As a filmmaker and story collector, I see story in everything. I ask questions all day. How, what, when, where….? Never completing getting full answers but this probing is what makes my journey as a filmmaker, never ending, and a path of being a spiritual warrior. I look for truth in the un-seen. I try to understand who people are and what makes them come alive. What I have discovered people are just as interested in story-telling, but most are numbed down by how fast our world is moving, and are looking for more authentic ways to express this ancient way of communicating through telling stories. Never before has the art of “storytelling” and documentary filmmaking become a key element as a tool for inspiring, educating and elevating people towards self-inquiring.
Safety lies in those that stay home and watch TV for excitement. As a documentary filmmaker, I thrive on traveling to interesting places, mostly in the East, like India, and Africa, where poverty, wealth, and imperfection paint a backdrop of color only an artist can see the beauty in. I find my home in the villages and my heart in the temples. Even when I hate being in India, I begin to miss it. What a dichotomy of emotions India can offer. Within this stark naked formless feeling, of being between worlds, lays my true purpose as a filmmaker, finding stories…….within stories…..discovering stories……and filming the shit out everything so that the story unfolds within my camera lens. The aperture is liquid gold. I am in awe of this amazing tool. I am also wishing I could be wiser and slow down, to know the farmer that lives in the hut and takes care of the land, and milks the cow. We are only hours apart by plane, and yet I don’t know how to merge with these people. So I film them. And create stories with color. It is here, that I hope to discover what others can see through my film work, we are living in a beautiful world, and every person is the form of the formless – creating story.
Starting out on the edge of life, filmmaking is all about discovering what your limits are and then rising above them. When I took on the role of DP for the documentary project, “My Heart’s Song, Story of Hazrat Inayat Khan” I wanted to film this documentary because I had a deep interest in Sufism and God. I had already filmed 3 other documentaries in India, mostly done in guerrilla style, with only a small crew, this was no different. I knew there would be challenges, but India brings a whole other element to play – chaos.
Heat is not a filmmakers friend. Filming in India in the heat of October, lent to a whole new level of developing my inner calmness, and to play with the heat instead of resisting it. It became an element of design, for only could I work around it and the heat of the hot sun, as my backdrop for artistic design. The director had a vision for this film, crafting it with enthusiasm and structure. We took over-night trains every 2 days, venturing into the foot steps of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s mystical path. Upon arriving in the morning, we would start out full speed with camera’s in hand, capturing life unfolding in front of us, asking questions as if we were preparing for a play – how did he move, what was his heart singing, whom did he speak too, what did he eat, etc. Never was there a moment without the essence of his spirit guiding us, and holding us with such care.
We began carving the past into the present, with a clear narrative whispering into our subconscious mind, all is one, all is God, surrender to truth. People had given us clues to where we should go, and still we knew something deeper, more colorful, worldly was waiting for us to embrace. Even in the high heat, and sweat. We kept on the journey into the heart of Navaratri the biggest celebration of the year in Kolkata, India. And here we were not outside the city, but in the womb, in the gut, of the Durga puja celebration, where millions upon millions of devotees of the Goddess Durga were pouring out into the streets, to celebrate the Maha Goddess, the Great Mother. The greatest of all Mothers.
We had our driver stop in the middle of this mayhem to capture a shot of the school where Hazrat Inayat Khan had gone. In the mist of this massive herd of people we set up our camera ploy and began to film. Within seconds, we had an audience of about 100 people, whom didn’t speak english, but just stood there and watched us. We had a created a spinning vortex of no time, a vortex of curious minds watching as two westerners staked camp in the middle of the busiest time of the year in the streets of Kolkata.
All smiles painted the insides of my heart, because this felt organic, raw, and divinely orchestrated. I was in a dream. I was in a dance. I was living my purpose. I was able to witness this outside of myself, here we were out in the streets of Kolkata with the impressions of life moving in between ancient worldly charm of a cow pulling a cart, to people texting on their phones. All was occurring in the swirling of real-time. so quickly, I felt frozen, as if spirit was painting this canvas to hang in his godly home. Until we were able to catch our breath, on our way out of the city to our hotel, did we both look at each other, with glassed over eyes, “what just happened back there? was that real? who are we? what is this all about?
India. Kolkata. Durga Puja. Maha Navaratri, the biggest goddess celebration of all year. I would do it all over again. Even in the heat. Even though I hate working in the heat. I felt stronger after that. I felt more alive. I felt love is all that is real. Filmmaking connects people. It brings people together. We are all in awe of this life. I keep taking pictures, and making films to understand, to ask questions, and to create stories. Story. Story. Story.
Travel Log – “Notes from India of the Divine Mysteries”
It is 2015, I have been in India since, October 7th, starting off in Mumbai shooting film for a few days with Director Amin Dawdy, then north to Ajmer and Pushkar, where we began our second round of filming for this spiritual and mystical documentary about the Sufi Mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan. From Ajmer, we took our second overnight train ride to Agra. Though seeing the Taj Mahal was beautiful in its design and splendor, it wasn’t until the next morning when we left at 5 am to go to Fatehpur Sikri and the palace of Akbar, that I felt the essence of the land speaking through this sacred site. God speaks through the eyes of its people, in between the thoughts there is a space; this space I call the mind of God, and that could be found here at this temple of red stone. From Agra, we took a day train to Gwalior to visit the tomb site of Tansen, a prominent Indian classical music composer, musician and vocalist, known for a large number of compositions, and also an instrumentalist who popularized and improved the plucked rabab (of Central Asian origin). He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud-din Akbar. Akbar gave him the title Mian, an honorific, meaning learned man. Each step we kept walking was a sound current of an unfolding story being written through light, as we filmed invisible possibilities of knowing truth. Nothing was seen, but felt as Amin and I ventured out on this journey, asking questions from the inside, and seeing what unfolded in front our eyes, and our lenses to capture. It was a mystical process, still unfolding each step of the way. From Gwalior, and the heat of Northern India, we took an overnight train to the City of Varanasi. I had been in Varanasi 2 years ago, during Maha Kumbha Mela. But Varanarsi changes with the rising sun each day, and Mother Ganga has a language of her own. So nothing repeats itself, but the glory of life unfolding each day. We started filming at 5 am as the sun rises over the crest of her majestic glory (Mother Ganga), lending to cinematographic images that only a God, a energy supreme to my own intentions could ever create. Filming in Varanasi is and will always be one of my favorite places in the world. It is the apex of all spiritual pathways, Hindu’s, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sufi’s, etc.………it’s in the land, and the silent mist rising over the Mother Ganga in the morning that faith is spoken with no words, but felt in prayer.
From Varanasi, we fought our way out of the city during the biggest celebration of the Goddess Durga, called Navratri, to get to our train station in order to take an overnight train to Kolkata. We sat in the train station over 3 hours waiting for our train held in a serpentine cloth of grace, keeping us steady towards the next leg of our journey. We had left the city of Varanasi, filled with wonder and………..with more chapters to be written. Bengali has spice, flavor, and mystery. It is a city where many poets, writers, artists and yogis have come from, and brought their knowledge to the West. This city worships the Goddess Kali. It can be found in the history of the people whom go to the depths of understanding God, and how to create art with God at the center of the work. The next morning we went out to film, and were met with thousands, if not millions of people coming to the streets to celebrate the Goddess Durga. This wall of people did not stop us, but gave us verve, and energy to stay afoot and find the essence of truth, and the un-truths that can steer us away from our own sense of life, and loving life no matter what. What might have been lost with materialism, throughout our world, lives in sunder, protected effortlessly with out our human intention by by essence of its own power. It’s a big pot of people in these cities of India, and still the echoes of spirit play a tune that only the blind man can see, because it is infinite space beyond the vision of our human eye.
As a filmmaker, its not about what we shoot, but about the color, the light, the movement of energy that makes a shot, speaking from the voice of God. It is sound. It is a story that unfolds upon one breathe and a blink of an eye, or shutter of a camera, the story paints its own wings, and thus we fly…….to enter into a space where the heart lives. And this is the path of a Sufi. A heart with wings…… Kolkata offered this and more, for the street life is a cacophony of bright colors, and weathered stone-buildings. People live on the streets, nothing is hidden, life is raw. The Voice of God is the only salvation of hope, and faith……….Life feeds life……no matter what. Everything must be offered to something higher…….even in the painted dirt, flowers spring color of this truth….. From Kolkata, we flew to Hyderabad. It is a modern city mirrored by an ancient past of Mughal aristocracy. Yesterday we drove through the old city to visit the Royal Banquet Falaknuma Palace. Majestic and royal are the only words that paint the truest image of what it represents. The contrast from the rest of our trip is palpable. For the last 15 days, we have walked the steps of a mystic, of a seeker, in the mud, the dirt, in between the cries of the poor. These people are the earth, though blinded as the modern day mystic might not realize, the poor have their own richness, and that is close to the earth….humble, and simple, with very little desire………
” God is not in time. Therefore He is in the silence. Sound is part of the world of time.”
“He is in the silence…..” What does that mean?
This past week, Romanski Films has been working with the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom on their Living Wisdom Tour in Los Angeles, and creating media for their new E-Book. The two main events for the Wisdom Tour, Yuval Ron’s concert at St. John’s Cathedral & the live Transformance at the Vortex Dome, LA Studios, took place in the center of Los Angeles, bridging the often busy mind to the universal mind of peace and unity of all religious ideals.
The reflection of our current world is painted with strife, especially when you consider the millions of refugees, mostly children and mothers, from Syria filtering into refugee camps throughout the arab countries of the middle east. These are times where a spiritual master, such as Pir Zia Inayat Khan brings a message to the open hearts of all citizens, based on the tenets of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. These seven pillars guide us along a pathway to discover our own sense inorder to serve the collective cry for global peace.
Romanski Films has learned that the message of the Sufi is one of deep contemplation and dedication to right thought and action. These seven pillars are based on a dream by Pir Zia Inayat Khan and have become a field of unity and placement for discussion amongst many seekers of truth. Filming the segments for the Seven Pillars House of Wisdom E-Book, Pir Zia Inayat Khan spoke of Wisdom that is ancient, but pertinent to our modern and futuristic world that is ever-changing beyond what the human mind can comprehend. Which is why “Wisdom” has become one of the key answers to help humanity regain the strength and vigor it needs to become unified.
We are grateful here at Romanski Films to have the opportunity to work with a living master of knowledge, based on the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This mystical journey represented by Pir Zia’s words has birthed a universal framework based on commonality between people, so we can build our own inner reservoir of peace, and become sound leaders of humility and exhibit love for all that suffer on a global scale.
When the mirror of ignorance becomes our own, that is sign to listen to the silence of, “truth”. We are all ONE, and a sound heart contains the wisdom we all seek.
The answer lies within you…….the silence is your Wisdom.
What is Truth?
Within the lightening of higher thoughts and sounds traveling inside my heart; I found a place in India that feels like home, Devipuram, Ashram. As a documentary filmmaker, this path is the path of the Unknown. I travel this path to know life, and part of my practice is to surrender to Truth when if falls upon the crest of my heart and soul. Its at this juncture, that I just press record on the camera, and trust……….this is art, this is documentary filmmaking. To know this path, one must see beyond the common site, beyond the imagination………
I first fell upon, such a divine place when I was sent there to film for the documentary Shakti, Directed by Anka Malatynska, about a Los Angeles yoga teacher, traveling to India to study tantra and teach yoga to sex workers in Kolkata. We spent a whole week at the Ashram filming on site, but mostly sitting with Guruji in satsang, listening with virgin ears to the wisdom of his voice singing the mantras of the Sri Vidya Scriptures. This ancient, esoteric wisdom of Shakti, is the path of the Mother, which goes beyond the separation of thoughts or even commonality, its about Moksha, about life, devotion, and respect FOR LIFE.
After leaving there in 2011, only a year later, I arrived back to the Ashram to continue filming Guruji, with a small crew.
What is know about this sacred Sri Vidya lineage is hidden in the practices of mantras and yantras, but one must have patience and beyond all that, a deep devotion to the Goddess. So many of these ancient practices to the Goddess have been hidden from our modern societies by veils of fear and destruction, mirrored by consumerism and materialism as a way to achieve Moksha, but that is changing and people, especially people of the West are starting to seek higher levels of self-knowledge, not by what they have, but through devotion and respect for LIFE.
I consider it is time for the path of Devotion to Life, to come through in many forms, so that humans begin to see life as sacred and creation of life as a gift. The War we have on this planet, is a War that belongs to those that have forgotten Life as a pathway to self-knowledge, as a pathway to forgiveness, as pathway to love. We pray, we cry, we bow…….
After spending three months at Devipuram Ashram, and filming every corner of the unknown mysteries of its essential truth, which is Devotion to the Goddess,
I teamed up with the Devipuram film team to interview Guruji. This unique interview captures the essence of his child-like innocence and connection to the Goddess.
Interview with Guruji by Julianne Reynolds
Documentary filmmaking is like a dance, filled with unexpected moments and yet art merges through it, as if the camera does the dance, and the filmmaker is the tool for the bhava to paint the picture into the lense.
ROMANSKI FILMS has set up production on Kauai to film the internationally known dancer from Rajasthan, India, Colleena Shakti. She is tall and walks with ease of of not only a dancer, but a sculptured piece of art carved into the temple walls of Orissa. She holds at the edge of her field the seeds of an ancient tradition from India, Odissi-dance. It is with respect and integrity to the dance and her guru that keeps her field of curiosity as an artist fresh and potent. What we are to discover is Odissi dance is an act of devotion. What she captures is a cacophony of colors and shapes like a breathe of fresh air, within a blink of an eye, one is mesmerized by watching her; but who is she?
Bhava is the space or span of free energy, when the mind is empty. It where spirit and matter meet. This pure energy is what makes a film have Rasa! It’s day two filming Colleena, as she teaches this sacred dance from India, called Odissi. The dance is a mythological story of gods and goddess, inbued with folklore from the ancient days of temple dancing. Playing with light and soft movements of the camera’s aperature, the element of surprise keeps the camera rolling and the camera crew filled with bhava. There is a sense of tension, during the classes, as sweat drips from the crest of one of the students chin, and a limping leg from another student bends her into the edge of giving up; but the women push through, like the seed that sprouts into a tree. Colleena has bridged the western world of attachment to form with the eastern principles of developing a disciplined mind, teaching that dance is a way for creating deeper inner understanding of our limitless capabilities. In fact for Collena, it is the only way.
As with most of Romanski Films documentary projects, stepping into the unknown is the key to our creativity, unfolding with wit, humor and bhava – filming is a dance. Rasa is the thread. The art form goes beyond the camera – the art becomes the artist, like the lotus, rising above the constraints of the mind – what unfolds is spirit – symbolically speaking.
This is an amazing project about the life of a western women, awakened into her true bhava, which she found through Odissi dance. The essence of Rasa – like hot flames – come alive as she steps aside, and the Odissi dance moves through her – this is what feeds the soul of those that watch her. When we taste the fruits of life, rasa bears this fruit which only tears of gratitude can fill this void.
Tribal in essence, but organic and raw when juxtaposition against the ancient temples of India, the only element that has been lost is our connection to the Mother. To the land. To the temples. To the devidasi’s that held this devotional dance to the Gods and Goddesses with such innocence and vulnerability, it is only the beauty of love that can keep it alive.
Life moves through her like a dance. She comes alive when performing Odissi; nothing stands in between her and the essence of devotion. The freshness of her spirit, and losing everything to the dance is intoxicating. The camera doesn’t stop rolling……….action, take 5!
Colleena Shakti - The Art of Odissi Dance
Romanski films has set out to Kauai to film the internationally known dancer Colleena Shakti, from Ragasthan, India. We have brought India to Kauai, filming at an Indian-esque temple. Every corner and stream of sun light carving a cinemaphotographer’s canvas of beauty. We are developing a short documentary on Odissi dance and the art of devotion. Day 1, the story is beginning to unfold as women from around the US come to study with this unique and talented woman. First morning begins with Sanskrit chanting…… and choka…..
There is an art to asking for money, but the process that stream-lines any campaign to reach its goal is in the leg work you do before hand, and that’s where Romanski Films steps in.
Who is your audience? How do you reach them???? Ok,—yes, video is the most powerful way to reach your audience, but you have to know where to place your video on the world wide web of infinite possibilities.
There’s your email database and Facebook friends-always a great place to start but, don’t forget those Facebook groups. What’s so great about a facebook group: it’s a stronghold of people under one common goal, and you can start your own facebook group to help launch your funding campaign-Reach out-connect people to your mission. Tomorrow we are helping Seven Pillars launch their Indiegogo campaign.
Quiet on the set, rolling tape, and action. Simply said, but not as easily done when working in the realm of asking for money from the Heart. With the rise of crowd-funding in the past couple of years, and technology, making videos for raising money is shifting our way to connect. In 2006, I was one of the first entrepreneurial people to launch a crowd-funding campaign to help pay for my travels to India to film a documentary on Yoga. At that time, Kickstarter or Indiegogo, didn’t exist. I just spoke from my heart, as if that was more important then the money. Money is energy. But Money can also help manifest people’s dreams and visions, into reality, and that’s what, Romanski Films has done for the roadway of crowd-funding. What are the “whats and nots to do” for a video crowd-funding campaign? Simple said, speak from the heart, be authentic, create a connection with your audience, and simple trust, trust and trust more. This process is Zen-based. When the Pitch is lost in trying to get funding, it goes against the true essence of what crowd-sourcing is – a community base of shared resources, from people that truly want to connect from the Heart, and know that their money is streaming into and back into their own hearts.
Yesterday, I filmed and directed an Indiegogo campaign for a transformance-technology dome-media project-Phew what the heck is that? Well, we are going to find out, after we film the indiegogo campaign.
We started the morning at 8am, fighting the hot sun, trying to find the Voice of the Soul, to come through about a project that didn’t belong to my client but belonged to a new economy of community-based funds. As a SAG member, and with years of acting classes under my belt, I know how to direct-non-actors. Its the Zen of acting, let go, let in, into the heart. Speak from your heart, let go how you think this should sound, but speak from that authentic place, the place of an innocent child-who sees this money game we adults have created as just a game-right “just a game”.
Creating this unique and special campaign, was about transforming lives, our lives around money, around our purpose and our missions to speak from the heart. When our purpose cuts to the chase, and money becomes a connector to something bigger then us, magic happens, miracles happen…..it becomes just a game.
Cut, that’s a wrap! We got it. Finally. The hot sun, hung heavy on us, bringing me and my client closer to the earth, to the heart of his message, he wasn’t asking for money, but looking for a community of commonality to share in his vision for more peace and freedom on the planet. I’d give him my money, because we both hold that common thread of Truth that we have to crack open our imaginations to seeing new ways for money to assist us in our purposes, in our communities and in ourselves; the self being a co-creative source of inner funding, and its not so much in the asking as it is in the Being . Now the fun part, EDITING!!!!!! Julianne Reynolds
“Varnrsi, the city that belongs to those with psalms written into the sound of the soul, and whispers of footsteps.”
I’ve been filming and traveling through India for two and half months, with a anticipation for it to end in Varnarsi, not on the side of urgency to return home, but the edginess and emptiness a documentary filmmaker gets when, he/she loses site of the path blind-sided by expectations. I had developed a hard -pain in my belly about going to Maha Kumba Mela, the largest spiritual festival in the world, but also eagerly awaiting the unexpected to approach me with mystery and verve.
I set off to Kumba Mela for one of the holiest bathing days. Driving from Varnarsi to Kumba Mela, Allabad and trying to capture the movement of energy with my camera put me up against my own sense of integrity and questioning mind- what do I not film (when in India everything is amazing to capture) but at the same time allow the ever ending of impressions that pass by my eyes merge into invisible thought forms to be later translated for the film we are producing on the ancient practices of Mother Worship?
Documentary filmmaking is an art form of the unexpected and a spiritual practice of standing afar from yourself and merging into the essence of truth and then allowing that to stream through the aperture of your camera. India is one of those places that bridges the old world and a new modern world-and Kumba Mela stretches this truth beyond the imagination. For miles pilgrims walk on the earth, towards the holy mother ganga, separated from the demands of a modern-day-consumeristic society that needs the comforts of finite things; these pilgrims walk with the puriest intentions of the infinite– the unseen mysteries which come in the form of a river they call-Mother Ganga.
I kept my camera close by to capture this movement of hundreds, if not millions of people walking into the camp sites of the Kumba Mela. It wasn’t what I saw that I was trying to capture but what I felt and this is where the trust comes in as a documentary filmmaker- where the filmmaker and the camera become teacher and student, and the light passing through the aperature is a spirit giving a Voice to the Sacred Land, the people, reflections…… The student was me; the teacher was the pilgrims. They knew within a circle of innocence; that taking wasn’t what she asked of us: we must give back and that’s through prayer.
The impressions of India stand alone- the simplicities of these pilgrims has not yet been destroyed by the infringing modern ways of consumerism. Their pure innocence and connection to the sacred are roots, that may not only save them, but the world. I was told by many people that the Mother Ganga with so polluted with toxins, that even the village people that traveled thousands of miles by train, to swim in this river could not understand-WHY-? How? Who? The hardness in my stomach was Truth. I was apart of this pollution, not only here in India, but across the world, and my camera was the tool to change this, to tell these stories, to educate myself, and dive into my own innocence and vulnerability that edge up against life, in moments that you least expect them.
Camera still by side, teacher and student documenting the pure and impure-inorder to carve a middle way………more to come.
Roll, Record, and make more films.