Baggage of a Documentary Filmmaker

Baggage of a Documentary Filmmaker

One of my favorite exchanges from Shakespeare in Love is:

Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?

Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Hugh Fennyman: How?

Philip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

The statement is as true for Shakespearian theatre as it is for international documentary production.

This morning I awoke from my jet-lagged slumber and packed up all my bags and gear in order to depart for Lampang at 12:00noon.  Before that, though, I needed to run some errands—breakfast (at Bake & Bite), ATM, sunglasses, TB drive—which meant… more riding on the back of a motorbike.

The ATM was an attempt to stagger my withdrawals so I would have enough Baht on hand to pay the camera operator for a 2-day shoot and a 2-day HD camera rental.  That turned into an ordeal and after several failed ATM and bank teller attempts, I needed to call my bank in the US…

That required a US calling card so I could make calls from my cell phone (which now has a Thai # and a Thai SIM card).  While I was at the cell phone store at the mall, I also got help setting up my voicemail so I could hear the prompts in English (not Thai).  By the time those errands were done, the Bangkok Bank was open.  I called my bank in the US and they removed the foreign ATM restriction, so I could pull out cash, which I would have to do in smaller increments than I originally thought…

By this time I received a text message from Soraida Salwala, stating she was too ill to meet me today and was hoping to be able to join me at FAE on Saturday, August 15!  Because she is the subject of my documentary and there is not much point in me being at FAE without her, I needed to adjust my production schedule, so I canceled the 12noon driver pick-up.  Between his broken English and my very poor Thai—I know how to say 7 things: ka (yes), mai (no), Sawasdee ka (hello), krup kum ka (thank you), check bin (check please), jai (Buddhist/vegetarian), and cha yen (Thai Iced Tea)—we were able to figure it out…

To give myself time to plot my next move, I tackled two more errands: purchasing new sunglasses (because mine fell off on the motorbike ride yesterday) and a TB drive (to hold the HD footage we shoot over the weekend).  Bronze Aviators: 199 Baht.  TB drive: 6,000+ Baht…

While shopping, I realized that I should wait to head down to FAE until Saturday morning so I can ride with Liam (Camera Operator) and Julia (Photographer), and save 1000+ Baht if I had to hire a driver twice; however, that meant checking into a hostel for 2 nights in Chiang Mai.  The first place that came to mind was the IC (now the Uniserv) at Chiang Mai University, off Nimmanhaemen Rd., where I stayed in 2007 with the cast of the Chiang Mai Project.  It feels good to be somewhere familiar with air conditioning, even if it does cost 600 Baht/night…

Next stop: cha yen break at Happy Hut.

More texts with Soraida, plus a call to Dr. Preecha, told me that—Surprise! The schedule is changing again, although not drastically.  They decided that Mosha needs to have her prosthesis adjusted while the Prosthesis Foundation crew is at FAE helping Motala.  Today, it stands that Mosha will get her leg adjusted on Saturday at 9:00 am and the crew will start building Motala’s leg on Saturday afternoon.  Both procedures are scheduled to be completed by Sunday evening…

One more call to the driver and I rescheduled the pick-up for Saturday at 7:30am at Uniserv.  Next, I called Liam and Julia to share the change in plans.  Finally, now that I have a tentative schedule again, I started reaching out to my other interviewees, Richard Lair and Galen Garwood to schedule their interviews around the changes…

After the phone calls, I was able to get settled at Uniserv, and just in time, too, because a thunderstorm decided to roll into town.  After some email, Facebook and To-Do List making, I decided to use the down-time to get a Thai massage at Nimman House.  200 Baht (less that $7) for a 60-minute massage?  Ka!

What’s in store for tomorrow?  I’d like to actually use my camera to film around Chiang Mai.  Currently, I plan to film the view from Doi Suthep; film the elephants at the Chiang Mai Zoo; spend the afternoon filming as many elephant statues, topiary, signs, and fountains as possible; and then visit the Night Market in the evening to buy some saffron and film some street elephants.

How much gets crossed off that shot list? “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Windy Borman

Producer, Writer, Director, The Eyes of Thailand

P.S. Production in Thailand is scheduled until August 24, 2009.  If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution to help fund the production, please click here to donate through the film’s fiscal sponsor, The San Francisco Film Society.  Thank you!