6000 miles of pleasure boating heaven. Arguably one of the most incredible maritime adventures known (and unknown) to mankind. So why, oh why, would you want to spend, what should be a relaxing, meandering circuit of the Eastern United States Intra costal Waterways, the Erie Canal, Great Lakes, and the inland river systems of America's heartland stressed about worrying if your camera batteries are charged, or if the weather conditions are going to be ideal for the shoot you are planning, or whether or not your interviewee is going to turn up on time, all for the sake of making a TV documentary.
Well before we even get to answering that lot, let's throw in another curve ball, as well as an explanation and a little bit of history. First off you are planning all of this documentary 'stuff' from the 'other side' of the world, ( in Australia ) while working and sleeping on your sailboat in a marina in Australia. crazy?, maybe.
It's time for that little bit of history I promised. Nine years ago I was sitting in my corporate office in one of those glass tower high rise buildings in downtown Singapore. It was lunchtime, and the majority of my corporate colleagues had gone out in search of the best chicken rice dish in town, while I sat chewing on a protein bar I had stashed away in my desk drawer for such occasions. I took a momentary glance up from my lap top to see a small framed young Asian man walking past my office with a massive video camera on his shoulder. That one glance would ultimately change my life.
I impulsively leapt up from my desk, scurried over to the door of my office, and chased ( not in a harassing kind of way) the small young Asian man down the hallway. He was about to enter the lift when I caught up to him, presumably to take the twenty seven floor journey down to the lobby and out into Singapores oppressive humidity at this, the middle of the day.
I politely, yet eagerly said, ' hey wait', it was enough to get his attention. The young guy swivelled on his heels and in perfect unison with the huge video camera he was hauling on his right shoulder, his eyes finally met mine, albeit at quite an angle ( I'm six foot one inch, this guy was barely scrapping past five foot four).
' Whats up' he replied. In that millennial kind of vocabulary that grates some people, me included.
' Hi, whats your name' ?, I staunchly replied in my very formal corporate speak.
' Edward' he quietly answered. He now started to look rather nervous and curious about why I had accosted him at the entrance to the lift, his pathway to safety.
' Sorry about this' , I continued. 'I just wanted to ask you what you had been doing with that video camera in our office'.
Edwards somewhat startled face was now going red. Was he thinking I was from the security department and was about to give him a hard time, or worse.
'Man, I have been shooting some corporate video's for your company and I am just wrapping up for the day'.
' OK' , I said with no explanation 'yet', as to why I had delayed his escape.
' I will take the lift with you, come on lets go', I started to walk inside the lift which had just arrived at the twenty seventh floor. Edward sheepishly followed me and we transcended the floors to the lobby level not uttering a word.
Outside I asked Edward about his video making skills and experience. Still not saying much. He told me how he had made an under cover movie about skydiving in Singapore (which is totally illegal). He had a budget of SGD $300 and he made it with a friend. I asked him if he had a copy of it, he said he could get it for me.
Fast forward two days - Edward and I met for lunch ( you guessed it, at the best chicken rice place in Singapore). I shared with Edward my dream to make a documentary about a motorcycle ride I wanted to do across Asia. The twist was I had no budget, and that I would have to fund it all myself. I asked him if he wanted to be involved, and what would he charge me.
Fast Forward six months - Edward, his girlfriend at the time, along with myself, and a small bunch of friends left Singapore, three of us on motorcycles, the rest in a borrowed car, and headed north up through Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. Filming along the way, creating a short film documentary that would go on to win best short film documentary at two International Film Festivals. The budget I gave Edward to make that documentary was SGD $0.00, it ended up costing me SGD$3000.
I have since dived into the world of video production, and have dream't since that project in Singapore, that another 'unlikely' subject, issue, topic, or destination, would inspire me to do it all over again. In early 2018 while scrolling through You Tube one night, that opportunity appeared right in front of me, and it is called THE GREAT LOOP. I was instantly hooked.
Now with my beautiful partner Susan, and our two year old puppy dog Oska, we are well into the planning, designing and logistics of bringing together another documentary that will be even better than the first. It will be made with the same passion, energy and drive that saw Edward and I overcome phenomenal odds, and barriers that included corrupt border police guards, to motorcycle thief's, to rare illnesses, and so much more.
We will travel from Australia, the great land down under, and traverse the eastern United States and Canada in all weathers. We will rise each day with a smile on our faces, and with the hunger in our hearts knowing that the 'story' that is the Great Loop is waiting to be told.
All of those years ago when I was sitting in that corporate office in Singapore, I knew absolutely nothing about the Great Loop. Now every day I am researching, 'following', 'liking', watching, reading, and listening to every thing I can get my hands on about this maritime phenomenon.
We can't wait to move from our planning phase into implementation, and then into the video shooting phase of this incredibly exciting project. What I have learnt about making a documentary, as is the same in living life in general, is that nothing is impossible. Just share your dream with someone, and before you know it, you will gain momentum. And once you have momentum you become unstoppable.
by Mark Philpott.