The Kit

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When choosing the camera kit we wanted the least conspicuous, easiest to use set up.  A set up that meant we could film in a crowded bar and look like we were just taking photos but if we end up with something quite good, we had enough quality in the camera to jazz it up in post production.

Everyone is talking about how cheap a camera set up is right now and they’re right, by comparison with 10, even 5, years ago, you can set yourself up really well for under £5,000.  So here is the list of what we have in our kit bag:

CAMERA AND GRIP WHAT WE SPENT
Black Magic Pocket Camera borrowed (700)
San Disk Extreme Plus 64 gig x2 £60
Batteries – Dtap x2 £224
Battery Charger 113
Battery lead £20
Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm lens £500
Zacuto Blackmagic Pocket Camera Z-Finder £154
Tiffen 58mm Variable ND Filter £70
Tiffen 58mm UV Filter £8
Benro KH25 Tripod £144
Smoothshot Steadicam £50
SOUND KIT
RODE Smartlav Lavilier for Smartphones £45
Exttension cable £5
Zoom H4n Reciever borrowed (159)
Rechargeable batteries (12 per day) £100
RODE PG2 Pistol grip and shock mount £50
RODE NTG2 Shotgun Mic £126
Headphones free with mic (25)
OTHER
Silicon Armor hard drives 2TB x2 £220
Lowe Pro Photo Hatchback Back Pack 22L £78
Camera cleaning kit £12
Worldwide travel adaptor with surge indicator x2 £12
PROJECTION KIT
Benq Projector MS512H £329
Yamaha NXB55 Speakers £130
White Blackout Material £12
GRAND TOTAL £2462

As you can see we didn’t buy the two main pieces of kit – the camera or the sound recorder. We borrowed them from a most generous and talented writer/director/editor based in Salta – Martin Mainoli.  And even still we spent £2500 on all the accessories to go with the kit.  This doesn’t include the fact we both have laptops with Final Cut Pro to edit on.  Now – it’s still really cheap by comparison with a proper film camera like the Red Epic which will put you back $19,000 before you’ve bought any lenses to make the camera work.

We went for the Black Magic Pocket Camera because it is small and it is SO easy to use.  The menu has hardly any settings.  Yet it still records professional quality material.  We’ve gone for Pro Res 422 as our recording format because it’s big but not so big that we’ll use up all our hard drives in a couple of months.

With the help of our friends at Spirited Pictures (cheers Richard and Flora) we have worked out the accessories we need to fix the little glitches that this camera brings up.

COMMON BLACK MAGIC POCKET PROBLEMS

1 – the battery life is only about 40mins with the in built battery.  Fixed with D-Tap battery pack and an adaptor cable which gives you a battery life on 1 day per battery.  I bought 2 which is useful if you’re shooting all day every day but way too much for what we need.  In general I have bought too many batteries….better than too few I guess…

2 – there is no viewfinder so it can be really difficult to see what you’re shooting, especially on a sunny day. Fixed with a Zacuto Viewfinder – it makes the camera look a bit more like a proper film camera so you’re not quite as inconspicuous but hey, sometimes you want to look like you’re making a bad ass film!

3 – the sensor on the camera is one third of a normal camera which means that your frame is much smaller than your average shot. Fixed by getting the 12mm-35mm zoom to get as wide a shot as possible.  It is still not as wide as ideally you’d want for a travel doco full of amazing scenery but the widest lenses will set you back another few hundred quid so you’ve got to choose your battles.

Week 3 – La Paz – the first film shoot

THE STATS

Film shoots – 1

Food poisoning – 1

Street Parties – 1

Altitude – 3600metres

 

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La Paz is an unlikely city.  It all started in a valley 200 odd years ago and has since spread across the mountains so that the houses hang off the cliffside and the only public transport is a very new Gondola system.  It’s beautiful and it’s chaos where you take your life in your hands every time you drive.

Full of inspiration after our Herzog chat we went out into the city to find our filmmakers.  We had a few contacts from our night out but, while waiting to meet up with them we started flagging people down on the street who had faces like they might just be filmmakers.

How to spot a filmmaker……

– thick rimmed glasses

– beards

– skinny jeans (yes that has made it to La Paz)

– a confident swagger

Crazy you may say and to be fair through this rather rugged system we met architects, travellers who couldn’t speak English or Spanish BUT we also met a friend of a friend of a friend of a filmmaker who pointed us in the direction of the local ‘art-house’ cinema and it’s director which led us to….

OUR FIRST FILM CREW!

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I am delighted to introduce (from the left) Gilmar – writer and director of our 1st short film, Joaquin – actor (though actually a director himself whose 1st short was at the Berlin Film Festival this year!) Dani – actor, and Simon – sound and co-director.

We’ve decided that just filming interviews is a little boring, so we’re going to make short films.  As pictures are worth a thousand words – here is a taster of where our first short took us.

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From a street party in El Alto, to a house party at Sylvia’s house (top left) to a manifestation for animal rights….so far, so good.

 

 

 

 

Week 2 – Racing to Werner Herzog

THE STATS

Distance: 1200km

 Cities visited: Salta, Humahuaca, Potosi, Oruro, La Paz

Screenings: 1

Spanish: getting better

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This Ford Ka might not look much but is the stallion of our trip and has performed valiantly in the first 1000km of our 12,000km journey. It might only climb hills at 20km per hour but by george it’ll speed down those hills at max 90!

Needless to say, each leg is taking a little longer than our new GPS app Skobbler will lead us to believe.

Before we set off we had our final screening for the cast and crew of Rules of the Game.

salta screening

Location: El Teatrino

Audience: 80

Reaction: Fantastic!  Everyone had brought their families and friends so the audience was a real mix of ages and the oldies bloomin’ loved it.  Lots of laughter, applause, jumps….sets us up well for taking this film on the road….

Lessons learned: TAKE MORE PHOTOS.  The best photos are at the times you don’t want to take it, the times you look like a tourist and might even offend…..taking photos is a bold business.

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So off we raced to meet Werner Herzog in La Paz who was giving a free talk as his latest film is being shot in Bolivia. We covered 1200km in 3 days so the only chat I have about that is: Bolivia’s scenery is stunning, and we have quite a lot of film of us in the car.  A good exercise on how to use our kit.

It turns out I hate taking any sort of direction about how to use the camera, Dani is much better at filming than me, which is really annoying.

So we arrive at the theatre for the talk and Dani gets stuck into buying a couple of tinnies for the queue…only to get stopped by the police and told we were not going to be allowed in because you’re not allowed to drink on the street.  Much pleading later and we got off with a warning but beware Brits abroad with a habit for drinking tinnies whenever the occasion presents itself!

Herzog didn’t talk too much about the film he’s going to shoot, instead he allowed the audience to ask as many questions as they liked.  This meant the talk turned into a bit of a love fest with one fan shouting out ‘You saved my life, I would be dead without you, I love you!’.

Others asked Herzog to predict the future of cinema in the next 25 years – a tall order – but it comes from him predicting in 1984 that the internet would be the biggest thing to happen in the next 25 years, so his aptitude for prophecy is held in high regard.

Here he said again that the internet is going to change the industry the most as a distribution method.  The internet will be the way in which audiences can come and find independent films – a fantastic opportunity for filmmakers but hard to live a ‘pure life’.  And by a pure life he related this to sticking to your own ideas, not being a people pleaser.

He advocated walking on foot to get closer to reality. The bigger the engine, the less you need to stop and engage.

We recorded most of the interview – absolutely legal apparently – so will upload it soon.

Post chat we started to get on the case of meeting the young filmmakers of La Paz and were taken out on the town by a group of make-up artists, editors, stop motion filmmakers and political activists.  We went out to a local bar full of middle aged men as Friday is ‘Bachelor Night’ every week so generally only men go out.

Bolivia 1st impressions

– lots of mountains….Potosi is the highest town in the world at 4000m….my lungs are rubbish up here.

– food = peanut soup, stomach…not sure of which animal, sweet and sour empanadas, fried chicken…lots and lots of fried chicken, smoothies.

– police are NOT friendly, they might give you directions but probably not worth the risk.

– lots of foreign films come and shoot in Bolivia but their own film industry is only just starting.

Week 1: Buenos Aires to Salta

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The stats:

Screenings 1

Spanish – poor to OK

Kilometres – 1900

Some last minute gardening to keep the rose bush in check for the summer and I’m off.

Luggage: Camera Kit, a car stereo, very little clothes, a Laphroaig Whiskey, yoga mat, tent, computer, Spanish grammer book.

British Airways as alway a fantastic choice as I glide through customs with a 26 kilo bag and 2 backpacks that far outweigh what hand luggage should be.

Arrive in Buenos Aires!: a bustling metropolis of chaotic corners and tranquil avenues.  Where most of the buildings seem to be flats and you’re never quite sure where the offices are.

FIRST SCREENING

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Location: Buenos Aires, Club Cultural Matienzo

Audience: The crew and their mates.

Numbers: 54

Reaction: Awesome! No one took offence even though I now realise our film makes hardly any reference to Argentina at all.  A few laughs in completely different places than where we thought we’d put them.  And the scares work the same.

For the first time, the crew understood what the film was about!  Hardly any of the completely Argentine crew  had read the script (apart from the HODs). On the shoot this was absolutely perfect as it meant a level of politeness and camaraderie remained for the 6 weeks we were together – we didn’t know how to gossip/be rude to each other…so we remained great friends instead.

So then it was off to Salta on a 22 hour bus ride.  The buses in Argentina have business class type seats because the journeys are so long.  Normally the buses go from Retiro station (see below)

retiro bus station

 

However our bus stop looked like this:

 

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The cheapest bus we could find, and, it turns out….not entirely legal….as we set off and the lady managing all the passengers told us all to tell the police, should we be asked, to say we were all tourists travelling to Salta for Easter…..dodgy….

So now in Salta for the next screening for the crew from here.

 

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Start….go on I dare you.

To get stuck in.  To begin. To take the leap.

Right.  OK.  Damn.

Just met another filmmaker in The Fields Beneath (best coffee in Kentish Town), and waxed lyrical about how the internet might just save us independent filmmakers.  “Imagine a future where we engage our communities as we develop a project!” I said.  “Where we can then reach out to that community and have them come and see our work!” I said.  “Where the line between commercial and art is no longer an issue because we have direct engagement with our audience!” I concluded.

Needless to say, he was a bit overwhelmed, probably because he just wanted a chilled chat, not one riddled with exclamation marks. But  perhaps, he also thought he could travel the world and explore his own projects and find a way to make that a viable plan……

I walked home through the park (a poor excuse for a dog toilet) feeling pretty smug.  Yes.  That was worth passing on.

And then it dawned on me.  I have done NONE of what I suggested to him to do!  I hardly engage or share so how the hell do I know whether it works or not?!  When I think of the logistics it sounds crazy – so much content, so little to say, such a big sea, such a small voice.

So this is an experiment…let’s see what happens.

THE PROMISE

Over the last 5 years I have followed the likes of Ted Hope and Lance Weiler who all speak so hopefully about the fact we can make it on our own if we reach out and engage with our audience throughout the process.  I’ve also just read an awesome book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon who has changed my perspective and made me think about sharing in a different way.

  • I don’t want to or have to market. I want to engage a like minded community.
  • I don’t want to sell, I want to provide a valuable service.
  • I don’t want to spam, I want to share my process.

THE PROJECT

So – with this in mind. I bring you to my next venture:

I am going on an adventure from Argentina to Columbia to discover filmmakers out there.  In this blog I am going to tell this story.