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.
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
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