Eli Pyke took the long road
back to Sisters
By Jim Cornelius
|Photo by Lynn Woodward
The filmmaker traveled from Montana to Maine, Spain to Morocco, down rivers and over waterfalls to arrive back in his home town where he is bringing his dreams to life with his company, Zion Pictures.
Providing cutting-edge HD production services for everything from training films to documentaries to independent films, Zion Pictures is the kind of enterprise that – with enough drive and creativity – can flourish in a small town environment and reach across the nation.
Pyke has that drive and
His interest in film was sparked in a Sisters High School technology class. Pyke showed immediate promise and teacher Jim Reiss recognized it. Reiss secured a grant for digital film equipment and turned it over to Pyke.
"He said, 'Take a year and figure out how this works and report back to me,'" Pyke recalls. "That's kind of how I got my start."
He started well. He and a buddy, Slater Dixon, won a state vocational skills competition with a film, which nudged him further along his path.
Pyke's passion for film is matched by his love for the outdoors. When he thinks about his youth in Sisters, he says, "I think about playing along Squaw Creek (now Whychus), going up to the Metolius. I think about the
Pyke became a skilled kayaker. That interest helped steer him away from the well-trodden road to Los Angeles and into a quality program at Montana State University. Even though he learned a lot in his first year there, Pyke was restless.
"I didn't really know who I was, why I was in film school," he said.
He embarked on a kind of vision quest that took him to Europe, North Africa and to new places in the U.S., a trek he documented with his camera.
Instead of returning to film school, he came home, secured a communications degree through Oregon State University/Bend and went to work for a time installing granite countertops.
"Video was just something I did on the side," he said.
But film wouldn't let him go. He got on with Rage Films, where he combined his skills with a camera and his skills with a kayak. Going over waterfalls and filming the action was an irresistible lure – at least for a while.
Then a force greater than raging waters intervened. Eli met his future wife, Kelly.
"She was here in Sisters; I was living in Bend. The short story is that I fell in love and wanted to get out of the fast-paced party scene in the action films world," he said. "I wasn't really into it, but I put up with it 'cause I loved what I was doing."
The decision to settle in Sisters wasn't inevitable, but the pull was strong. The young couple's family is here. And, having been from the Swiss Alps to the Atlas Mountains, Pyke recognized that the Sisters Country is a world-class place for an outdoorsman to be.
Significantly, the couple felt what Eli describes as a powerful "spiritual draw" to their church – Sisters Community Church – where they have forged a strong bond with their pastor, Tim Kizziar.
Kelly is the director of the Hope Africa Child Development Program (www.outwardprojects.com).
Zion Pictures has done significant work in Sisters – from news videos for The Nugget Newspaper to the recently unveiled Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce "Sisters Country" marketing video ("I put a lot into that," he says). Pyke also shot coverage of Sisters Coffee Company's trip to the coffee plantations of Guatamala.
However, Pyke reckons that most of his work has come from Bend and Portland. He has done work on book trailers, which he enjoys for the
storytelling value, and he and his brother Sam recently landed "Gary Lewis' Adventure Journal," a hunting and fishing program that airs across the region.
That's just the beginning for Zion Pictures. Pyke plans to move further into the storytelling arena over the next few years.
"I see myself shooting and producing feature-length independent cinema, specifically for the Christian market or with a Christian message," he said.
Establishing a film company
in his home town has had its
"Everybody knew me as a
hometown high school football star," he said. "I think overcoming
my youth (he's 29 now) has
been a challenge: being respected as a businessman, not thought of as a kid."
But Pyke is winning the battle of perceptions simply through building an impressive portfolio of work, a function of his drive and can-do outlook.
"Lot's of people have ideas," he said. "Some make it happen. I'm one of those guys."
To view the Sisters Country promotional film, visit www.sisterscountry.com or purchase a DVD at the Sisters Area Chamber
of Commerce Visitors Center,
291 Main Ave.
information about Zion Pictures,