheres’ and believed that it fills our inner ears and we are constantly in contact with it from the moment of our birth. Another Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, called it ‘Logos’ (divine word or sound). Some Native American traditions call it ‘Song of the Creator,’ while the Bible calls it ‘The Word’ and ‘Voice of Many Waters’. Hindus refer to it as ‘Anahad Shabd’ (unlimited tone or unstruck melody) and ‘Akash Bani’ (voice from the heavens), while the Sufis say it is ‘Saute Surmad’ (tone that fills the cosmos). Lao Tzu described the Tao as ‘unimpeded harmony’ and referred to the ‘Great Tone’ as the source of all things. A number of other cultures, such as the Aborigines, Aztecs, Eskimos, Malayans and Persians all believed that the universe originated in sound.
Today there is a popular, still developing theory among physicists called String Theory, which attempts to provide a complete, unified and consistent description of the fundamental structure of our universe. Very basically, it explains the smallest possible component of reality as a vibrating string, or a bundle of them intertwined, and that how matter is created depends on the way these strings vibrate. And of course when something vibrates, it creates a tone or harmonic of tones. String theory tries to bridge and tie together the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics into the currently accepted “Big Bang” theory of the universe’s creation. In fact, the very word Universe means ‘one song’, uni meaning one and verse meaning song. Is creation merely a song being sung or played? A cosmic symphony of sorts? And each of us exists as a unique harmonic signature within that symphony?
It has been said that the vibrations of this sound are too fine to be audible, making it difficult to be aware of these ethereal vibrations. However, as this sound is supposedly always resounding in the soul and when one attains a certain level of stillness and concentration, the sound can become audible. A variety of sounds may be heard; rushing waters, thunder, ringing bells, conch sounds, gong echoes, steam engine, crickets chirping, bees or hummingbirds flying, or even instruments like harps, horns, flutes or lutes being played. Ascetics blow a horn, a shell or a flute to awaken this inner tone in them. The bells and gongs in churches and temples are meant to suggest this same inner sound and thus lead one to take up the clarion call towards the inner life.
In Dreams Awake we touch upon these mystical sound traditions and weave them throughout the story, adding another layer of dimension and character to the narrative.