9/3/11-Somewhere over the midwest, approaching the Great Lakes enroute to London. The Odyssey has begun...excited but nervous, I don't want to miss anything...this absolutely must be a successful trip. At the same time, its out of our hands. We can only observe and hope something comes of it...we must avoid trying to fit this into a preconceived shape. We must approach this story with an open mind and heart-from there, the film will materialize.
So, a world shrinking but growing more isolated due to technology...but I wonder, is it really shrinking or are we just building the framework of the virtual reality to come? Are we then at the same time dismantling the reality around us?
This is also a spiritual journey of sorts for me, I have always been interested in the asthetes' lifestyle and feel the necessity of not letting technologicel momentum sweep us all away from self reflection and contemplation.
9/4/11-London-Boarded and awaiting take off for Baku, Azerbaijan and then on to Tbilisi. A rapport with Father Maxim is most important and hopefully Temo and I will be able to work together. So much to find out with this trip...the hope of course is that there is a story there.
Questions: What does he expect or hope for through this act? Why has he been so fascinated with Katskhi Pillar? What do the locals think of his act? Why did he become a monk? Are there any stories or legends surrounding Katskhi Pillar?
9/6/11-Tbilisi-My second full day in Tbilisi,the bustling capital city of Georgia. Temo and I walked all around old town-shooting footage. We found a few possibilities for the intro sequence,my favorite being Narikala Fortress overlooking the city. I would love to shoot a fiction film here the cityscape is amazing-so much history in these cobbled streets.
Georgians on the street seem to have a marose look about them, they walk with some aggressiveness that they seem to utilize while driving. They are, however, a very warm and welcoming people once you get to know them. It's a wonderful culture and language although I think the language is difficult-it looks almost like it was inspired by Arabic, though I believe it's far older, maybe informed by Aramaic.
9/7/11-Tbilisi-Last night I couldn't sleep,mind racing, concerned about the project. Random interviews will be hard in Tbilisi, must find something more powerful. Perhaps,modernity-Georgia is a country that has been modernizing at breakneck speed since the fall of the Soviet Union. I have noticed that almost every block around my hostel is under some form of construction. The sound and image of these vast construction projects will contrast nicely with the silence and contemplation I'm expecting at the pillar.
In reviewing footage we shot yesterday, there is some really interesting stuff. Temo and I also had a long talk over beers, Khachapuri(cheese bread) and Khinkali(Georgian dumplings), I think Temo will be a great DP-he obviously has an eye for it and we have a very similar sense of aesthetic. I think we will work very well together.
Must remember to update the blog tonight.
9/8/11-Tbilisi-Shot more footage around the hostel. Construction work, torn up road, knarled traffic, shrubs growing from brick, a purple scarf hanging out a beige window...an elderly woman texting in the middle of the street behind a mound of rubble. A child, probably homeless, attempts to help people park for money. I think his would be an interesting story to tell. There was also an elderly man who flagged me over to shoot footage of him in front of his home, which was actually below the street. He tried to get his wife to join him in the shot but she refused. Some amazing vignettes...how will they work into the film...who knows...just some amazing footage.
Purchased two books in Georgian perhaps one day I'll be able to read them... I want to study this language thorougly. I would also love to come to Tbilisi, spend a year or so and just make films. There are so many excellent locations in the city alone not counting the amazing rural areas. Bring Maboroshi Productions to Georgia? Who knows...maybe...
Tbilisi-jack hammer symphony,Mercedes,BMW, luxury car cacophony-probably mafia, rolling over dusty broken streets-these streets talk...groan beneath my feet...the echo of history off the stone walls of an ancient and collapsing church being reclaimed by nature.
9/9/11-Tbilisi-Today we are heading for the pillar. Five or six days there and we'll probably have something...hopefully...
On the way, Temo pointed out to me temporary housing for people that were displaced during the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. It's hard to believe that not three years ago in these foothills Georgians and Russians were skirmishing.
SHOTLIST:Sun rising and setting on Katskhi Pillar-a sense of a veil being removed. Images from inside church/hermitage. Panorama Shot. If possible stay up there one night. Document day to day of Father Maxim and the rest of the monks. Interviews. A Father Maxim interview is essential. We must also be a fly on the wall.
Temo's rock climbing friends have allowed us to stay in their small dacha. Leaky roof, out house, spring water, mouldering beds(slept on the bed but in a standard issue Georgian military sleeping bag I bought at a flea market the day before). Still, it will be a perfect basecamp for the crew during production-the pillar is only a half mile from here.
We arrived yesterday in the early evening and after dropping our stuff off at the dacha we went straight to the pillar. I climbed the iron ladder...took some footage on the pillar-the chapel, the hermitage, and the tree. Enjoyed the sunset-exhilirating-I was awe struck. It was dusk when I finally decended. Father Maxim asked Temo and I to stay for wine, cheese and some conversation. I was struck by how down to earth he was, not at all what I expected in a monk looking to resurrect an ancient act of devotion.
A rainstorm blew through during the night... I awoke to water pouring from the ceiling being backlit. At first I thought I was dreaming but as my eyes adjusted, I saw Temo with a headlamp moving our bags and putting down bowls to catch the water.
We awoke to misting rain...had a good breakfast and then set out to find the pillar for the morning shoot from the cliffs. We wandered through the forest for about two hours and it started to pour again-we couldn't find it so we headed back to catch the afternoon service at the lower chapel at 3pm. During that service we took some footage of the monks from outside and then I had Temo shoot handheld inside the chapel. After the service, the monks invited us to lunch. I shot some footage in the beginning and then sat down to eat while a monk read from a book...aside from this, the monks ate in silence. Afterwards we shot footage around the pillar and waited for the evening service.
At the end of the day we finally found the pillar from the cliffs, but it started pouring again and I was reluctant to take my camera out-but now we know where it is-we are going early tomorrow to get them ringing the bell. Hopefully it will be clear or at least partly cloudy...we can only pray...
9/11/11-Katskhi-A great day of shooting today. Arrived at the pillar about 8am-they were starting the Sunday service-some shots of Father Maxim, shots of church with monks chanting inside. A few tourists or maybe locals came by and climbed the ladder-we shot them ascending and held the shot to get the cloud movement above and behind the pillar-clouds broke up and it became a perfect day for shooting-huge relief that it stopped raining.
A van of medical students from Chiatura arrived and four guys climbed up the ladder. Temo and I followed them up and interviewed them by the tree and the bell, then one of them facing the other direction. Temo shot some handheld pickup shots of them moving around the pillar. After going back down we interviewed one of the girls in the party and she told us of a legend about a woman who dreamed of going to the top but when she realized that dream she died in a car accident soon thereafter-a cautionary tale for adventurous little girls I suppose. Temo also said that he overheard some Georgian tourists-the girls were saying that they wished they were boys.
We ate breakfast with the monks and got some footage of them working (they are still rebuilding the site). There was also a monk's robe drying on a tree branch, swaying in the wind-it was an excellent shot. We also interviewed the master builder outside the church with the monks and acolytes busy at work behind him. The shooting day culminated with a dramatic lift of an Icon stand to be placed in the chapel on the pillar.
9/12/11-Katskhi-Excellent interview with Father Maxim-the highlight of the day. Temo warmed him up and Father Maxim opened up...afterwards we had tea, bread, and pears-Father Maxim said that next time I come they'll make me a monk and then he'll send me up the pillar and then Americans will come to interview me,such a warm fellow. We also shot the sunrise this morning but it was partly cloudy and the light was sporadic, potentially interesting but not very dramatic.
What's left-sunset behind the pillar, shoot from cave in cliff, shadow of pillar on the cliff, and shooting footage inside the lower chapel during night services.
9/13/11-Katskhi-Cloudy morning,slept in and had a big breakfast. We went out to search the caves that overlook the pillar-absolutely amazing. The second cave still had walls built inside it...Father Maxim said that there was a stylite that lived in the cave-they found strawberry patches, figs, and grapes growing from the rocks. We then trekked behind the pillar and found an ideal spot for the sunset...we set up the shot and waited.
An old villager carrying a huge double barrelled shotgun came up the mountain path and spoke with Temo for a while-he was looking for two lost cows. From time to time cows passed by our spot but they weren't his-amazingingly in Georgia, the cows are allowed to just wander and they usually find their way home...a few days ago we even had cows passing through the yard of the dacha.
Tonight was the night that we were supposed to stay in the monastery but the monks were already asleep by the time we got there. An acolyte told us that the monks went to bed early because tomorrow is St. Simeon's day(the stylite) so they are having a special service from 12-5am-he let us know that we are invited to attend.
9/14/11-Katskhi-Final day here. We have just completed shooting a spectacular sunrise. Perfectly clear day with sharp crisp shadow of the pillar moving across the valley-when sped up, it should look amazing. We also attended part of the early morning services for St. Simeon and shot a lot of footage both inside and out of the lower chapel-extremely interesting images.
We have spent six days here. Visiting the monastery everyday, frequently eating with the monks, even helping them in their work. They seem to be warming up to us and I hope this continues as we begin principal photography for The Stylite.
9/15/11-Tbilisi-Working through the footage-most is very exciting. I wish some of the shots were better but documentaries are different from fiction films. You must operate on approximations-so some of our framing wasn't perfect but much of it was excellent. We gathered enough content for a trailer and possibly a short documentary. The more we can build excitement around this project the better.
I came here hoping to find a story and now I'm leaving with one that must be told.
9/17/11-Baku,Azerbaijan-Returning to the states after two amazing weeks in Georgia. I love the history and culture. Walking through old town, I was continuously inspired-the architecture, the fact that buildings are sort of falling into ruin near major renovations gives Tbilisi a surreal quality. Of course the textures, the historic subtext, the ease of shooting all give Georgia a very cinematic feel. I'll definitely be making a few films there, but The Stylite will be my first.
My personal thoughts about Father Maxim-he is a very warm, open, and caring monk with a sense of humor. Incidentally, he's also allergic to the incense used during services and is often coughing-that's a story in itself...a monk allergic to incense?
I'm confident that I'll be able to put something together with the footage...maybe a short documentary we can send to festivals while we raise money for the feature. But what to call it? Maybe simply "Prologue", a Georgian word or maybe something from the Bible...I'll have to think on that.