Day One and Two – Documentary Filming Notes

Day One
Transportation consisted of city taxi  from the apartment across town to a LUCKY Tourist Passenger Van. I asked Yieber if Lucky was the name of the tour company and he said, “No, it’s lucky because you rarely find cheap and comfortable together.¨ We got dropped off at the edge of Calca then walked through the small town until Richard, our interview subject, arranged a taxi to climb the steep and winding dirt road to his village.
With nothing to keep us from going over the edge but dry grass…. I wondered how many cars had slipped over the edge. We climbed to the top of the hill then wound our way back down in what seemed like the same direction we had come from. Suddenly there was pavement under us again and the taxi doubled his speed. Honking before each curve, I thought…. was that really going to stop the approaching traffic?  I felt as though I was in some surreal game of chicken.
We passed an exclusive looking resort that was built around a hot spring. I  was sweaty and dusty and we hadn’t even begun shooting yet. As we wound our way back up the hill again I wondered how hot those springs actually were.
I stared out the window, listening to the conversation in the taxi. The men spoke to each other in Quechan so I couldn’t even pick out words to get a hint of the topic. (I´m actually beginning to understand a bit of Spanish!) We passed an entry to an archeological site and one of the Incan trails then continued to snake upwards.  I was grateful for the pavement.     We arrived at a small village nestled high in the mountains and Richard led the way up a gravel path past a few simple buildings with stone walls surrounding them. After a few minutes we arrived at his home.Richard´s House

The exterior walls were adorned clay mixed with straw and guinea pig fur then treated with cactus oil for waterproofing.  The artwork was traditional Incan imagery.

Weavers from Totora
Weavers from Totora

We met Richard´s beautiful family and scouted out best site to stage our interview. The view from his upper deck was spectacular and afforded some nice lighting. He dressed up in his traditional wear and appeared with his 5-year-old daughter who was also in her best outfit. It was a fun shoot although I couldn´t understand what they were talking about. I look forward to seeing the footage and having Yieber translate for me. When we had finished with his interview his wife presented us with a fabulous dinner.  I gobbled down everything except the meat, guinea pig, which I offered to my partner. After dinner Richard´s wife gave us a demonstration of her skills as a weaver. I couldn´t believe the complexity of the pattern and the speed at which she shuffled the strings back and forth. I was reminded once again how friendly and accommodating the people of Peru are. The offer the best seat to sit in, their finest food to eat and always thank you for visiting. I was truly humbled by their generosity despite the fact that they lived in poverty conditions. I vowed to help Richard promote his weaving so let me know if you are interested in purchasing authentic hand-woven goods. I hope to set up a mini online store for him soon. I was toasty warm under the weight of 5 heavy wool blankets even though the temperatures dip considerably at night.

Day Two
I hadn’t slept well, (too stressed about completing the film on limited budget) but decided to rise early because I wanted some quiet time to meditate. I slipped my boots on, grabbed my camera and hiked up a wall lined path to a sunny clearing between the Eucalyptus trees. The Australians brought the trees to Peru in the 1800´s  with good intentions but it turned out that they drink too much water and create problems for the farmers. There are 2 types of eucalyptus trees here in Peru, 2,000 types of corn and 4,000 types of potatoes (the ones I have tried so far are amazing!) I tried unsuccessfully to capture one of the many birds from the region but did manage to find willing subjects in a sheep and her lamb.Sheep and her lamb
I returned to the house where Richards wife had prepared a typical breakfast of mate and cancha (tea and roasted corn) After saying our goodbyes we escorted his eldest daughter, an adorable 5-year-old, to kindergarten. The school had recently been renovated and the teacher welcomed us into the tiny room.  After photographing a few other buildings we made our way to the edge of town where we only had to wait mere minutes for a taxi. The system for taxis is much different from in Canada.  They´re share taxis and everyone who is going in the same direction jumps in. When the slightly beaten up cab pulled alongside us I could see that the car was full. The driver jumped out and opened the hatchback for us… Okay, that’s cool, we don’t have to wait for another. (you take what you can get here)  I climbed in and positioned my pack under my knees which needed to be bent in order for the hatch to close. We drove a short distance and passed a group of women waiting at the side of the road.  To my amazement the driver stopped once more. I guess we weren’t full enough!  One woman squeezed into an already crowded backseat and another jumped in between Yieber and I.  With her came an unpleasant odor and I wondered what was in the large sack she placed at my feet. Then to my surprise she sat on me. I fidgeted and wiggled trying to push her off but she held her ground and didn’t budge.  Apparently she was quite comfortable.  A few moments later I heard squeals from within the sack. Guinea pigs!  They squirmed against my leg. I  repositioned the bag so it wasn’t touching me and tried my best not to think about them. They´re common food here and this was most likely her business.  The ride down the mountain seemed twice as long as the ride up. I waited patiently for my turn to get out when the driver released us upon arrival back in Calca. When the woman finally got off me and reached for her bag a puddle with a stream ran directly under my butt. Great!  Now I would walk around the rest of the day smelling like rodent urine. I paid the 8 soles (dirt cheap) for our transportation and was grateful for the fresh air of the market. I bought some oranges a banana and a small bag of quinoa while Yieber went to the bathroom.  Riding backwards on the twisted road had left
him feeling nauseous.  I guess you get what you pay for. We cut through the market and headed for the main road in search of a ride back to Cusco. Fortunately we found space in another nice touring van. (There were 4 passengers that had to stand all the way back) Yieber’s stomach had settled so we ate the oranges and sat in silence along the route towards the city.

Cooking dinner andes style
Cooking dinner andes style

I reflected back on a discussion we had earlier in the morning about paying our interview participants. Usually you pay actors but not when shooting a documentary.  He explained that the people were poor and had given of their time to take part.  I felt frustrated at my lack of funds.  I  realized that even a small amount of money would make a big difference in the lives of these families.  I wish I could offer more but I explained that we wouldn’t have enough to complete the film if we paid all our interview subjects. After thinking about it more this afternoon I decided that we would pay if they asked and I had faith that we could find the money to complete our project. I was here after all to help these people and share their stories.

I´m sitting back in the apartment now in Cusco waiting for Yieber and Caroline to arrive so we can check our footage of the past two days of filming. I´m excited about how well everything is coming together despite challenging conditions and limited budget. I feel confident that we will create a brilliant documentary. Tomorrow we head back into the highlands again to film the results of a successful project from 2006 by Unicef in Lamay.

Day three, here we come!


3 thoughts on “Day One and Two – Documentary Filming Notes

  1. Your taxi experience brings back memories of mine in Kinshasa, Congo! We were squished into ramshackle vehicles with wooden boards for benches and the gas tank between our legs! Some of it was quite frightening, but, I’m glad I experienced it. I don’t know the rodents by my feet would be hard to take for me though 🙂 Stay safe!!


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