ruminations on a series of unrelated events
Last spring I was asked by Albert William, a colleague in my department at IUPUI, if I would like to co-teach a study abroad class in Greece with him this summer. Yeah, that is what he asked. I don’t know about you, but it is not every day I get asked if I would like to spend 3 weeks on a greek island. So of course no more than .000001 of a second elapsed before I replied, YES!!! So this May 18th we depart for the island of Paros. On May 20th our 10 students will arrive and we will commence shooting a documentary about the ruins on the nearby island of Despotiko. On the tiny uninhabited island of Despotiko archeologists have been excavating the ruins of a temple to Apollo for the last 30 years or so. Our team is going to make a documentary about those ruins and the efforts to uncover its past. 5/31 We arrived on May 19th and the last 12 days have been blur of filmmaking, sightseeing and eating. And lots of walking. I find Paros to be absolutely enchanting. With the exception of a few strange days of pouring rain and hail, the weather has been perfect. Unfortunately the heavy rains of the preceding spring has made the island a madhouse of mosquitoes. And that in turn has made the art of mosquito killing a frequent topic of conversation among us all. When not running around shooting B-Roll and interviews, I have had to devote a lot time to finalizing the Kenya scripts and working on the shortlists. This has proven to be a hard thing to concentrate on, but I am trying to make time to have fun soaking up the environs. So highlights so far include interviewing Yannos Kourayos, the lead archeologist of the Despotiko dig. Yannos is character to say the least. With an energetic personality who is three steps ahead of everyone else in the room, he can’t contain himself and starts talking before we even call action. He can’t be bothered with details like that. Anyway, we got a great interview with him, the anchor interview of the show. Another highlight was our trip out to the Despotiko dig. And again, true to form, Yannos just started right into explaining the entire site before we even had a chance to open up our gear and get set up. At last we had a chance to do a little shooting of him. And afterward we set up some nice jib shots that I think worked out really well. Today was another big highlight. We went to the ancient quarry where they started mining parian marble in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was all hauled away hundreds of years ago, but the quarries are insanely amazing. They are underground mines, not open quarries like we see today. I went into two of them with all my students. The seemed like mine meets natural underground caves. In fact one of them is called the Cave of the Nymph because the quarry hit a natural cave, the cave of the nymph. Consequently there is a carving at the entrance from the 4th century BCE to honor and appease the nymphs.
June 11th, 2015
So we wrapped up editing yesterday morning and then screened the videos to the whole group early in the afternoon. I think we did a pretty good job creating a substantial amount of solid content. To start with we produced 3 videos from the individual interviews we did. Those can be seen here:
Our main project was the creation of a 12-minute video about Despotiko. Tomorrow we will be screening it for local people who were involved, supportive, or just plain interested. We will be screening it at the Aegean Center, a local art center that has been here since the mid-60s. The 12-minute piece called Despotiko: An Unknown Treasure is still rough. We will be laying in a professional VO and improving the final graphics in the upcoming weeks. Our hope is that the video will eventually be on display at the local archeology museum. Yannos Kourayos, the lead archeologist on the dig, will of course have to sign off on all the content and he has thus far proven a tough customer. He doesn’t mince words. He will see the whole thing for the first time at the Aegean Center tomorrow and we will no doubt hear his thoughts.
Early this morning I got up at 4:00 and drove 5 students over to the east side of the island to watch the first light of the sun. It was pretty cool. We got a rather high vantage point for about 30 minutes and then we drove north of the town of Dryos where we managed to find a good view of the sun just before rising over the neighboring island of Naxos. It was pretty beautiful, but it has sapped my energy all day until now.
So the experience of taking 11 students to Greece for three weeks is definitely an intense one. It involves being 1 part parent, 1 part den mother, 1 part teacher, 1 part mentor and 36 parts cat herder. Somehow we held it all together and not only managed to produce some videos that don’t suck, but we also managed to have a little fun in the process. The students by all accounts had a wonderful and enriching experience. I heard a lot of comments about it being the most amazing experience of their lives. The opportunity to give a group of students such a life-expanding experience has been very rewarding.
But I find that now that our job here is done I am suddenly restless to tackle the daunting Kenya project. Saturday I fly to Athens, Sunday to London, Monday to Nairobi and Tuesday a 6-hour drive to Eldoret where I will be shooting for 6 weeks.