- April 15, 2014 -
Songkran Infused with Table Tennis
I arrived yesterday morning in Melbourne, welcomed by the chilly morning temperature that it’s so well known for. I made sure I wore long pants and a long sleeve shirt just in case. It was quite a stark difference to the temperature I was in for the last 2 weeks, where I was sweating and not wearing a whole lot of clothing. I admit though that I welcome this change.
The last week was quite busy, planning an event for the last day of filming in Chiang Mai. The idea was to promote the ping pong marathon a bit, so Adrian had a genius idea of placing a table tennis table right in the middle of Songkran celebrations. (All Songkran photos were taken by Joey Marasek, and the ones on this post were edited by me. See his blog here LINK)
Now if you do plan a shoot, I think it’s absolutely key (with any project) to make sure everything is planned. However, we could only plan so much as Thailand is a whole other beast when it comes to handling official matters. We had a verbal agreement with one of the event officials that we could place our table at the main event between 2-3pm on Saturday. In all honesty we could’ve just stayed there for a lot longer. We didn’t have any officials greet us, or approach us during the entire time we were filming. I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t even approach an official earlier, and simply just hauled a table tennis table into the event!
We tried to go all viral, and have a social aspect to it. Unfortunately most people were preoccupied with blasting away each other with water guns so not many people had their phones out to use our #pongcnx hashtag.
The purpose was to bring some more awareness to the issues of sexual trafficking in Thailand. I think it’s something that should be done every year though (ping pong in songkran), most definitely. That way it can start to get some more traction and gain some more international supporters.
I had to definitely cover up my equipment to shoot this event. No one is going to stop and simply not shoot just because you have a camera in your hand. Its actually even MORE of an invitation to shoot you. I use a plastic wrapper which a tshirt was in, and then use some yellow tape to tie it around my camera. I cut some holes for the viewfinder, and for the lens. I brought a UV filter to protect the original glass of the lens. Then I simply held it close to me and shot! It worked pretty well. I did have to wipe the filter every now and then as there was water flying everywhere, and had some splotches to clean up.
The best thing about this little stunt we pulled was that there were random people joint in and playing against each other. I think that is so important for such a cause, to bring people together and to I suppose play against each other, for a common cause. Not that they really knew what we were doing this for, but a few did ask about what pingpongmarathon.com was, and that’s exactly what Adrian (director of ping pong-a-thon) wanted to achieve I think.
The table as you can see, was half broken, thus why we used this one in particular. It was Urban Light’s old table, so Adrian got a fresh new one to replace it. This table was most likely trashed afterwards! A bit of fun for the boys at the Urban Light centre.
The last night for me was simply going out, and enjoying some of the nightlife of Thailand. Went to a bar called Guest View, which I recommend for anyone who comes through Chiang Mai. Its quite funky with its decorations, live band was excellent and it was quite cheap for a drink!
Well, back in Melbs. Time to get back to some money making to fund my next trip in June. Japan is next up!
- April 9, 2014 -
Interviews & Tid bits from Northern Thailand
A little bit since my last blog post. But it’s been quite busy indeed! I’m currently staying in a dorm at an NGO in Chiang Mai, called Urban Light. They’re quite known around here for a lot of the work that they do with boys! Nevertheless, lets rewind a few days!
I was in Bangkok up until Monday this week, where we finished off that leg of the trip with filming a few personal stories of the girls & boys which have successfully gone through, or are going through, the programs at a couple different NGO’s. We went to either the places where these NGO’s resided or to our character’s homes to interview them.
This involved our characters talking to either Celeste or Benita about their lives, largely to do with where they had been before & where they are now. It generally revealed massive transformations in these peoples lives, and it was really amazing to see the relationships that were built up with Celeste & Benita.
I’m specifically using character’s as I cannot reveal the names of these girls & boys, nor can I show much of a front on shot of their faces. It’s all a matter of privacy and security as these issues are incredibly sensitive and its out of respect to the organisations.
Adrian (director of Ping Pong-A-Thon & Celeste)
All the interviews i’ve filmed currently has been with slight movement. I’m giving it a bit of life, emphasising different points that our interviewees make, such as zooms on impactful statements for example. They arent hugely noticeable, and quite fast movements. Considering I don’t have a two camera set up either, we’ve been heavily reliant on doing a separate take with just hand movements, and then general shots of them doing various things. Could be buying food, walking down the street, sewing etc. It varies, but gives me something to cut to so things aren’t so mundane for the viewer (although with the stuff these people are saying I highly doubt it’s going to be mundane!)
Anyway, we were off from Bangkok to Chiang Rai on a plane. Was about an hours flight. Chiang Rai is way north, close to the Miyanmar border. It’s quite a small city, but we met with another NGO there which works in prevention – so essentially running schools programs & education to stop the initial process of parents sending their kids off to work in the bars & brothels in Bangkok and surrounding areas. This organisation works up here because it’s a poor area, and a high percentage of girls and boys who are working in Bangkok come from this region. We interviewed Gla, who is a local working with this organisation.
Afterwards we made wonderful local lunch with her and Nathan who was driving us around and showing us the landscapes of country-thailand. It’s actually incredibly green, and very mountainous in the north. Anywhere around Bangkok seemed to not be as luscious and mountainous.
We also filmed, (and largely for the promo material) the kids at this organisation playing table tennis. I shot it all in 60p so I could slow it down in post and get some nice slow action shots. We took a bus afterwards from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, which is quite a lot larger. It was great though, and our next plan with ping pong is to actually stick a table tennis table into the middle of sonkran (their insanely huge, on an epic scale, country wide water fight). We intend on getting locals to play table tennis in the midst of the chaos. It wold look fantastic on camera I think.
So, yes! I’m currently sitting here in Urban Light, about to go tackle a coffee and then get some footage going for the day!
- April 5, 2014 -
Bangkok, city of angels.
Bangkok. I was actually very astounded at how developed it is. I honestly kept thinking it would look very similar to other places I’ve seen in South East Asia. But it seems that I was very wrong. It’s got a very modern edge to it, roads are relatively okay to travel on, there’s a full fledged transport system etc. Nevertheless, the first impressions were rather surprising. We did spend over an hour in the taxi to get to our hotel though (DaVinci Hotel) but that’s expected with the amount of traffic in Bangkok. We made sure that we had time to have a look at the Red Light District. No filming however, was simply a quick look. The next few days involved us visiting NGO’s in which PPAT support financially.
So, as we embarked on our short little adventure on the night we arrived, into Nana Plaza Adult Playground, I actually was shocked at how obvious it was. Bright neon lights, bold writing, people absolutely everywhere, girls in bikini clad clothing with numbers, smiles & sweet talking. Enough to really open your eyes at how huge this industry is. The other dumbfounding thing about it, is that it’s illegal. And yet, its so pristine clean and out in the open that you wonder at who is actually running these places.
On the morning after, I had a few thoughts about what such an industry means for so many workers. Although the night before wasn’t specifically to do with boys in sex trafficking, it was still at the heart of the issue. The boys are in other parts of Bangkok (which we are going to tonight). We headed off to meet with a lady to discuss her story, and then film some footage of the NGO (message me if you want the name) she set up close to Nana’s Playground (most NGO’s set up close to their place of ministry).
We interviewed Benita and she shared extensively about her story of how she got to Bangkok from the US, and what they do here. She shared the emotional journey of ups and downs, of the victories and the losses. It was truly impactful on me personally, and also as a filmmaker. As a filmmaker because it shows me the necessity of what I’m doing, and shows the impact a film made about these particular issues could really have. One doco in particular about sex trafficking issues ‘Nefarious’ is a must watch. After this marathon interview session we spent the rest of the night at cafe near our hotel (message me if you want specific names, its another NGO) enjoying the art meet up and mini exhibition of lady boys creative expressions.
Celeste who heads up this particular NGO essentially helps Lady Boys with education and offers them opportunities to work at this cafe she has set up (which serves delicious coffee and cakes). Giving them another source of income, and helping them grow and pursue careers which they actually might want to do. It’s brilliant! We spent some time with her today, getting to know her a bit better (one of the sponsored organisations of Ping Pong A Thon). We also interviewed her, got to know a bit about her and the stories she had to share. Currently planning on getting footage tonight to use for a story she shared in particular!
Will update again soon, currently in Bangkok until Sunday. Monday leaving for Chiang Rai.
- April 3, 2014 -
Filming in Cambodia
I’m currently on a trip. A very wonderful trip! Actually, its been more confronting than anything else. I’ll just briefly intro this current project though, so there is some context for the rest of the post. Ping Pong-A-Thon Is a fundraising initiative that’s basically existing to bring to light the major (and much lesser known) issues of BOYS in the sex industry. They raise money by getting men to play table tennis for at least 3 hours, during a 24 hour period annually. They then get people to support them in their efforts of playing table tennis for that length of time. All funds raised go towards providing money for various NGO’s within Thailand & Cambodia.
That is the basics. More specifically, I’m working with the founder, Adrian Rowse during this trip to capture footage which can be used to promote this years events which will be held around November. We are going around to various NGO’s which they support, interviewing the people who work there, and also recording somewhat undercover-ish footage of the industry itself. Cambodia was the first leg of our trip, however definitely the shortest too.
Above is a hotel room in which I stayed in. It’s also an NGO run place. Daughters is their name.
Side note: there’s about 4,000 NGO’s in Cambodia.
The first day involved visiting two NGO’s. We went to a cafe in the interim between the two (which happened to be an NGO cafe itself – a lot of people from the US). It was actually a fantastic cafe I might add. It had some ridiculously cool drinks, and this brilliant chicken & mango salad. Jasper Cafe I think it was called.
We spent 2 1/2 days in total there, and predominantly our time was spent with ‘Hardplaces’ outside of the interviews going on with other NGO’s.
Hardplaces exists to help boys to move out of the sex industry, teach them english, provide support with a drop in centre and educate some to be tour guides.. Giving a different source of income, and also helping them get out of an abysmal and depressing industry. We were hanging out a lot with some of the boys from there.
At Hardplaces, we filmed some of the boys doing english classes and interviews with Ryan & Judy who run the show there. They’re both from the US (surprise hah). The second day, we went in the morning to get footage of the tour that they take tourists on. This was actually brilliant to see how something so small & simple has had a profound impact on their lives for the better. Nevertheless, a lot of the footage was me on a tripod in garden areas & temples, or running hand held through underground markets. Also had our guides hooked up with a lapel microphone so I could clearly hear what they were saying.
We also set up an interview with people at Love146 (some of you may know them) which are involved in doing research on the issue of boys in sex trafficking in Cambodia. Because it’s a relatively unknown but MASSIVE issue, Ping Pong-A-Thon support a lot of their research that they do.
After Love146, we ventured off into the night to film some footage from the Tuk Tuk of the red light district areas. We visited another NGO before we did this, they are called The Message Parlour – basically a drop in hang out lounge right in the middle of the red light district area. We had one of the Hardplaces boys guide us through and show us where different kinds of bars were. I’m going to be honest and say how confronting the scenes were. I’ve heard of, and vaguely seen this scene in other countries in South East Asia, but nothing like this. The footage actually turned out great because it seemed quite undercover, hidden & I suppose somewhat undesirable. The hand held camera movement, the dark lighting with the bright neon coloured lights illuminating a lot of the scene – it all just complimented what we were doing naturally.
I’d say trying to shoot solo for such a project is doable, but it’s a matter of knowing what you need. I think filming weddings has given me the ability to really capture a lot from just one single camera under pressure. Its about choosing shots, and knowing what angle and types of shots you need to cover certain subject matter.
Anyway today we got some nice little bits and pieces to camera of stories Ryan & Judy had which were uplifting and also very saddening. Such is the way though with the kind of work these people are involved in. It’s really made me think twice about how best I can use the passion and abilities that I have, and would love to head down a path of perhaps doing more media/films for people like these! A thought for the future.
Side note: Also had brilliant pizza.
Flew into Bangkok at about 6pm, and I must say It’s already been quite astounding. More on that later!
- April 1, 2014 -
Cataloguing for Travels
A gear post. In light of my trip to Cambodia & Thailand, I had to do a check of all my equipment and see what was needed to get in the next week. This is also for those who are interested in what I use to shoot most of my work (unless rentals are involved).
At the moment it seems like I’ve got ample enough to use! Here’s (most of) my gear.
For the trip I’ve basically brought everything except most of my lenses. I’ve only got 2 lenses, and these 2 cover all I need. So my Sony zoom lens which is basically my workhorse for this trip, and then one vintage prime to use for certain detailed shots and some interviews. It’s a little nerve-racking taking off lenses in such a dusty place, so I’ve not been swapping as much.
I’ll be talking about the trip thus far in Cambodia, and what I’ve seen, discovered and filmed, accompanied by stills in my next post (hopefully tomorrow night). It’s definitely going to be interesting! Stay tuned.
- March 21, 2014 -
So, I ordered a new Tripod. I was after something that wouldn’t break the bank, but was also quite sturdy and reliable. This lead me, after many hours of research, to this tripod. It cost me about $260 with express shipping to Australia. It’s a Davis & Sanford 7518.
It comes with a huge bag and an extra base plate. It’s got a wonderful build (although some plastic bits which I’m iffy about) but seems to be quite sturdy nevertheless. It will be a great addition to my grip arsenal. Heavy enough to support my FS100 rigged up, but portable enough to take with me to places.
One thing I absolutely love about this Tripod is the lever on the head. This little lever is so nicely placed, and feels great when you want to lock away your tilt control. It also has two handles giving you an extra bit of control over your pans and tilts. Truly a great addition. It’s also quite tall, extending up to about 5’8, and uses telescoping legs meaning that it saves on space and allows for a decent amount of height if need be.
Having used a variety of tripods like millers and manfrotto’s, this does keep up quite well. I’ve yet to really fully utilise it as I was waiting for it to arrive for a while (I was hoping to use it last weekend but didn’t arrive from the US in time). I’ll be sure to let everyone know how it fairs in due time! I’ll be taking this with me overseas for sure.
- March 20, 2014 -
(Small) Review on March
I did try and make up some kind of clever word play for the title, but alas I don’t think I’m really cut out to be a writer. Anyway, March. An inspiring month, with many things going on. Firstly, weddings.
Last weekend I had a great, and wonderful time to shoot and work along side Tigs again, and also (for the first time) Angelface, my lovely girl. We tripped up past Ballarat on Saturday, for a day which I suppose was forecasted to be fairly sunny with scattered showers. The wedding was entirely on a farm with beautiful scenery all around. Unfortunately there was a bucketload of rain, no – more like torrential downpour which washed out the ceremony and made everyone retreat to a nearby veranda of a house on the property. The vows concluded and they were married.
I’m happy for the rain however. I know a lot of people dislike rain on a wedding day, and for good reason, but there really is something about an unexpected moment in a day that makes it that much more memorable. For some odd reason I’ve seen rain bring people together at weddings – perhaps its the whole concept of being should to shoulder underneath some cramped shelter, and you can only simply laugh about the situation with others. You embrace the day, and I think that’s key to a good story.
March also brings me a shoot overseas, in Thailand & Cambodia. This is for an (almost) non-profit organisation called ‘Ping-Pong-A-Thon’ who essentially raise money to support other NGO’s and non-profit organisations overseas, to stop sexual trafficking of boys. They do this by holding annual events around Australia, where men come together and raise money to play table tennis for a long period of time (up to 24 hours). It’s quite a unique concept and essentially comes from the term ‘ping-pong’ which is used on the streets in Thailand as a way of identifying if you want some sex.
The trip will be 2 weeks long, and actually deserves a whole post on its own really. I’ll get to that soon!
- February 12, 2014 -
I don’t update my blog that often. But, I’m intending to from now on! I want to write articles, post up photo updates etc so people perhaps might want to follow along with me.
I had the pleasure of purchasing a FujiFilm X100 camera the other day. I actually sold my 7D kit, as I have recently invested into a SonyFS100 kit. Thus, the need for something that would take photos.
I was researching and I recalled a post I saw on GetDeluxe.co – which displayed the authors kit. He raved on about the camera, and so I looked up on some reviews. It then occurred to me that this camera was perfect. With its creamy tones, great dynamic range, and handling of highlights straight out of the box, it seemed like a great little camera to have in my arsenal for documenting, travelling & general shenanigans.
There is a slightly newer model – the X100S which sports some extra features and more mega pixels, but for the most part it’s the same camera. Budget wise, it made sense to just go down the X100 route.
You perhaps might be hesitant buying this camera, maybe because you read some reviews about the auto-focus, or start up times. All of this doesn’t matter, as there was a 2.0 firmware update which largely got rid of most of the issues that were had previously. It’s a perfect little camera now!
I highly recommend this camera if you’re looking for something which is compact and light. It’s no SLR, but it definitely takes a picture on par, if not better than an SLR. It doesn’t have an interchangeable lens, and battery life is pretty dodgy.
Buy some accessories for this thing though, and it’ll be pimped out. It looks great, like a vintage camera, and is weighty like a vintage camera too. You’ll be having people mistake it for an antique.
Nevertheless, I’m going to keep at it anyway. I’ll be posting more images from my travels, and posts about general life for me here both professionally and personally too. I’ll endeavour to do some workflow posts too.
- February 1, 2014 -
Happy to have you land on my re-redesigned website! I’ve decided to make this website more personal, and also provide a lens into the journey of a freelancing filmmaker in Melbourne, Australia.
I’m currently open to projects of any kind, so I would love to hear from you, and hope you follow along with me on this journey
that I’m embarking on this year, now 2014! There are a few exciting projects I’m working on this year, so can’t wait to share them with you!