Posts Tagged ‘14 islands film challenge’

Bye Bye Buggy

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Sunday, 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.

The Big Fight

Friday, February 5th, 2010

Wow… excellent day today.

Started slowly (as usual), so went down to the docks to see the goods ship unload, then we made our way to Piccolo’s house (first name terms now) and started to wrangle people into helping us build the boxing ring.

Piccolo and his rope skillsPiccolo and Ashley took the lead, along with some hired help, and before long there was an ‘old style’ ring right there in the yard. Just so you know… I’m not the type to make a 96 year old man do manual labour, but believe me he doesn’t let anyone do anything for him. The man is amazingly fit for his age.

Building the ringLuckily for me, Norbert H. Kox an American artist is staying at Ashley’s house with myself, so over the last few days I’d managed to persuade him to play Ernest Hemingway for me. The other three ‘fighters’ were locals up for a bit of fun, and one of them was legendary boxer ‘King Jesse’ – a real gent, and the subject for tomorrow’s interview. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure if they truly understood they weren’t supposed to be actually hitting each other, so my heart was in my mouth as I attempted to direct the actors, but they totally respected my ideas and did everything asked – including no actual punches thankfully.

King Jesse with Norbert & AshleyKing Jesse was the 3rd fighter, and the only ‘real’ boxer. I had trouble persuading him to hit the deck, as he assured me he was never knocked down, but I was grateful that he swallowed his pride and played the part, although his family were teasing him after… “beaten at last” they said.

I was jumping in and out of the ring… getting POV shots, handheld action of the bouts, lady holding ‘Round 1’ sign, with Piccolo being the announcer and referee. Can’t wait to start cutting it. Today has been such a great day… I feel energised by the action. There’s a chance this won’t actually make the submitted film of course, but I’ll definitely be making something out of it whatever happens. Happy days.

Thanks for reading


Buggy Buzzin'

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Have you ever seen what’s inside a conch? Man… that is one ugly snail creature. Met a guy who bashed it over the head with a hammer, and out fell this bogey from hell… so we chopped him up and ate him with a salad.

Lady with bags of dead fishSpent lots of time near the docks today, watching the world go by. Interestingly, Ernest Hemingway called Bimini ‘The End of the World’ when he arrived here in the 1930s, and by that he meant he’d found his place at last. It’s easy to see why he’d think that… the place is stunningly beautiful, and is populated by the type of people he would have appreciated – lovable rogues and pirates are still here in strength. Many, many people here are direct descendants of the first settlers in the 19th Century, so you could say piracy runs in the blood.

Quite a slow day business wise, as we’re still prepping for that ‘dramatic reconstruction’ to shoot tomorrow, so I spent the day buzzing round the island grabbing more general shots, chewing over ideas and casting my actors and interviewees. I think i’ve got three doc stories to follow now, so time goes on, and I meet new people, I’m hoping I’ll be able to choose the strongest story for the competition.

Fast Beige

Piccolo Pete

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Today was the most productive day so far.

Another sunsetAlthough technical issues continue to slow me down, I shot two separate interviews as part of my continual search for the right story for the project. Firstly I  spent the morning with my envoy Ashley. Due to the stormy weather throughout the night, the sea was churning out interesting items on the beach, so Ashley decided to go beachcombing for items to add to his now 17 year long ‘Dolphin House’ project. Ashley built his house entirely from recycled materials scavenged from the island – conch shells and bottles for ballast, tiles and coral washed up on the beach for decoration, and strangely a large collection of donated number plates and coins from around the world to add to his Bimini born house of imagination. Although we can make a film on anything we want here on our islands, I’m drawn to this story for its environmental messages, but will decide later in my stay whether this is the strongest candidate for the final submission. One major positive is that due to the time spent with him living here in Dolphin House, I feel he has a good understanding of the limitations of this challenge, and I find it easier to communicate my ideas than the other people I’m bumping into.

Piccolo PeteThe second interview was far less simple – in fact it was extremely challenging. We arranged to film with local legend, and world’s oldest ‘popstar’ Nat Saunders (Ashley’s Uncle) – otherwise known as Piccolo Pete. At 96 years old (a guess… no-one is sure), ‘Piccolo’ is the island’s oldest person, and has intriguing tales to tell from stories of Hemingway’s antics in the 1930s, to meetings with Al Capone (Bimini has a history of drug smuggling), as well as his own long career as a banjo player and folk singer/storyteller. I filmed him playing a few songs, followed by a short interview where I discovered his inspiration for his thousands of songs, came from his rich adventures and everyday life – the things he saw. Sensing I was impressed by this, he promptly improvised a song about me (everything rhymes with Jan) which was amazingly flattering… if not a little embarrassing. Pete is a charismatic and interesting man, but stubborn to the point where I can see editing this interview down will be a real challenge. I wanted a detailed rundown of a specific Hemingway related incident, which I’ve been hatching plans to enhance with a ‘dramatic reconstruction’ (A first for me), but it was like trying to get blood out of a stone at times. However, I’m feeling confident I can make this work, but I do need to hatch a plan to bring others in to help the narrative a little.

World's weirdest stereoPiccolo lives in an amazingly ramshackle but charming old house, which apparently used to be the local ‘disco’ in its day – night long parties for the travelling fishermen, as well as the occasional celebrity visit. Although he was a musician, and is famous for being so, he had also been a self proclaimed ‘jack of all trades’ in his youth, including plumbing, shipwrecking (piracy!?) and electrical work. It became clear that Piccolo Pete is a resourceful man, and this photo is of one of his amazing beatboxes made from electrical odds and ends, scattered in odd places like this – very cool.

Thanks for reading… You might also like to follow ‘fellow Buzztard’ Robin Schmidt’s island antics here.

He has a nicer camera than me.

Am very jealous… I’d bite your hand off for a decent camera right now… even a Z1 would be heaven.

Juggling expectations

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Day 2 of the Bimini shoot, and what started as a good day, soon took a turn for the worse when digitising rushes in the evening. Alas, it seems the camera is still proving to be a challenge, but I’m trying to remain positive, even though I’ve pretty much wasted 90% of footage shot due to some unexpected settings causing havoc. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to digitise on site, as the viewfinder on the Canon doesn’t show up the problems when shooting, so tomorrow will be more ‘test shoots’ before i knuckle down to the ‘real’ content.

Ashley SaundersOn more positive news, the island continues to keep me smiling all day, thanks largely to the warm hospitality. Ashley and I took a trip to the South Island today, so in two days I’ve just about been to all corners of the Bimini island group. I met with 96 year old banjo legend Piccolo Pete, and have arranged an interview for tomorrow. I think i’ve found an interesting way into the culture of the island through a historical event, and hope to get some good stuff to support these ideas.

Working on a these structure ideas, it’s hard to get the islanders to understand the recce process, and have promised no guarantees for their inclusion in the final piece, but i approach this politely, and continue to juggle their expectations with my own. It’s slightly stressful to discover that money is a key factor in all initial discussions with potential contributors, as in most cases I’ve never had to pay for an interview when producing doc content, but I appreciate the island has a fragile economy that relies heavily on tourism, and I’m seen as a potential source of income. Ashley is extremely supportive and understanding of the whole project, and thankfully through his local knowledge and means of communication, we’re gradually reaching an equilibrium to all these initial concerns.


Boats, Planes & Golf Buggies

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

After a night in the Bahamian capital Nassau, I embarked on the last leg of my journey and arrived on the island of Bimini.With the airstrip on the South island, I took a ferry for the short trip to the North Island, where I was warmly greeted by my island envoy Ashley Saunders. Ashley has been helping me over the last few months to try and get a feel for the island and its potential stories, so it was great to finally meet him, and give gifts of Honey and Half Groats.

Conch-CamI guess I should explain. The Honey is from Gill Sentinella, the beekeeper that featured in ‘For the Bees‘ that won me a place on this adventure, and the Half Groat is a Henry VIII Canterbury Mint coin, that was given to me by my mum as a gift for Ashley (My Nan gave it to my Mum years ago, and as Ashley has a museum that features 16th & 17th Century artifacts, she said it would bring me/us good luck)

So having dumped my bags at Dolphin House (my home for the next 13 days), we immediately embarked on a golf buggy trip to get a feel for the geography, as well as meet some of the local characters. Everyone is very friendly… so much so, i quickly realised it’s common practise to wave at strangers as if we’re old friends, and in the first few hours in absorbing some Bimini culture, I met some fantastically charismatic individuals.
A shell or summink

For this film challenge, it’s crucial for me to spend enough time finding characters that can drive my short doc, so I’ll spend the first half of my stay casting for this role. It’s an interesting challenge, as with all good documentary films, you need to find light and shade in terms of story, but in this case (funded by the Bahamas Tourist Board) it will be a case of carefully negotiating the darker elements to make sure they will be happy. This is my first challenge.

The second challenge will be getting used to the camera – I’m missing my Sony already. I don’t want to knock the Canon, as it’s a good camera for its price bracket, but a number of features are missing that I’ve sadly become used to – Going back to lens rings that spin instead of stop, tapes (huh?), lower res viewfinder etc – all make for a much slower operation, and I need to get that speed up quickly. I tend to shoot as observationally as I can, and much of the success of that is due to the reaction to events and situations. At the moment, by the time i’ve framed and focussed, I fear the magic moments will have passed.

Soooo blue

Aaanyway… Time for bed… More photos to come, and maybe even a few video logs…?

Thanks for reading


Bimini bound

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

In just three days, I’ll be heading off to start the final stage of the Bahamas 14 Islands Film Challenge, where I’ll meet with my island envoy Ashley Saunders, and make a short documentary to be entered into the competition with 13 other lucky finalists.

One of which, is Buzz partner Robin Schmidt, who as part of the first wave of production, is already out there topping up on his Vitamin D. Robin has his own blog, and has already posted news of his adventures, and lovely Canon 7D imagery for you all to gawp at.

So for now, it’s all about the packing and panicking, as I decide which bikini to take. I hear others have taken steadicams, Letus kits and 7Ds, but i’ve decided to just go with the tools supplied, and will be shooting on the Canon XHA1S, with a little help from my trusty radio mic.

I’ll be blogging as I go… stills, videos and news… and would appreciate your input.