A guy walks 7000 miles across Europe and the Middle East.
This is not the story line, but actually what the guy does. And he would like to film it, to document and share the experience.
That guy is me. And no, I'm not crazy...ok... a little. But that is besides the point.
Now, the obvious choice would be to shoot is a documentary type format. And while I do plan to shoot documentary segments (possibly for an alternative cut), I'm actually interested in a different, more visual approach. To illistrate:
A few years ago a film came out called "Into Great Silence" (Die Große Stille http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0478160/ )
It was a 169 min documentary on the lives of Carthusian monks, a catholic contemplative order. In this film there is no talking - aside from hearing the monks pray occasionally. I thought it was a fascinating approach to the subject and if anything can justify the length of this film it is not the quality of the footage but only the fact, that we need that long to actually shut up inside as well and really begin to "get it". This one is not a film for the big screen with your neighbors stuffing in popcorn. You have to view it in silence, so you actually experience something of what the monks live years on end. This fact does not give it mass appeal, but makes it a fascinating award winning film.
I was somehow wondering if I could go in a similar direction filming my journey.
Now watching humans (non talking one's) is still fascinating, especially if they live in a way not well known to the viewer. We observe and try to understand - in fact we might be more interested in what is happening on screen, if there is no-one explaining it. We start looking for something. In the film mentioned above, there is a scene in which the monks take holy water from a font. Then there is a close-up of the font for 40 seconds when they are gone. Nice framing but that is not all. After 20 seconds - long after you think: "ok, I've seen it, cut to something else please" you actually see that the water is still moving from the previous "disturbance" as a speck of dust is slowly carried on its surface.
My challenge - apart from being solo in shooting this - is, that my project is less about the protagonist (if it were, it would be a lot easier: there would be "Human interest", but I hate making the film about "me and my journey"). Rather it is to be more directly about the experience - not mediated through the experience of a "narrator" or "protagonist", but directly - letting the places do the talking, as I travel through - I want the audience to experience what I experience on the trek - POV as it were - but through a normal visual narration. In civilization: noises and the unintelligibility of foreign cultures and what is shared in common. Out in nature: the remoteness, solitude, silence, vulnaribility. I dont want to do 169 minutes of it, but 80-90 would be awesome if I can get it working.
Now especially out in nature for long stretches, I wonder how I can keep things interesting for the viewer from a visual point of view. The desert is going to be interesting, so are the Alps and the Caucasus, but generally as I cover mile after mile I will not have the Himalayas as a backdrop but something less exciting.
So, why am I posting all this?
Well I hope to learn from what people have done - and done well. I'm looking for inspiration and good examples of how nature and landscapes become guides in a story. Or learn from people how to shoot a good film about a walking journey, trek, hiking, expedition - what cam angles are interesting, how to cut the material....
So if you have recently seen/made a film, video, clip about nature, the outdoors, a trek, hike or the like that you thought was well done and especially appealing on the visual end of things, please post a link or comment below.
Results 1 to 6 of 6
07-22-2012 08:39 AM
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
07-22-2012 10:08 AM
- Join Date
- May 2012
I took a cross country bicycle trip after college - 3months, about 6,000 or 9,000 miles, I forget which right now.
I didn't film it. But the thing is, for something like that,I think you make the images first, as you are going. You respond to what you see/feel/perceive,to how want to use your time, camera, interest, and to what you discover whileon the trip. Then, as you are editing, you sift and winnow, and find the form,and pull together what it is important to you to say - what you learned and engagedwith - about the trip.
If you knew what the trip would be like, or reveal, youwouldn't need to take the trip. So take the viewer along, and let the formevolve naturally, based on who you are, and what you experience.
Think of Robert Frank's "The Americans." Hetravelled across the country for 9 months, in 2 or 3 trips, and shot upwards of2,500 rolls of film (which was a lot in pre-digital days.)
He already had a lot of accomplished work behind him, and hebrought himself and his skills and perception into each situation, andresponded to what he saw - and wanted to say - about what was in front of him.
Then, when he was done, he spent at least 3 months editing,and winnowing. And he found a form that is a classic, he created a booknarrative that builds, bounces images back and forth against each other, has achapter opening style, and is a larger commentary than a set of individualimages.
There is a great section in Joel Meyerwitz' "A Historyof Street Photography" on "sequencing" that includes a longsection on Robert Frank and "the Americans" that might be worthreading.
That isn't to say that you can't think through potentialdetails and plan the project. But each day and week and month of the trip willopen your eyes to a subculture and pace and rhythm that you can't anticipate.Or even begin to feel until you do it.
I think if I had to go back and film my trip, it wouldprobably turn put to be about people. An old guy somewhere in Utah or Idahoinviting us in and showing us pictures of his life, his dead wife, etc. Someminers that got drunk with my riding partner and let us sleep on their floor. Ageyser 60 miles from the nearest town, in the middle of the desert, behind an abandonedgas station, with a group of families having their Sunday picnic and drinkingbeer. Some teenage runaway kids. Shooting guns on someone’s ranch. An old guywho was an organic farmer, who invited us home for dinner, then let us sleep onthe floor of his bookstore in town. Sleeping in an abandoned mining town. In Arches National Forest anywherethat we were 100 yards off the road at night, with no-one within 20 miles.
And then the empty road for hours on end, and huge, fat carswhipping past at 80 miles an hour that don't move over more than an inch, andcould kill us in a second.
But of course that is all up to you.
Last edited by unadog; 07-22-2012 at 10:20 AM.
07-22-2012 12:12 PM
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
thanks for your thoughts. I hadn't heard of "The Americans" yet. I'll check it out.
I agree that on such a trip the encounters with people are maybe among the most memorable things. I walked 2000 miles once - no money, no backpack - and what stuck with me the most were the encounters, the general helpfulness of people, and those special experiences "somewhere out there". But I think part of what made these things so special was the context - the time (solitude) spent in between them. Like that burger that tastes much better, when you have not had one for a month. This is what I would like to convey. I want to avoid the outcome being a string of encounters, no matter how heart-felt, because most of them were so heart-felt, because they occurred after long dreary days/week. I want to engage the viewer in some way in the carthasis - and this needs some planning (not so much of what exactly to shoot, but how to shoot it). So, what I'm looking for is not so much suggestions for a script, which is as you rightly say impossible, but rather examples of cinematographic tools (placing cam, how many angles, cuts in a sequence to establish an area and the person moving through it) and know how, that might help me to actually capture what is there.
When, in the beginning of my video days, I set out to "re-tell" and film my 2000 mile journey, what I ended up with was a rather uninspiring string of footage - mainly because I lacked good equipment and even more so the knowledge of how to handle it well. I think I would do a better job now, but I'm willing and in need to learn more. So looking at good examples of this "genre" and analyzing what makes them "work" could be a good thing, I thought.
07-22-2012 06:24 PM
- Join Date
- May 2012
OK. That all sounds pretty valid.
You have some good experience, now you are trying to think through the next step.
Probably the best colloege art class I have ever seen is one my friend teaches called "Project Photography."
The students have to come up with a goal statement for a project taht they will spend a whole semester working on.
He has them do research - other artists/influences, etc. Come up with a budget, create shoot schedule, do test shots. Then come up with a budget (shoot, money, resources) create 20 work prints, then deliver 40 prints on the final project. Basically the same thing taht you are doing.
A few specific things come to mind:
1) There is timelapse video of a car drive across the country, maybe 5 minites long? That is fairly interesting, I will have to find that.
2) Werner Herzog is a master at telling a story (documentary) about people, places and their activities with a strong sense of integrity and place unique to the story.
3) "Where The Green Ants Dream" (by Werner Herzog) is a masterful piece that has a strong sense of place, and an "altered"' sense of (Aborigional/First Nation) time, within a fairly conventional film structure.
4) The last portion of "Aguirre, The Wrath of God" (also by Werner Herzog) is one of the most powerful pieces of cinemea that I have ever seen. You might watch it with the thought that you are watching a "travel" narrative.
This is just off the top of my head. I will try to think about other things I have seen.
Have fun! When do you think you wil be leaving? Are you going to burn copies of your video and mail/FTP them home along teh way? I used to love to plan projects like that!
07-24-2012 03:47 AM
- Join Date
- Dec 2008
thanks for the suggestions. I'll try to dig up the old Werner Herzog classics somewhere. I might also check out his more recent Grizzly man, since it is outdoor themed from the looks of it.
My 14 month sabbatical starts May 2013. The exact date of departure depends on winter snowfall in the alps in the months prior to that. If it is a winter like the last one, it might be later. Fortunately I have a flexible employer :-)
As for filming: I will bring two GH2s coupled with the 170 gram 12mm f2 Olympus and the 14-140mm. I would have liked to go with 5D for the added degrees in field of view, and strong low light performance but it would have meant at least 2.5 extra kilos and being "short" on the tele-end (with the sensor crop of the GH2 the 140mm can perform as a 700mm would on a full-frame).
I'll be recording to SDcards which in their 16GB variant have become so cheap (10 Euros), that I will just get 30 of them (enough for 50 hours of footage). I will backup to a mobile HDD whenever possible and when it is full, send it home. Only when it is confirmed save and the data intact, and backed-up once more, will I proceed to re-use the SDcards. Initially I was looking at a backup device, that could take SD-cards directly, but then realized, that for the same price I can by the same amount of GBs in SDcards, not only making this one less device to depend on my solar module to charge the battery, but also this way I distribute the risk of losing data - keeping things not in one storage unite, but 30 small units.
FTP would be great, but I don't expect fast internet connections in most areas. I will be fortunate enough to go online at all in many places, to keep at least the blog updated.
08-02-2012 07:24 PM
- Join Date
- May 2006
- North Carolina
You might check out the Martin Sheen movie "The Way". It's about a man who takes a 500 mile walk -- a pilgrimage -- to honor his late son.
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