Good news, everybody - we've made it!
Thanks to 662 of you putting faith in our project, Tom and I have successfully crowdfunded the editing budget for our films from Iran and Patagonia. Not just that, we managed to hit 112% of the target!
The deadline was midnight on Monday, and we began work on Tuesday morning. There's no messing around with this - we have until just the end of May to create two feature-length films. The team of professionals that we're going to surround ourselves with are readying themselves (think of it like the Avengers, but with more sitting down in dark editing room and less crime fighting.) In short - it's all happening!
I'll keep you updated every step of the way via this blog and on social media. In the meantime, let me say again how immensely happy Tom and I are to be making these films, and how grateful we are to all of you for being a part of them. These really couldn't happen without you! So - thank you, and I can't wait to share more of the material with you.
At the end of last year, Tom Allen and I spend the best part of two months working with the footage from our river journey in Iran. We both found the process to be hugely rewarding - reviewing the visual reminders of a trip that brought so much joy - yet also desperately frustrating. As anyone who has edited a creative work will attest too, this is not unusual.
Trying to craft a story is rarely easy, and in my experience success often comes only after much swearing, whiskey-drinking and last-gasp epiphanies. The difference this time, however, was that much of our frustration had very tangible roots. Our footage had holes; gaps where tough conditions, multiple encounters with the police and last minute changes-of-plan had left our original story ideas in tatters. We had ambitiously hoped to make a film commenting on what Iran is really like in 2014; we'd wanted to speak with lots of Iranians on camera and to really get under the skin of the country. The reality was that we'd been limited to fewer interactions of the type we'd hoped for, and struggled to escape the attentions of small-town bureaucrats. Our adventures on foot, bike and in inflatable boats had ended up playing a much bigger role in our shooting that the social commentary and, in short, we were struggling to see where to go with our narrative.
Our journey along the Karun River was definitely one of my favourite-ever trips. It had everything I'd wanted from a short(ish) trip - thrills and spills; wilderness and people; danger and hospitality. It was fantastic. The problem was that the dynamic, rollercoaster-nature of this five week adventure meant it was extremely hard at the time to know what to film (and when we'd safely be able film.) We came home with lots of footage, but not quite the material we'd expected to get.
Filmmaking, I've found, relies strongly on finding the right balance between single-mindedness and flexibility (much like a good journey does too, I suppose.) After our initial annoyances at how much our original vision for the film had been shattered, Tom and I eventually came to see the strengths in the material we had. We stripped the concept right back down to its bare bones, and built it up again from scratch. It wasn't always fun, but it was certainly the right thing to do.
As it stands now, we're still only partially through the project. Last November, however, a major milestone was reached when we completed the short-form version of Karun. At 15 minutes in length, it tells the personal story of our journey through Iran yet still aims to show just what an incredible country it is. Over the next few months we hope to expand that into a feature, drawing out our secondary themes and finding creative ways to work with footage that has been gnawed at by the factors mentioned above. It's been the most challenging film I've worked on to date, but slowly it's coming together.
Right now, I'm more excited than daunted. I'm sure I'll see-saw between those two states regularly during the edit, but last night I received a real boost to my confidence for this project when Karun won the People's Choice Award at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival. Aside from the obvious niceties of winning anything (I could now constantly refer to our 'Award-Winning Film' - though I'll desperately try not to!) what I'm most pleased about is that the early audiences are responding really well. Our hard work seems to have paid off - Tom and I must be getting at the core elements of emotion and drama that make humans tick. That - a film that leaves an impression and makes people think and feel - is what we've been working towards.
I'm incredibly chuffed to get an award (if I'm totally honest, when I heard last night that we'd won, it was much like this.) Mostly, though, I'm just glad to know we're on the right track with this film, and I'm really looking forward to creating the feature. Iran is a place that had a profound effect on me, and I feel a responsibility to do justice to the experiences we had and stories that we found there.
So watch this space!
One final thing (and I think you'll like this): Tom and I would like to share the Award-winning (sorry, I'll stop now) short version of Karun with all you lovely folk that read our blogs regularly.
If you're already on my mailing list, then you don't have to do anything. If you're not, then consider popping your email address in the box below. I'll send out one email monthly with updates from my world of adventures, and at some point in the next few weeks you'll get a private and secure online link to watch the 15 minute version of Karun.
There are many great ways to travel - ways which offer a wonderful perspective for seeing the world and for exploring landscapes and cultures and everything inbetween. My pick has always been for the non-motorised ways; for the slower, more intimate journeys that occur when the power to move forward must be generated by one's own body. Over the last few years I've developed a love of walking, the slowest and most natural method of all, and most recently I also experimented with travelling by packraft (an inflatable boat that folds down to the size of a two-man tent.) My first ever adventures, however, all took place on bicycles and as I found on a recent trip by bike in Iran, it is still hard to beat the joys of cycling.
When I was 15 I set off to cycle around the UK with a couple of friends. I remember buying my first ever bike less than a week before we left. It took us four days to get out of Northern Ireland (we'd figured on one) and we spent much of that first trip making terrible navigational errors, complaining about how big the (small) hills were and apologising to policemen for accidentally cycling on motorways. It was brilliant! I loved it so much that the next summer I cycled with a friend from Northern Ireland to Germany for the football World Cup. It was another poorly planned escapade with more wrong turns than right, and in the end we only got there because Germany is so big that we couldn't help but run into it eventually. Needless to say, that adventure was also life-enhancingly wonderful. It didn't matter that we got lost, or weren't sure how to fix our bikes, or that we didn't speak any German (or French or Dutch) - all of our shortcomings seemed to add to the fun.
For the last 5 weeks I've been in Iran, attempting to follow the river Karun (the longest in the country) from source to sea.
Tom and I found all sorts of exciting, wild and madcap adventures in the mountains and plains of Southwest Iran. I'm very excited to share them with you in the coming weeks and months.
For now, here are a few very early pictures (the captions along the bottom will help orientate the images as a photo essay if you watch through from start to end.)
I'm also very hopeful that we'll be able to create a film of our story, so if you're keen to be updated on that then please pop your email address in the box below and I'll make sure you know when there's something to watch (no spam, I promise!)
Finally, I'm also very excited to let you know that after many years of pretending to write a book, I've eventually actually written a book! It tells the story of my very first (and still favourite) journey - cycling across America. The book will be published this summer, and as with the Iran film, there'll be more news to follow soon.
Enjoy the pictures!
With thanks to: