Buzzfilms at HotDocs Toronto

May 3rd, 2010

Jan takes doc development slate to HotDocs in Toronto.

What is HotDocs?

North America’s largest documentary festival which runs for 11 days, April 29 to May 9, and presents over 170 films from more than 40 countries. HotDocs welcomes hundreds of international filmmakers and industry delegates to Toronto.


Screen East Low Carbon workshop

April 28th, 2010

Jan attends Screen East Low Carbon workshop – A new regional fund that looks to finance creative projects with an environmentally conscious production process. Buzz Films looking for development funding for two new feature documentary projects.

Last day, and last post

February 13th, 2010

… what a slow day. This is going to be short.

A telephoneI’ve put the camera down, and was planning on a beach based end of stay, but a stonking great storm rolled in last night, bringing bitter winds that have kept me inside with the shivers. I did pop out for a few hours, and took a shot of the telephone that Hannibal Lector used in the final scenes of ‘Silence of the Lambs‘ – You’ll notice the handset has been ripped out as a souvenir by someone. Exciting… I know.

I lost my sunglasses here in the week, which means I’ll be coming back one day apparently… ? I’ve had a great time here on the island, and met loads of fascinating people, but now I’m ready to head home and make something of these rushes. Big thanks to Ashley for the home, the inspiration, and the help and guidance, and special thanks to my ‘flatmate’ Norbert who’s kept me entertained with all the stories and conversation.

Lastly… thanks to you for bothering to follow my adventures, and the ‘14 island challenge‘ team who made it possible – It’s been a magical experience, and I feel privileged and grateful to have had the opportunity to do it.

I’ll be posting back here once I’ve edited the film and keep you all updated on how the competition unfolds, but for now… I’ve got a sunset to fly off into… like Hannibal Lecter… but a bit taller… and no interest in cannibalism.

The Sun


A Smuggler's Isle

February 13th, 2010

Winding down the shoot now as my departure looms.
The Concrete ShipToday I went on a tour of the islands by boat, and thanks to local guide Grant, I’ve now seen every side there is of Bimini. We stopped off at the ‘Concrete Ship’, a beached vessel dating back to the First World War which is now a local ‘hangout’ spot for picnicing locals and tourists. It was also once a warehouse for the ‘rum runners’ during the prohibition era in the 1920s, but as it’s decayed over the years, the ship now acts as a mini reef that attracts fish, and makes for good snorkelling in the summer.

An ex-aeroplaneHeading out towards the east side of the island group, we approached the next ‘tourist spot’ – and a smuggling theme began to develop. This aircraft came down in the 1980s, and although there are many stories as to why it did, it is widely thought that it was a drug plane which mistook the white sands for the runway nearby on the South Island. I heard tales of armed Colombian militia patrolling the remote areas of South Bimini in the 1980s to protect their drug stashes, and many more years previously these areas were famous as Pirate campsites. Nowadays the only Pirates here seem to be the foreign property developers, as they destroy large areas of the mangroves to make way for concrete condos. Grant explained how these areas are crucial for the marine life, as they’re breeding grounds for all the diverse species of fish and birds before they head out into the wide open sea. However, the expansion is being closely monitored by locals to make sure their way of life is preserved, alongside the hope that the new builds will bring much needed cash into the local economy.

The Turtle's HeadWe continued around towards the Northern tip, and spotted a school of Spotted Eagle Rays (about three feet wide each) as well as a giant Loggerhead Turtle in the shallow waters. We waited for a while, as it had to come up for air sometime… and this is the result. Bit of a lame shot really, but the moment was magical to see.
I’ve got a few shoots left to do before I go, which is tomorrow’s job of the day, but considering these will take an hour at tops, I’m looking at a lazy day. Sadly I finished my book already, and the weather looks like it’s turning for the worse, but I’ll be soaking up the smiles as long as I can, and hanging around chatting with my new pace of life. Things to change very soon… the edit is starting to play on my mind.

The Boss is coming… look busy!

February 12th, 2010

A very quiet day on the filming front, but I had a welcome visit from the ‘film challenge’ producer Janine, who’s spent the last three weeks hopping around the 14 islands to see each filmmaker, and to make sure things are running smoothly. Seeing as I was one of the last to be visited, I didn’t really have anything exciting for her to see, but luckily I had one last interview to do, so Janine sat in on my final chat with Ashley Saunders.

Shootin' hoopsBefore that, I spent a few hours in the morning filming at Bimini All Ages School, and even had to say a few words in assembly – I managed to bumble through it in a poor man’s Hugh Grant style, and as eyebrows  began to raise, and mumbles grew louder, I knew my time in the limelight was up. I thanked the kids for welcoming me here on their island, and told them to “keep up their education”… or something along those lines? I’m sure as they mature into adults, they’ll remember the guy from England with the wise words – the one that inspired their whole education, and made them the fine individuals they turned out to be.

So… I think I am now wrapped – a whole two and a half days early!
So what am I going to do now? Well, I’ll be slowly making sure I get all my footage digitised so I can hit the ground running when I get back to the UK. It’s taken me a long time to slow down to a Bahamian pace, so I’ve got used to not doing a typically full day’s work. Depending on the weather, I’ll be spending tomorrow scooting around the island on a little boat, and maybe stopping off for a little snorkel or two. It’ll be my first day ‘off’… I think I deserve it. I’ve had that camera in my hand for 11 days solid… I no doubt will take it with me on the boat, but I am a little nervous about dropping it in the sea. At least I’ve finished my shooting I suppose.
Boring boring sunsets… I just can’t get enough of them. Here’s a series of three stills stitched together for your panoramic pleasure.


Thanks for reading

Flotsam & Jetsam

February 11th, 2010

Day 10 – Another hard day at the office. (blog late due to internet blackout)

House for saleToday I went to the South Island, which has a different feel to the North where I’ve been staying. It’s much more exposed, and many houses are damaged from the last hurricane, but the beaches are deserted, and the views are spectacular.

I met up with Grant & Katie from Bimini Sands, a quiet resort of empty apartments (off season apparently), and was kindly given a jeep ride around the island to take in the sights. We drove past a number of secluded and exclusive properties (American second homes), and eventually reached the Shark Lab – a remote outpost where a number of volunteers work from around the world to research into Shark related matters. I arranged with Grant to go out for the day on Friday to circle the islands on a boat, and look forward to seeing the last remaining parts which had been unreachable by foot or buggy. As Grant & Katie are marine experts, I’m hoping to get to some interesting waters to see some marine life, and maybe even swim with a shark or two… apparently it’s very safe… !?

Warhead?Over my ten days on the island, I’ve become an avid beachcomber, and have been surprised by the weird and wonderful things that turn up on the Gulf Stream coast. Doll’s legs, ping-pong balls, foreign food cartons, but most shocking of all is the sheer number of shoes – they’re everywhere! Who keeps losing a shoe? Every item has a mysterious story… maybe someone fell off a cruise liner, or maybe there was a shoe flinging contest nearby. Maybe they were eaten by a shark? *Note to self for friday… leave shoes at home for luck.

P1000692Speaking of stuff on the beach, Ashley Saunders and his Dolphin House is made up of entirely recycled materials, much of which was found on the beach just a stones throw away. I should point out that he doesn’t use doll’s legs, or shoes for that matter, but conch shells, tiles and lumps of coral that washes up, and over the years he’s slowly built himself a magical house made from all the things that he has found, and I’ve had the pleasure of staying inside it. Stone by stone, tile by tile, Ashley has made the house almost entirely by himself, and it has become a popular attraction for Bimini tourists.

In the afternoon I filmed with Ashley as he added more flotsam and jetsam to the exterior walls, and then recorded some beachside poetry to the most beautiful perfect sunset I have ever seen – the sea swallowed the sun without a single cloud interfering with it’s journey. Whilst we were there,  I managed to rope Norbert H. Kox to play Hemingway for me one last time, but no boxing this time… a simple shot of him writing was all that I needed… and if the video images are anything like the stills, I’ll be very happy indeed.

Norb as Hemingway

Bye Bye Buggy

February 10th, 2010

It was our last day together.

The empty pencil holder… the sticky steering wheel from her past relationships… the gunshot type misfire she did when I tried to make her go faster… She was one special golf cart. I’ll never forget the way she beeped when we we’re reversing, or that time I had to dig sand out from under her wheels with some coconut bark when we experimented with softer terrain. I couldn’t bear to think someone else would be touching her brake, or fiddling with her gearstick, so I burnt her.

RIP liddle buggy

If I can’t have her, nobody can. Farewell fast beige.

Captain BenjaminActually, she’s being collected in the morning, which meant one last jaunt to the top of the island for pretty shots, and another beachside scavenge. I met up with local fisherman Captain Benjamin for an interview, and we talked ‘big game’… well he did, and I nodded. The last time I went fishing I was a teenager. Bimini was once world famous for big game fishing, and much of that notoriety was thanks to ‘Papa Hemingway, as Capt. Benjamin put it. In the afternoon I interviewed Bimini resident Lambert Kemp, watched a man climb a coconut tree with bare feet, and interviewed Ashley B. Saunders at the Hemingway house – The latter I hope will form the spine of the film I’m putting together, along with Piccolo Pete’s anecdotes.
I say the spine of the film but actually I’ve still got three films on the go, and have bought myself the luxury of waiting til the edit stage to make the final decision, but I’ve managed to get so much content, that it’d be a shame to not make something out of it all. I’m now planning to collect the final pieces to the jigsaw, and have a few more tricks left up my sleeve – some of these ideas are quite new for me, so I’m excited about starting the edit process to see if it will all come together.

Rush hour

Tomorrow I’m off to explore South Bimini, and plan on revisiting the Fountain of Youth, as well as the Shark Lab, and seeing if I can catch a glimpse of the Bimini Boa. Feeling sad for the first wave of ’14 Islanders’ as they’re heading back to the UK now, but then hey…  i’ve still got 4 and a half days left! Yey for me! Janine the producer, who’s job it is to keep an eye on us all, will be visiting on Thursday so I’m working on how best to ‘look busy’. Joking aside, I’ve kept myself on the job every day, and haven’t even had a single lie in, which might go to explain why I’m now up to Tape 11 already – That’s 11 hours for 5 minute delivery… not the most efficient ratio I’ve ever worked to.

At the End of the World

February 9th, 2010

Another beautiful morning at the Dolphin House, so I headed out for more general shots. I’m here for another 6 days, but I’ve only got the buggy til wednesday, so I decided to cover as much of the far reaches of the island before I become a pedestrian. Amongst the goats, houses, boats, and sceneries, I continued to bump into friendly and familiar faces in my quest for pictures. P1000604Something not so friendly is the vast numbers of Portuguese Man’O’War jellyfish dying on the beaches – the rougher weather has sent hundreds to their death on the shoreline, creating a strange collection of blue bubbles (poison sacks?) littered amongst the golden sand. I hear the kids jump on them for fun when they’re laying there baking in the sun, as it’s a bit like popping crisp packets – An alternative  bubblewrap pleasure I suppose.

P1000636Back on the story trail, I visited the ‘End of the World’ bar, named after Hemingway’s quote, and then filmed interviews with Ashley and a local man called Eric… or ‘Hulk’ as he’s known on the island. Eric looks pretty tough, but he’s a nice guy and kindly shared an hour with me as I interviewed him about life on Bimini. We talked about the island’s inhabitants, and how many of them are descendents of Pirates and Shipwreckers dating back to the early settlements, and I learnt some interesting similarities between old and new in the culture of the Bimini people – some things still going on here, only the cargo has changed.

Topped the evening off with another yummy homecooked meal from Ashley B. Saunders, and experimented with more panoramic pictures – this time from the top of Dolphin House itself. If I did two more pictures, you’d see just how small the island is, as 30 degrees more to the left you’d see the Atlantic Ocean.

From the rooftop of Dolphin House

Lazy Sunday

February 8th, 2010

Bimini was like a ghost town today.

Ashley had organised three different churches to visit, so we set off for a morning of god related stuff. He wanted to show me some of the more animated services, and I admit I was worried that someone might touch my forehead and I’d have to react in the right way. I’d told myself that whatever happened, I wasn’t going to fall down and jiggle about in an epileptic type fit.

We visited the first church, and I think both of us were nervous of leaving, as the church only had a few visitors and it would be embarrassing to leave too early seeing as the Pastor was shouting at us. However, we left after a few hours… I’m sure they were staring at me for not saying “amen” twice a minute like the others, but I bit my lip – I hope they don’t think satan came to visit today, but I just can’t bring myself to say these things. We decided to skip the other two churches.

So having inched my way out with a polite wave, I headed back to Dolphin House. Ashley has a great archive of photos and artefacts I wanted to capture, so I set up a rostrum and drank coffee for a few hours. Reflecting on my religious experiences earlier in the day, I headed out to a quiet sunset spot, and started taking more pretty pictures. I experimented by taking three still images that I could comp together in Photoshop, to make a super widescreen panorama of seaside joy…

The Gulf Stream

…and then fired off another sunlapse. Here’s a little compilation of all my lazy lapse time so far…

Tomorrow I’ve got a few more interviews to do. Ashley has kindly typed up a list of things we’ve been talking about doing, so I’ll be ticking them off as my time in Bimini ticks away. I’ve been asked to do daily video logs for the ‘14islands‘ team back in London, which I’m a bit behind on, so I’m going to take a few T-Shirts out tomorrow and do them all in one hit… Ssssh.

Thanks for reading


King Jesse & the Junkanoo

February 7th, 2010

I got wind.

I got wind real bad.

King JesseI guess I’ve been lucky the past 5 days, but my ‘one week’ anniversary was greeted by the gift of easterly winds rushing in off the Gulf Stream, so audio has been my main concern today. I met with ‘King Jesse’ to do an interview, and we talked about Bimini history, as well as his past as a boxer, and managed to find a sheltered spot in the local baseball ground.

Then for the first time on my trip, I scheduled in 30 mins of nothing. Seeing as the sun was occasionally peeking through the speeding clouds, I thought it’d be an idea to relax on the beach. As beautiful as it was, I just got sandblasted, so I headed back with grit in my eyes to organise myself for an afternoon jaunt to the remote North of the island.

Some clouds, and some sand, and some water, and an old treeI parked where the road ends, then carried my camera round to the top of the island. As far as the eye can see, there was empty beaches, and no sign of human activity – not that Bimini has a large population anyway, but this felt like I was the last man on earth. Whilst shooting a timelapse, I decide to scavenge through the flotsam and jetsam, and alongside some american detergent bottles and the odd shoe, I happened to notice a solitary ping-pong ball. All alone, I felt like a castaway… so I drew a face on him, and called him ‘Artengo 40’. Someone should make a film like that?

Artengo 40

In the evening I headed into town, as I’d been invited to a birthday celebration, and was promised junkanoo…. I had no idea what that was, but it sure sounded good. Whatever it was, I wanted some of that junkanoo. Before junkanoo (whoo… can’t wait!), I stood and watched a band… who were very good! Bob Marley covers, Black Eyed Peas… ‘I gotta feelin’… (whoo hooo)… that too-nytes gonna be a good night… Only to be ruined by a cover of the best ‘worst’ song ever… We are the World.

King's highway, BiminiEventually we got to Junkanoo… and although initially upset that it wasn’t the 40 foot tall pink cuddly dinosaur I was expecting, I’d soon forgotten about my disappointment, as I witnessed an amazing street drum and dance that shook the foundations. Thankfully I remembered to take my ‘top light’ with me as it was pitch black, and there were people in the street dancing, kids playing drums, rum flowing… amazing, amazing, amazing. No pictures to show you, sorry… I was hypnotised.