Friday, September 16, 2005

A Hop and a Skip


Here is the premise. Take a video camera with broadcast quality sound and image and travel around Western Europe, hitting all the capitals and interviewing people in those cities along the way. Meanwhile, as part of the journey, document interactions with people where possible and play the tourist to get some images for background and overdubbing.

(Left: Image taken by my friend Susan in Heidelberg, Germany, August, 2005.)

Doesn't sound too hard, does it? Try it for a few weeks and see what you think.

I started filming in the first week of July after having spent most of June arranging hotels, trains and ferries to make it all work out. I planned to leave the US for Dublin, Ireland, on July 13 and to return to Dublin from Berlin, Germany, on August 20, for an eventual return to the US on 22 August. In between, I spent just about two nights in every stop, and occasionally took a night train from one destination to another, although they rarely were adequate substitutes for hotels and beds. In the six weeks that I was in Europe, I visited Dublin, London, Paris, Montpellier, Barcelona, Mallorca, Valencia, Madrid, Lisbon, Nice, Menton, Rome, Naples, Capri, Pompeii, Heidelberg and Berlin.

In each place and on the road, I approached total strangers and I asked them if they would like to participate in a documentary where I would ask five questions relating to freedom and record their perceptions of these five issues. If anyone had had any reservations about participating, I gave them the choice to opt out before any filming began, but once people decided to participate, some very powerful things were uttered. At first, I tried to insist on English-language only interviews, but I soon gave in to my first interviews in French. Eventually, I grew brave enough to engage people in Spanish and in cases, allowed responses in Portuguese. I still have no idea what some people had to say, but I have a general feeling about their answers.

My questions for the interviews had to do with people’s perceptions of freedom, of gay rights and gay marriage as a subset of freedom, and of the AIDS crisis in the world. Finally, I asked them to say one single thing to the world that they wished to say. The answers that were provided on tape made me think and I am not yet sure what my summary of their answers might entail. I do know that I will be working with the film editors of 1 Giant Leap. We will be combing my footage for any material that might serve the purposes of the new film 2sides2everything. In the end, we will produce a film of roughly half an hour's duration about my journey and the broader journey that has been my life.

Toward the end of the journey, I grew really tired of traveling and of approaching strangers. In Italy, it was very difficult to find Italians who were able to speak any English, French or Spanish at all. I started doing daily recaps myself around that time and stuck to taking shots of tourist spots, with a few excellent exceptions in Germany.

Overall, I met about six old friends in London, two in Paris, one in Lisbon and one in Heidelberg. In the process, I spent nearly a week in Mallorca with the film crew of 1 Giant Leap as they edited their new movie, 2sides2everything. I was able to hear some mixes of music that included the blues guitar of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and I watched a clip from my January interview with Ben Cole. In addition, it was great to see Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Catto along with family and new friends from the editing crew. I can not count the number of friends I made along the entire journey—each of them special.

It was rewarding to return to places I had visited at various points in my lifetime. Menton, France, a town where I spent a month at age 16 was , despite the transitions of the family I knew from that era, still a lovely town. In Aigues-Mortes, I went back to find the stone where a lady had carved the word "Resist" with her fingernails over a forty year incarceration in the 18th Century. I also visited the University that I attended as a young adult in 1979-80 and took note of how it has aged. I could not find any of my old professors unfortunately.

I am now reviewing my tapes and logging notations of content and quality. Soon, I will be copying the films to my computer and then cutting the hour long segments into smaller bits for editing into a movie. I have also been revising my blog where I recorded stories and have been adding the photos I took since July 13.

There is a bit more filming to do, but that will come soon enough. For now, I am resisting my frustration about New Orleans and Katrina by volunteering to key data a few afternoons a week. I hope to find some satisfaction that I have done my part to help the people of the city that kicked this all off for me in January. Next weekend, I will be attending the NC Pride Festival.

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