Munar Tea Plantations, India

During the month of May I will revisit the photographs from my trip to India. I took over 3,000 photographs on my month-long trip in December 2012, and finally I am getting around to posting some of them!

First stop is Munar, the beautiful and shapely hills of tea plantations in the south of India. I rented a motorbike with my girlfriend (she took a little convincing) and alongside some newly made friends from Germany, braved both the heat and cold of the mountains.

Munar tea pantations, Kerala, IndiaOnce outside the busy streets of the town of Munar itself, traffic was more relaxed, and the view spectacular! Tea bushes are pruned to English garden perfection, their cell-like structures coiling through gullies and up the slopes of the hills. I was surprised to find eucalyptus forests breaking up the vibrant green of the tea plantations – a sight, and a smell, transporting me to the Australian south coast.

It was so warm in the valley that morning that I had departed with only a t-shirt, but now high in the mountains I froze as I rode through the clouds themselves. The wind picked up at this altitude and I could see the white wisps washing through the trees. At the summit we pulled over to seek refuge with an Indian family who had stopped to build a fire beside the road. They didn’t speak English at all, so we could only offer plenty of smiles as we wedged our way into their group.

Down the mountain and into the next valley, my blood began to run again and we turned off the main road to explore a little village. I guess the townsfolk don’t get visitors that often with the way they stopped their work to stare at us. Again, no one spoke English, so it was with big gestures and smiles that we interacted with some kids who were hanging out their laundry on the best clothesline possible: floating across the top of the tea bushes themselves. A kindly looking old lady stopped to give me some fruit and pause for a photograph, as did another man carrying a giant blue loudspeaker.

20121216_IMG_7893_900My most striking memory of that day was watching workers build the road by hand high up in the mountains. Torrents of thick black smoke gushed from the furnace heating the tar, to which women dumped baskets of gravel scooped up and carried on their heads. All wearing flip-flops.

Distances in India often end up being much further than they appear on a map, given the dense traffic, livestock and just general hazards in whatever form you can think of. We finally found a waterfall that we should have, according to our “not to scale” map, encountered half a day earlier, and, since the light was fading, declared that we had successfully reached our destination. The truth was, we never had a destination in mind. With perfect, endless rolling green hills like those in Munar, you’re just there for the drive.

If you haven’t visited my website in a while, I’ve updated my films and photography, so take a look!

Camberwarra

I’m holidaying in Camberwarra at the moment – just outside of Nowra, south of Sydney. It’s a beautiful area with gum trees, wineries, brilliant green farm lands, and of course, the pristine white sands of Jervis Bay not far away.

It also happens to be the location where I filmed Denis Carnahan’s music video “Different World“.

Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi

When I mentioned to a friend of mine in New York that I was going to the Emirates, his reaction was sharply aghast.

“Oh….I hated the Emirates.”

My heart sank. Why so bad? Was I wasting my time visiting the country?

“I went dune bashing. The driver thundered along the edge of a cliff and I was thinking, ‘No, surely he wouldn’t…’ but then, yes, he does – yanks the wheel to the right and we go flying over the edge. It was the scariest thing I’ve done. I hated the whole experience.”

I was somewhat hesitant following this account, embellished by Megan’s propensity to throw herself from high places.

I’d imagined our tour as simply a cocktail of sand and fuel. Instead, it was a complete “cultural” experience. I place “cultural” in inverted commas because it was a little rushed and box-ticking:

Now you ride camels, now a dog show, now a falcon show, now look at the goats, now drink Arabian coffee and eat dates, now pat the eagles, now dress up in traditional garb, now watch a 7-minute doco on the history of the Emirates…”

Nevertheless, in a short space of time, I felt I had a glimpse of desert life, and retained an experience more holistic than just adventure sports.

On to the main event… It was somewhat amusing to see our guide, having just demonstrated traditional activities while wearing a Thawb, don a pair of shades and jump behind the wheel of a 4WD.

Dune bashing is a freeform roller coaster, the vehicle’s trajectory materializing in the glint of the driver’s eyes scanning for a suitable embankment. Only once did I feel unsettled: with the weight of the vehicle sliding forwards into a downhill slope and sand kicked through the window.

Overnight I camped under the stars, with a fireplace and chai tea, and in the morning woke to tackle the dunes barefoot. You really can just throw yourself down a near-vertical decline: giant, sliding steps, cushioned by the pillowed sand.

My remaining time in the Emirates was spent visiting a few of the sights of Abu Dhabi: The Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace and the Heritage Village. Again, Abu Dhabi is not really made for walking – so many footpaths have craters from construction, or simply end for no apparent reason.

I’m also discovering Megan’s hangriness – that sudden evaporation of energy that makes a girl wilt unless food be applied immediately. I guess in New York there is food on every corner, but traveling brings irregular mealtimes. I’ve learnt to carry snacks at all times…and that some things really do run on peanuts.

Dubai: I’m on a bus!

I’m on a bus! And it’s heading from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. With free WiFi. How times change.

Dubai is an architect’s dream. Futuristic buildings line the Persian Gulf in competition for the tallest, most unique design. Surrounded by desert plains, it’s a cleaner, more serious Vegas, where Internationals come for big business and luxury lifestyles.Dubai

It’s almost too clean…the streets below the Marina’s high-rise apartments where Megan and I are staying are designed for cars rather than pedestrians, making it a pristine ghost town. The most prominent bustle is from the hundreds of migrant construction workers trekking to their meal break, prayer time or back to the multitude of busses that will carry them to their accommodation.

Construction abounds in Dubai. Everywhere you look, new railroads, skyscrapers and other fantastical I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-that-is space-aged structures are forming. The metro looks like something out of Star Wars. Sneaking to the 97th floor of the Princess Tower (the world’s tallest residential building), I could see from The Palm to the Burj Al Arab (a hotel shaped like a ship’s sail), past Internet City, all the way to the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest man-made structure, at 829.8 m (2,722 ft)) in the hazy distance.

DubaiOver the next few days, we will go dune bashing and kayaking in Abu Dhabi. Then it is on to Delhi, Pushkar, Kerala, and wherever else takes our fancy in India over the next month.

I hope to have more updates soon!

Dubai Dubai

Dubai

NYC From The BQE

With my mind still saturated with the feature film edit I’d been working on, it suddenly sparked that at some point I’d catch a great view of NYC. I glanced out the taxi window and sure enough I was in that exact spot where the BQE rises above cemeteries with a line of sight through a clear night to a perfect New York cityscape: buildings jet black, windows vibrant, and iconic structures such as the Empire State, Chrysler, and Freedom Tower, glowing.

It was in that moment en route to JFK it hit me – that New York, that seemingly endless year discovering and rediscovering all aspects of the Concrete Jungle, had come to a close.  That chapter has finished. What’s next?

For the immediate future, it’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, and Australia. After that, we’ll see…

That’s a Wrap!

IMG_4363I have wrapped photography on MONKEYWRENCH after a 2 day shoot! The crew created a superb look and feel and the actors delivered hilarious performances. Everyone was a delight to work with, and perhaps as reward for making it through Hurricane Sandy and a snow storm, we were gifted with perfect weather over the weekend.

Have a look behind the scenes at our steadicam in action in this video:

If you would like to see more behind the scenes production photos, visit the album on Facebook.

UPDATE: You can watch the completed film here.

Obama, 15sec Of Fame & SNOW!

Welcome to another 4 years of Obama!

After 3 hours immersed in Cloud Atlas, Megan and I emerged last night to Obama’s beaming grin smattered across Times Square. I hoisted her up on my shoulders, and after waving a borrowed flag…awoke this morning to our picture across the world: CNN, MTV, Washington Times, Toronto Star, San Francisco Gate, Mercury News, Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph, the Huffington Post and the Arab News.

With only a couple of days left before traveling, it was the perfect night out in New York City! A small taste of the historic 2008 election atmosphere.

Snow in New York! November 7, 2012.

I spent today in lower Manhattan picking up the 16mm film from Panavision for my short film…amid a flurry of SNOW! After the disruption of Sandy last week, I’m now considering whether or not our lead character would be walking outside in a tank-top in this weather. Might need to script a change of season! There are only three days until we shoot!

 

Slow return to normalcy following Hurricane Sandy

Uprooted trees, the grind of generators and streets littered with debris. The clean-up following Hurricane Sandy has proven more troublesome than the brief event itself.

I made my way to Red Hook, Brooklyn, today to help pass out army food rations at Coffey Park. Like most low-lying areas in New York, the area is still without gas, water, food and power.20121101IMG_4013

Residents dragged muddy possessions from their basements to the street like ants building a mound. Swollen bookshelves, broken crockery, potted plants, dirt-stained carpet and rotting food scraps, the stench reminding me of a rubbish dump. One woman, huddled by a candle in the dark of her laundromat, came forward with a brilliant smile when we offered her food and water.

The pre-production for my 16mm short film MONKEYWRENCH has also been affected. With the main connective hub of the lower-Manhattan subway inactive, traveling around the city to gather props and check locations has been impossible. We decided to push the shoot back to the 10th & 11th November to allow both the city and many of our cast and crew members to recuperate.

Across New York City, tunnels, subway-lines and interstate trains have been crippled. A minimum of three people per car is mandatory to cross the East River bridges.

I’ve noticed a slight change in activity in my area of Williamsburg, and it’s not just the storm-saluting Halloween costumes: people dressed as such as sandbags, sporting Miami Hurricanes caps and perms to make Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy Olsson proud. Without the L train running in to Manhattan, people shop and socialize locally, increasing the pedestrian traffic and the sense of a village.

Here are photos from today’s outing in Red Hook!

Favorite Links to Hurricane Sandy

Sirens ring through ghost-town streets. Car alarms sound. And the gusts of wind through the trees grow stronger.

I’ve heard the term “bunkering down” so many times on the telly I’ve had to turn it off. The same way “inundated” gets exhausted during flood coverage.

Here are some of my favorite links to keeping up with Hurricane Sandy:

  1. This Google Crisis Map tracks the storm and has fun features to turn on and off: http://crisislanding.appspot.com/crisismap/2012-sandy
  2. Pictures from NBC News, updated every hour or so: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/49560895/displaymode/1247?beginSlide=1
  3. The NYC hurricane zone map, with mandatory evacuation from Zone A (I’m in the clear!): http://project.wnyc.org/news-maps/hurricane-zones/hurricane-zones.html
  4. NYC skyline photograph from the New York Times, updated every 60 seconds: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/10/28/nyregion/nyt-webcam.html?smid=fb-nytimes
  5. Memes! Every event gotta have memes: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/2012-hurricane-sandy

Stay safe!

MONKEYWRENCH – a 16mm short film in NYC

ABOUT MONKEYWRENCH…

Monkeywrench is a 7-minute comedy shot on 16mm film on location in New York. We have assembled a talented team of creatives to produce it!

Why this film? Because in the spectrum of life, monkeys and heartache are at opposite ends. Everyone loves monkeys, especially the fluffy, stuffed kind, that a special someone might win for you at a State Fair. Aww. On the other end… you have the every-atom-in-your-being-is-not-okay-right-now process of being wrenched from someone or through something, like that same special someone breaking your heart.

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Vanessa is suspicious when her ex-boyfriend Josh unexpectedly arrives on the doorstop of her New York City apartment, offering to fix her sink with his wrench… and holding a giant fluffy monkey.

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And in this process that you know is called ‘moving on’, because your friends keep yelling at you to ‘just move on!’, what often remains is getting annoyed about stuff you accidentally lost. Or can’t bare to let go of. Little things, or maybe not so little. Like maybe a monkey. But you can’t just go back and ask for it. Or can you?

In 7 minutes – comedy meets romance, break-up meets make-up, and… monkey meets wrench.

THE CHARACTERS

JOSH

Buff, good-looking, 20s. He is an ambitious, out-spoken, likeable Californian living in New York. Masculine, but not particularly handy with a wrench. He recently broke off his long term relationship with his Australian girlfriend, Vanessa.

VANESSA

Also in her 20’s, Vanessa is an artsy Australian who has been living in New York for several years. She is emotionally dependant, unwilling to let go of her connection to Josh… and fiery when scorned.

NICKY

Nicky is Vanessa’s housemate and best friend. A Brooklyn local, Nicky is fiercely protective of Vanessa’s interests and suspicious of Josh’s intentions.

THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE FILM

DIRECTOR – DAVID JOSHUA FORD

David Joshua Ford is a film & television director based in New York. Ironically, David didn’t have a TV set until the age of 12. A trip to the cinema was a luxury… and an escape. It was literature that stirred his imagination, and as an avid reader, his desire to understand the world grew through stories.

A directing graduate of the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), his work deals with themes such as human relationships, cross-cultural encounters and social imbalances. David’s visual style often favours heightened realism, with bold colours and contrasts.

David’s website and previous works: https://davidjoshuaford.com

JEFF MELANSON – DP

Check out Jeff’s amazing images on his website: http://www.jeffmelanson.net/

WRITER – MICHARNE CLOUGHLEY

Micharne holds a Graduate Diploma of Dramatic Arts (Playwriting) from the National Institute of Dramatic Art. In 2012 her play ONE FLESH was directed by Anthony Skuse at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Her work has previously been included in festivals by Playwriting Australia, Baggage Productions, the NYC Playwrights and Short and Sweet Festival. Micharne co-wrote the web series MY SECRET FRIEND (Think(it) Film Assembly, due for release late 2012) and the short films FREE BIKE and PERSPECTIVE, directed by Kristen Kress and featured on the Home Beautiful Magazine website.

PRODUCER – ALISON PATCH

is a California native who escaped back East 7 years ago to pursue her life-long dream of seeing leaves change colors and snow falling from the sky. From the mountains of the Caucasus to the streets of New York, she has produced films across the world, giving her a knack for making things happen in even the most creative circumstances.

UPDATE: Watch the finished film here.