Monday, March 11, 2013

New Zealand 2013 - Bottled Ships

Woohoo! Finally, we have stable internet! I forgot how difficult New Zealand internet is. I suppose it's a small price to pay for a country this beautiful. There could be worse things like cancelled credit cards, cancelled flights, and Kim Jong Un threatening my current home with nuclear war. Gotta take the small victories when you can.

Last time I talked with you fine folks, I was on the North Island just finishing up some Bungy Jumping and was about to do some filming in Waitomo Caves (the infamous glowworm cave in New Zealand. You travel along an underground river on a tube looking up at a ceiling full of glowworms. How cool is that?). That seemed like ages ago, so I'll try my best to catch you up.

Our next adventures took us to Rotorua, a city in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. It's an adventure city, and we took full advantage of our 3 days there. Our first stop was doing something I didn't get around to in 2008: Zorbing.

Whoever came up with this concept is a genius. A Zorb is basically a giant inflatable hamster ball for humans. You stuff someone in the middle, throw some water in there so they can slide around easily enough, and go rolling down a hillside. Easy enough, right?

It's a rather easy and cheap 'extreme sport' to partake in, and we were lucky to get some film privileges when we went to Zorb Rotorua. The guy there, Kevin, hooked us up with as many rides as we want for free and let us play on the hillside with cameras while our actors were rolling down. While most people are confined to a viewing platform, my coworker and I got to dodge Zorbs on the hillside while capturing some of the best footage we've gotten on this trip.

Our best shot, however, was really close to being something like this:
Although these things are like 10 feet tall, they move pretty silently down the hill. They also have no brakes and no steering, and all it takes is a little bump to set them off course. We were filming at the bottom of the hill, and him and I were placed between two tracks filming our actors racing down the hill. About 3/4 down the track both Zorbs, as if it was staged, took a turn and started coming straight for us. We had about 10 seconds to react before we ended up like the girl in the video, so naturally we thought running from the giant plastic balls like Indiana Jones was the best option. And, much like Indiana Jones, I was able to just escape as one of the Zorbs grazed the back of my head. We shared some laughs with the owner, mostly out of thanks that we didn't have to sign a ton of paperwork at the hospital that day.

After nearly getting crushed by some Zorbs, Kevin took us aside and called up his tourism buddies all around Rotorua. I guess our near death experience entertained him enough to hook us up with some free rafting. Producer tip #1: make friends with people on location.

The Rotorua leg ended with some mountain biking and forest shooting and, for about 3 days after, much needed rest.

We stopped for about 2 days in Wellington, where we took advantage of some time there to score some B-roll and pick up shoots. We also got to roam the streets a bit at night, making friends with some local bar hoppers and discussing the finer points of drunken politics.

Wellington was a good midpoint for the trip, and at night I would look at pictures of New Zealand from 2008 and try to compare them with this trip. The memories would sweep in, and I imagined myself in 10 or 20 years down the road and what I would feel about this trip.

I always imagined that, when I was done with this whole adventuring thing, I would settle down and get a house somewhere. One room would be my office or den, and I would fill the cupboards and bookshelves with the knick-knacks and trinkets I've collected on my adventures. I've spent 5 years building these memories for myself, and I want there to be some evidence that I lived this kind of life.

It reminded me of those people that build bottled ships. They spend hours, even days building this little ship in a bottle. They take their time. Each piece has a purpose, and needs to be placed right. Once it's finished, they put a cork in it and set it on the shelf for display. Over time, as that bottle collects dust, the ship will still be on display...but the memory building it would fade with time. You'll remember the finished product, but the finer details you saw while building it would be lost forever.

For this trip, it was as if I was opening that bottle and trying to build that ship again...exactly as it was before. I was digging up old friends and places I've been. I drove by my old house in Hamilton and the university I went to. I pointed out the window to places I've been as if the cast and crew I was traveling with would have the same emotional connection I had. It's hard, because at times when this job becomes difficult, I fear that I'm going to taint that bottled ship. New Zealand won't be the magical place I always built it up to be in my head. It'd just be...well, another stamp in my passport.

That jaded mentality comes from the age, I suppose. I'm older. I've seen so much more at 24 than I did at 19.

There are some good things that come with that age, however. I've learned to experience moments rather than try to capture them. It's hard to balance that as a photographer and filmmaker, as you feel obligated to take pictures of everything. I'm finding that balance, finally. It only takes 1 photo to capture a moment. I'm learning to spend less time behind the camera and more time in the scene.

We crossed the Cook Strait this morning, a journey I've never been on before. It was a new memory and experience here in New Zealand, as I've never been to the South Island. As the ferry crossed into the sound near Picton, the morning fog broke, allowing us to see the emerald green ocean below and the waves crashing on the cliffs next to us. Sailboats would cross our path in the distance. Feeling the ocean breeze as we cruised towards Picton seemed to wash away the anxiety I was feeling. I remembered that feeling of freedom you get when traveling somewhere new. It was exhilarating again, even if only for a moment.

We're 10 days out from heading back to Korea. I'm feeling a little homesick, but I was smart enough to save the best for last. We've got a couple days of shooting that will seal the deal on this entire production. For the time being, I still can't release the images I'm producing for you guys. It'll come in time...

Our next stop is Frans Josef Glacier and then we're off to Queenstown for some rock climbing. I'll see you all there!

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