Today we get up and leave at the usual time of 5. We’re going to the school during the morning to shoot before the students start in the afternoon. As we’re getting to school, there are already some students dressed and ready down the hill at the village. We get a few shots outside and then move into one of the classrooms. Today my job is lighting guy and set design person. I go and prepare the walls and desks to make everything look nice for the shots. Once it’s set up I hope out the window of the classroom and reflect the light through the window for the various shots.
Here’s a picture of Abby talking with Looney, giving her guidance on what to do in the next scene. Ya is standing in the door taking pictures and translating anything Abby can’t communicate.
Starting in the middle of the day I’m also a relief for Aaron who must have really tired arms by now. Then we do sweeping shots over desks and we both hold one side of the camera rig. That pretty much goes that way for the rest of the afternoon. We were surprised by some of the PoP Teacher Training staff coming to the school to help control the students. We’ve been filming in the classroom with the same group of students for a few hours now and I can really see their motivation dropping. Some of them are even leaving and falling asleep in their desks. I go out and call Na and Thong (pronounced tong) over to help entertain the students. Abby was trying her best, but I figured it was time to see our PoP team in action. The response from the students blew me away! You could see everyone in the crew stop what they were doing and watch with a big smile on their faces. The kids are all up and on the edge of their seat and yelling, dancing, chanting, and using sign language all while learning at the same time. It’s really inspiring to see our team so skilled at what they do. I couldn’t imagine the impact that would come about if they are able to train 100’s or 1,000’s of teachers to do the same thing. PoP has the same teacher trainer who travels between Laos, Guatemala, and Ghana teaching the same method. Over those three countries we probably could train 1,000’s or more teachers to teach with such a great response from the students. Ben even gets inspired to use one of Na’s chants and actions in the shoot. After a really long day we get all the shots we needed and wrap up at the school.
I was waiting the whole time to hit the school bell with a rock and now that all the students are gone I go right for it.
It’s just a car tire rim, but it sounds like a great school bell. Now that’s a good example of reuse. On the way back most of the crew jumps in the back of the truck and we head off talking about the day and our final day tomorrow.
Wednesday morning we start off 30 minutes earlier at 4:30, to make sure we get to the rice field in plenty of time. This is where we’re doing our final shot of Looney, the other two main characters, and the parents. I drink some coffee today to try and carry me through the long week and when we get to the site I’m not feeling so well. I think it’s the combination of my malaria medication and all the caffeine. I feel nauseous, but don’t throw up. Finally it passes and I feel a bit better. Ben says how wonderful it would be to get some bird to fly across the shot, so I pick up a rock and throw it out into the field. No birds. Then Lauren comes up with the idea to go out there.
That’s takes me to the story that I posted on my facebook. For those of you who didn’t see it, here it is. The creative directors of the shoot came up with the great idea of scaring some birds out of the rice field across one of the shots. I was the only one stupid enough to walk along these trails to get a little closer. Before I knew it, I was half way across the gigantic field, realizing that these brown paths were made for the typical Lao farmer, who probably doesn’t weigh much over 120 pounds. Now, I’m practically running down the path trying not to stay on one part too long before it collapses. I felt like I was playing the super mario levels with ground that would shake a little and then fall. Too far into the trek, my morning coffee decided to knock and say “hey remember how you’re not used to drinking coffee?” Somehow I made it to the other side without falling and took care of nature’s call. I got a call to tell me to come back because they got the shot. I told them I was uhh enjoying the view and would be back soon. I thought my walk back would be better weighing a few pounds less. Couldn’t have been more wrong. I took a different way and was practically running and leaping the whole time. About 50 yards from the finish line, mario glitched and the ground fell right as I stepped and not after it shook. My feet flung off to the left into the muddy pool and my hands went to the right of the path. Mostly worried about getting my camera in my pocket wet, I made a bridge over the path and tried to carefully bring myself onto the skinny dry path. Good thing my shoes were tied tight because the mud created a suction around my feet that added an interesting challenge. I made it the rest of the way and finished the last shot for this field, after I took a quick bath in the river of course. Good thing afterward, I heard a story of one of my Lao colleagues who used to pay for his school by catching the eels in the rice fields. Yikes!
Here are some shots from the rice field.
After we wrap from the rice field a few of the farmers pull out some food and we all sit down in their elevated hut thing to eat. As we eat, one of the men keeps pouring us the local alcohol, called Lao Lao. That basically means Lao alcohol or alcohol alcohol. Maybe they repeat it to emphasize the fact that most are a minimum of 50% alcohol. What a great thing to take after a week of little sleep. We get in the back of the truck and head to the waterfall, where Caroline and I went, to celebrate being done with the main characters of the film.
At one point Ben, Aaron, and I get in the water. Ben climbs up a bent tree and jump down to the lower part I mentioned before looked like it would sweep us away. After Aaron jumps, I figure I have to join. I hit the bottom, but not very hard so it was mostly a good idea. After swimming around for a bit we walk all the way up and see the water fall and leave after a little bit when the kids get bored. On the way back the crew points out a spider to me knowing about my awe from the other one Phavath and I found in the bathroom. This one looks just as big, or bigger. I try to get a picture, but none of them come out since it’s floating in the air between a bunch of like colored bushes. Back in the truck and home to clean up.
I go home and take a short nap, like everyone else I think and then head over to Ben and Abby’s rooms. We all go out to the local coffee shop and get some nice treats to celebrate being done. After the quick break we head back out to the village to actually get one more quick scene marking the official end of the shoot. After we go to the village, where all the local people organize a bossey for us. It’s basically a local ritual intended to wish the people good luck. This was the same thing I went to for my PoP colleagues when I first got to Laos. This time, I’m sitting in the middle and having strings tied all around my arms. After the ritual we eat a big feast and chit chat with the local people. On the way back I of course hop into the back of the truck and we head back.
Once back Aaron and I hang out with Ben and Abby for a bit before saying goodbye and thanking each other for such a great experience. I head back to my guesthouse and end that chapter of my Laos experience.
I have to say it’s quite strange that I would have missed out on this whole thing if I hadn’t decided to go against what I normally do at night and stay in my room. I was looking for the place to do yoga the next morning and so many things came down to running into them and making the decision to join them on this adventure. I’m not sure if it was coincidence or all planned, but I do know that I’m really grateful for everything I experienced and can’t wait for my next crazy adventure.