Thursday, December 25, 2014

RLT Valleys and Peaks - 2014

I've always believed life is like an ECG.  You need the highs and the lows to know you are truly alive.  Nowhere is that signal pumping harder than on the road, and filming throughout the majority of 2014 has granted me a wild ride.  Here are some of the highs and lows from The Road Less Traveled production this past year.


Filming in Europe in the summer - The flowers were in bloom, the air hummed with life, and the long days allowed us to soak up more of the rich visuals all over the continent from the architecture in Rome, to the waterways in Ghent, to the jaw-dropping Dolomite mountains.  I ran into a couple good friends in Venice, Italy (who I know from Venice, California); I got the privilege of filming Tomorrowland with buddy Max Sperber joining our crew; entered vampire society in France; and a had a romp through England that opened up my eyes to Wicca, Druidism, grime, and many other little known niches.

Venetians in Venice

Max at Tomorrowland


Quitting caffeine for our Romania episode - The word "drugs" is severely unspecific.  There are substances that are vilified and there are others which are celebrated with slogans on t-shirts.  But let's just say anything you put into your body to alter your mood is a kind of drug.  When I stopped drinking coffee for the 2 weeks we filmed in Romania I had a 10 day withdrawal that included mild depression, sleeplessness, and craving that gave me sympathy with anyone who's tried to shake a habit or addiction.  Why did I do it?  Because the only way to know you are in the drivers seat is to prove you can stop the ride.  Now I'm back to having a morning cup of joe because ultimately I think it's a fairly harmless (and perhaps even beneficial) habit.  This holiday season as some might enjoy caffeine, sweets, nicotine, alcohol, and whatnot let's raise a glass to the fact that no one will be kicking down the door and putting us in cuffs for these vices, and let's consider our fellow citizens who are separated from their families because they were peaceably enjoying different ones.


Working with Wildlife Alliance in Cambodia -  One thing I've learned on the road is that while most people working in charities have the right intentions, not every NGO is making a positive change.  This is a subject you will see covered in our Romania/Moldova episode.  However, in Cambodia I found one that I was happy to throw my support behind.  More than that, I met some people of true conviction.  Guys who had been shot at with AK-47s, offered bribes of 500,000$, and who encounter corruption at every turn.  Additionally they may be fighting a battle they will ultimately lose.  The odds are certainly not in their corner.  Yet they have laced up the gloves and are slugging it out fighting the good fight nonetheless.  Conviction and principle are hard to come by in this world.  I have the highest admiration for people who possess it.
Patrolling Cambodia's rivers with Wildlife Alliance.  Heart of Darkness style!


Witnessing the stream of crappy hands dealt to the women of Banda -  If the central goal of travel is to expand your consciousness, then you will get no bigger bang for your buck than India.  It remains a place which will shake you and change your world perception if you are even partially open to receiving the message.  One thing, however, shook me in a foul way:  the treatment of women in the region of Banda in Utttar Pradesh.  Here women are the property of their parents until they become property of their husband's family.  As many as 95% suffer silently from domestic abuse.  If they are thrown out they have no where to go without money or education.  They wouldn't even make it out of the Delhi or Mumbai train stations without getting snatched up by vultures.  I personally witnessed three cases of of smart and affable girls getting steamrolled by society.  The area needs a serious revolutionary movement.  Thankfully there is one team trying to lead one.  You can see the work the Gulabi Gang is doing in the 4th episode of season 3.  Remarkably, within the same country one can get a view of a society where women are ultra-empowered up in the NE city of Shillong where the matrilineal Khasi tribe abides.
Cameraman Dante Calvelli had his own low on the train from Delhi to Banda when he had to sleep in a linen closet ... got locked inside it to boot!


Making a short movie in Romania - What a great country to film in.  Affordable talent and crews, and loads of amazing locations.  Where else can you shoot in heaps of abandoned castles without another soul around?  The movie was inspired by the work of Irina Margarita Nistor who secretly translated over 3,000 prohibited films under communism.  You can see both her story and the movie in our Romania episode.
Bad guys approaching in The Revolution Will Be Televised


Ridiculous injuries on the road -  You've seen me ride a Royal Enfield over "dead body pass", you've seen me launch paragliders under dubious conditions (we nearly ate it in Leh), you've seen me leap over Dutch canals climbing up a giant moving pole like a monkey.  I fought muy Thai, kickboxing, wrestling, boxing, and MMA champs.  I always come out with no injuries except those to my pride.  However, this year I got injured twice.  Once by a 90 pound masseuse in SE Asia who snapped my leg like she was Indiana Jones cracking a whip.  The second time by carrying a 10 kilo bag of dog food on my shoulder around the ruins of Bucharest for 3 days (entirely in vain).  Of course I must lay some blame on our 9 kilo tripod (supporting a 1/2 kilo camera) for exacerbating the first injury, which i have schlepped around a good portion of the world.   I whined like a petulant child until the executive producer replaced it.
Apocalypse ready in Bucharest 


Getting a creative snap of my crew members sleeping -  There is a lot of jocular humor flying on the road.  One of our longstanding jokes is to catch each other in the compromised position of spotty sleep.  Nowadays our subconcious minds have been honed to wake at even the smallest relevant snicker or sound of a smartphone being pulled out of a pocket.  Nonetheless I'm the reigning champ of slumber photography.  The E.P. Sashi De is a master of looking cool while asleep but mark my words: In 2015 I will get him good.
Like shooting fish in a barrel

Cool for school


Having these shots taken of me

Disrespecting your superiors

More to come on the best of RLT season special.  Thanks to everyone of you who personally or remotely shared a piece of this year with me.  2015 is looking to be a great one.  I hope yours will be too.


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