Hanging with Penguins

A short film and a new advert that I shot for the nice people at Penguin Random House. 

Interesting flow to this one shooting live action to match animation. Not exactly a live action director credit for this one when there are only two shots that are mine! 

Film Festival News - 'Sleeping' screens at the Richard Harris FIlm Festival

This weekend saw the first screening of our new short film, 'Sleeping'. Shot on location in the neon cityscape of Tokyo and the contrasting landscape of Japans coastline, sleeping documents the work of Art By Eoin as he works between these two hectic and beautiful worlds. 

I could not have been happier to be apart of the third year of The Richard Harris Film Festival. Films were watched, late nights were had and talks of the future were engulfed within every motivated word spoken throughout this inspiring weekend. 

Bring on next year! 


And So We Went - Part Three - Indonesia

We woke up to the sounds of croaking voices singing through a rustling PA system. It was the end of Ramadan and the celebrations were starting. The singing went on constantly for two days and two nights. Children would roam the narrow streets in a drumming procession while fireworks went off at random intervals from every direction. We were asked how the march at 2am outside our window didn't wake us up. 

Tucked away in a beautiful small village in Java, we were staying just off a small horseshoe shaped bay. Hidden behind a series of narrow broken roads and smiling locals, the bay was something from the sketches I would make in my old school books. Two perfectly groomed waves breaking seamlessly off a cliff at either end. A few faces from every corner of the world roamed amongst the Indonesian tourists that were scattered along the arc of the shoreline. Walking down the beach you would be stopped multiple times to pose for a photo with entire families. They don't like group shots. You smile politely as eleven people take turns standing beside you, laughing loudly, trying multiple poses and then shake your hand in sincere gratitude. 

The busiest area in the small village was the bustling fish market which went from about 6am to 11am. The fishermen would start at sunrise, going out in small engine powered boats. On their return, men from all over the village would help carry the boats back up the beach, claiming a fish or two for the trouble. Blood and water lined the floor of an open ended building as boxes and nets are dragged constantly in and out.  The fish were weighed then sold instantly or packed. 

The nearest town with internet was an hour scooter ride away over the broken and winding terrain. The son of the homestay brought us the first time to show us the way. As I jumped on the back of the scooter with the words, 'don't worry Mr. James', from the slightly confident sounding but none the less friendly nineteen year old we set off along the narrow winding roads. Petrol was sold in small wooden stalls that you would pass along the road. You could fill the scooter for roughly 20p. 

The swell dropped and the crowds rose so we went in search of a waterfall that we had heard about down the coast. After writing down the directions on what I was told was, “a pretty impassable road at times', I heard the friendly Puerto Rican voice of one of our homestay neighbours suggest that we take a boat. A smile, three quick visits to some local fishermen and thirty minutes later we were sailing down the coast.

Going to a local shop, a small room in a front of a house, darkly lit and packed with boxes and hanging merchandise, I met a local bodyboarder who started talking to me about my glasses. He spoke of how the wife of the family that he stays with used to have glasses but after eating a local remedy her eyesight was restored. Curiously, I found out that the dish consisted of carefully prepared shark heart in a type of bolognaise. It was suggested that I try it as I smiled and nodded nervously planning my escape.

I woke one morning to the sound of someone banging on our front door. It was a nice change from the usual choir of roosters but the irritated banging had my curious mind wide away. Saying a sleepy hello I suddenly realized that it was an earthquake. About ten seconds passed as I lay down watching the walls sway and the roof move giving the feeling of being back in the ocean. The calm voices of the neighbours in the surrounding houses gave the impression that everything was ok. As everyone joked in the restaurant that day about the bodyboarder who packed his bags and headed for the hills, it left the remanence of how fragile and likely this country is to a tsunami. 

The houses consisted of minimal items placed in a large open space with high ceilings surrounded by concrete. On one of our last days in the village as we sat outside our homestay we heard a shout from some of the locals that were working on a roof directly across. As Conor and I tried to decipher if they were either asking for help or making fun of us, deciding it was probably a healthy mix of both, we put on shoes and walked across,. The laughs and jokes ceased after about thirty seconds as we started to help dismantle a roof. Thirty minutes later we were bombarded with tea, sugar and cigarettes as we heard the words, 'Irelande', being said around the group. Back on the roof, we were then stopped again in thirty minutes for a bag of fresh nuts and banana chips that were dropped off. Nine of us worked on the roof as the lady who seemed to own the house would balance her time between preparing food and carrying massive sheets of metal across the front yard. A few hours later, when the roof we gutted, we sat down and had lunch. Tea was drank, cigarettes were smoked and everyone went their own way.

An over booked flight lead to us getting a taxi through the night along the sleepless broken roads. Asking three taxi drivers the length of the journey and getting three very different answers made the drive that little bit even more uncomfortable. It was the perfect close to the bones of three months in some of the most beautifully contrasting places that I have been fortunate enough to work in and explore. As my eyes would close and my head would smack against the side of the car, I smiled at the memories that already had a firm hold in my mind. 

A series of upcoming screenings, a little article about our India project and online release dates for all the projects coming soon! Thanks for reading! 

James 

And So We Went - Part Two - India

"Where you from?"

"Ireland.........Irelande.........next to the UK"

"Holland?"

"No, Ireland.........Eeerlande"

"Spain?"

"Yeah! Close enough". 

We reached the south of India to be greeted with harsh humidity and a selection of colours and smells that smack your senses into overdrive. Drivers beep their way along the street as curious eyes and that beautiful head wobble would stop us for friendly interrogation. The temperature would drop a few degrees as you noticed the light on the buildings growing dark and cold. Clouds form overhead as the street quickly disperses with a sudden outburst of rain. A few moments later as people walk through the puddles and the cars, we realise that we may have stepped into an interesting location to try and make a surfing film.

I was traveling with Irish surfer Conor Maguire. We met in Dublin and laughed our way through the first flight. Two films and a sleep later we were bumped up to business class. (Side note -most projects don't start this well.) We had decided to make a surf film that was different to anything that either of us had done before. Rather than making surfing the protagonist of our film we wanted to focus more on the culture, the people, the wildlife and the beautiful unpredictable monsoon that we grew to adore. Creating a story around the interesting moments that happen along the way to a goal.

We landed in Kerala where we were going to be traveling around for the next three weeks before heading north towards Mumbai. We met with the talented bodyboarder Tom Gillespie who landed the day before. An overpriced taxi later and we were at a small seaside town that would be our base of operations. There was swell on the way but we had time to wait. My jetlagged mind was happy with this fact as we spent the first few days roaming the water soaked streets.

The food in India was something that I was more than curious about when planning for the project. Breakfast was either western with terrible coffee or a local dish of rice, sugar and bananas with terrible coffee. After a month in India I was complementing a coffee that I was drinking in Mumbai to the surprised and happy face looking back at me telling me I had a cup of Nescafe in my hand. We were having most of our lunches in a local vegetarian restaurant. You would walk in and be handed a menu with about three options depending on the time of day. A metal tray would be placed in front of you as the waiter served from large pots while walking between the tables. I was given out to only once for eating too slow as he topped up my tray on passing. The meal would cost about £0.40 per person with another 10p for a coffee after. Dinner was either a repeat of lunch or fresh fish bought from a market while restaurant owners offered you an arm, a leg and a table to let them cook it for you.

We decided to get away from the sea for a few days to explore the mountains of Thekkady. We were planning on getting scooters up the mountain but we were advised that we wouldn't come back. As we sat on an open windowed bus speeding around the narrow roads, a straight drop on one side and not even space for someone to walk on the other, we quickly agreed that we made the right decision. The bus driver would throw us around turns, overtaking on blind bends to come to a screeching stop at random intervals for his co-worker doing the same chaotic dance in the opposite direction. When the rain would come, shutters would be dragged down blocking out the water along with the light. We sat in the dark listening to the rain pounding on the metal roof as the bus screeched on. Seven hours later we were at the Kearla border.

Coming from the humidity driven coast we greeted the sudden temperature change with content. Finding colder, wetter and even more beautiful views of this country. The first night we asked a shop owner about the consistent electricity cuts throughout the town. He responded with the story of how a large transformer got damaged from the rain in 1972 and it was causing the power cuts since.

Two days later the swell that we were waiting for arrived and we made our way back down the mountain. We had to travel through the night and decided that a taxi might be a safer option. We sat in the rain and a traffic jam for thirty minutes to find out that a bus had fallen off the road two days previous and they were currently dragging it up. Seeing the smashed up vehicle as we slowly passed was a sudden realization of the dark side of the beautiful chaos.

A day of moving later and we were sitting in the bay that we had travelled to India for. A gap in the monsoon had us looking at blue skies that bounced off the life filled water. We had bumped into four Indian surfers who were accompanied by an older Australian. They were from an ashram further north. Kiran, the oldest of the Indian surfers helps run a surf school from the ashram. They were traveling with two younger girls and also making a film. They are on a mission to empower women in India through surfing.

The waves were small and not exactly what we were looking for but motivation was as high as the temperature. The next two weeks were spent shooting around the bay and reading absolutely everything that I could get my hands on. We were a bit out of the way with only the slightest of reception hitting our phones at random moments. Due to the heat, we were spending our time outside sparingly to avoid the sun. Watching a sunrise and a rain storm happen simultaneously is a dam fine way to wake up. Nights were spent quizzing each other about life, the universe, and other surfing trips while eating a variety of local vegetarian meals. Over the two weeks spent here we only got one day of the type of waves that we had travelled for but like all good surf trips its what happens along the way that makes the memories. This is exactly the kind of film that we were there to make. After the swell, everyone decided to move on. Conor and I were heading to Indonesia for the next part of the project but I shall keep that story for a future post.

When we flew back to India we had a few days around Mumbai as we were waiting for a flight. Mumbai was a place that I always wanted to see after reading Gregory David Roberts' 'Shantaram', although I can also thank Wes Anderson for this Indian motivation. We got to Mumbai late at night. Stray dogs seemed to own the dark and quiet streets as we drove in search of our homestay. The next two days were filled with jet lagged walks through the over crowded streets and markets that had both my mind and camera on overdrive. Walking past sleeping dogs and people who seemed to drop at will, we made our way around the south of the city.

My most memorable moments in Mumbai would have to be how awe struck I was by the transport. The trains are a strategic battle consisting of cheap tickets and crowded platforms. As a train would approach you see passengers spill off and hit the ground running as the men on the platform run and jump into the open carriages. Waiting for the train to stop is even more dangerous where you would be greeted by two waves crashing with elbows, claws and screams. Getting a taxi around the city, although a safer option for your own health, was still just as dangerous for anyone in the vicinity. Drivers would beep and break their way along the streets passed the sleeping bodies that lined the road. The only time that I saw what I would regard as sensible driving was when everything came to a halt as a hump backed cow casually strolled across a crossroads. Once she was safely down the road the game continued. From reading 'Shantaram' and discussions with Kiran at the bay I was fully aware of the driving situations in India – acceptable recklessness with concern. A driver who gets into an accident would be instantly punished by passers by. This conversation went on to inform me of how private buses operate. Bus companies that pride themselves on schedules inform their drivers not to stop for any reason. If a driver hits someone on the street they just keep going and let whoever is still standing call the company to rectify.

Sitting in the airport in Mumbai I was both sad and excited to be leaving this beautiful and chaotic colourful dreamland. We only got to see a fraction of what I am now calling my favorite country but it has left an imprint in my mind that I feel will last for quite some time. From the raw power of the monsoon to the smells of the water filled streets I already look forward to my return. From everything that it taught me, one thing has shone brightly through since I have been back in London – I have never felt so dam safe cycling around such organised roads.

 

 

 

And So We Went - part one - JAPAN

The past three months have consisted of the most interesting projects that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. Spending time in some of the most beautiful parts of the world while travelling with the most motivating people that I am lucky enough to call friends has left the strongest feeling of contentment and a burning sense of adventure. Similar to most things in life in recent times, it all started with a message on facebook. 

I was going to be spending the next three weeks collaborating on a new film with my good friend and casually brilliant artist, Art by Eoin. Eoin was undertaking a new light based photography project that was going to have us happily between the contrasting neon cityscape and lush landscape of Japan. During my time in Japan, I also had the opportunity to document the curious body of artists that is 9th Wave Gallery

On landing, my jetlagged eyes met the computerized voice and face that had flown us to this bright and beautiful city. Jay Celat, the man behind 9th Wave Gallery, stuck out from the sea of Japanese people while strolling casually through the airport. Sunglasses, t-shirt, board shorts and a pair of flip flops - he was quite easy to spot. Another of the 9th Wave Gallery artists, the talented Patrick Parker, flew in shortly after us and we made our way to our Japanese home. The 9th Wave artists were flying in for the Tokyo Arts Fair, a two day international event showcasing artists from all around the world.

I woke, repeatedly, the next morning to the views of the thin sliding partitions that my mind had always pictured when imagining Japan. The house consisted of too many doors and low ceilings that some of the taller artists could never quite get accustomed to. The sound of a bang and a shout was as frequent as the yawns that flowed throughout the house. We went for dinner that night and got our first real glimpse of the hectic video game of a city. Walking along the river, jetlag still strong but the feeling of wonder nicely taking preference it finally hit that we were embarking on a dam nice project. 

The following morning Jay got a call from a friend of his in Shonan, a small town about 40 minutes drive from Tokyo, saying that the waves were good and to come down. In all my planning for this project never once did I take into consideration that I would get time to surf in Japan. This was pretty much giving my sixteen year old self a high five. We spent the next two days by the sea with the welcoming Eri, getting to see a much different side to Japan. I was instantly overwhelmed by the surf culture in Shonan. The streets were filled with bikes with board racks. The sea, even at a not so inviting two foot, was packed with an army of retro boards and the most stylish custom wetsuits I have seen. My sun cream covered face was greeted with pleasant smiles as I paddled out saying hello to everyone along the way.  From the water, on the right day, you see Mt. Fuji looming above the clouds. A strong element that both Eoin and I wanted to get across in our film was the harsh contrast between city and country. After just a couple of days in Japan we were already seeing the beautiful differences.

The following few days the rest of the 9th Wave artists arrived and were getting ready for the show. Spending time with people who have made a career from their passions is refreshing. Always a unique and interesting tale of bumpy roads told with a content smile.  

We wrapped the arts fair and were in search of a wall at a skatepark that Eoin had prepared to paint. Google maps was not our friend in this country and on this particular day a one hour drive turned into an eight hour drive with no wall found at the end. The roads in Japan were like nothing I have ever seen. You drive into an eight story over pass and just have to smile. We called it a day and headed to the sea to visit another 9th wave artist – the interestingly energetic Ben Wai. Our over driven heads poured out of the rental car to be greeted with the most perfect canvas that Eoin could have asked for. Eoin produces his work in some of the most intriguing places that I have ever seen and this time spent with him was no different. Like everything in life, our eight-hour time in the maze had been for a reason. We had dinner with Ben and his wife and spent the night creeping around a disused building. Meeting Ben Wei was one of my many highlights in Japan. Surfboard shaper, musician, WSL presenter and all round nice guy, he created some of the most memorable moments on this project. On walking into his house and seeing a range of synthesizers lying around the floor, I quickly realized that we would probably get along.

We spent the next few days surfing and shooting around Chiba, another small surf town, before going back to the city for the next part of filming and to say goodbye to some of the 9th wave artists. The sharp contrast within a short train ride in this country is eye opening. Minimalistic rice filled countryside casually blends into the flickering neon lights of Tokyo. This was the first part of the project that we really had time to explore the city. First stop – technology district.  My glaring eyes were pleasantly met with lights, crowds and waitresses while the sound of distorted music spilled from every similar shop.  My favorite quote from Eoin on this particular evening was, “Jimbo, check out the guy walking the duck”.  Just before making our way to another part of the city we stopped by an arcade. A multi coloured flickering room filled with zombiesque people and an ear piercing sound that oozed from the pachinco machines. 

We were busy getting interviews for the 9th wave documentary with one of the final ones being with the talented photographer, Eddie Miyoshi. Eddie is the president of Volcom Japan, a brand that works with one of 9th Waves most interesting artists – Drew Toonz

 

After a few days in the city we were happy to be walking around the temple filled town of Kamakura, a small town steeped in history and wonder located near the coast. Saturated in temples, tori gates and culture it was exactly the kind of place that we had been looking for. We spent the night under the stars for what was a game changing shoot for everyone. We said goodbye to the talented Brian and both Eoin and I changed accommodation-moving closer into the centre of Tokyo. From my time in this country I got to see and hear about a range of accommodation types. My favourite being the capsule hotels – rooms just big enough for people to lie in and then close the door behind them. They are exactly what I picture when I think of sleeping quarters in space. Welcome to the squashed and cramped future of busy over worked cities.

The next few shoots were night shoots in Chiba. We would take the train out to the coast in the evening, shoot all night and then get the train back to Tokyo the following morning. The sun would come up so fast that it was always a struggle to get everything finished with content before the light would break. It was an interesting flip from normal exterior shooting situations.

One of the most beautiful night shoots that we did was Eoin’s homage to another 9th wave artist, Clark Takashima. I heard nothing but the most interesting and inspiring stories spoken passionately about Clark from Patrick, Jay and Eoin. Please take the time to look at some of Clarks work here.

Working closely with Jay and Eoin on the night shoots was some of the most fun that I have had shooting. We were driving the coastline searching for locations. Other then finding our fair share of 7/11 sushi and coffee and getting lost repeatedly on our favourite roads, it lead to some of the most beautiful places I could have ever imagined. We would abandon the car and make for the sea. Jay would scout ahead in the darkness while Eoin and I shot. He would return with the biggest grin on his face at what was lying around the corner. We ended the project with a bang - we shot some fireworks into a cave while watching the night sky break into the enchanting purples of early morning. 

 

Three weeks in Japan didn’t even scratch the surface of this eye opening country. A return trip is already safely lodged in my head. A teaser for our 9th Wave Gallery Japan documentary will be going live within the next number of weeks, at the moment I have a few more photos from our project here.