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Fascinating Documentary Follows A Modern-Day Gold Miner Into L.A.'s Mountains

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A fascinating documentary peeks into the life of a present-day gold miner who works in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles.

The beautifully shot short was directed by Thomas R. Wood. It tracks Patrick Blankenship, a young man who says he looks for gold in mountains about 45 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles. He begins with a story about two miners who get in a fatal fight. "Gold fever," he says.

Patrick, who wears a torn-up Harley t-shirt and whose arms are covered in tattoos, guides us up into the mountains. We follow Patrick as he drags his gear, which isn't an easy physical task. He says he's never gone that deep into the wilderness, and we see the physical toll this takes on him as he sprawls in his tent at night. "Mining is not for pussies," he groans. "Preparing to mine is not for pussies either."

Along the way, we meet others miners—one a grizzled man with a long beard who "hasn't come down the mountains in years." The man smokes a cigarette as he talks about how he just keeps on digging. Other miners are younger, like Patrick, and we see them swinging at rocks with pick axes. Patrick also encounters some miners who don't keep such a chill attitude while up in the mountains.

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Though there are plenty of shots of Patrick searching for and even finding gold, and explaining to us how it's done, it's not the gold that motivates him. Blankenship came to mining because he had no motivation to do anything. In the throes of his listless depression, he went up to the mountains, thinking he might let a rattlesnake bite him. However, when he found a rattlesnake, he also found himself terrified by death. For Patrick, mining is a hobby and a means to answer questions about himself. Really, he says, it's about looking for the gold, not finding it.