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.