Sunday, August 31, 2008

Packed Like Tetris

Here is another photo album that I posted on my Facebook page.
Through the years, traveling out of a backpack and packing camera gear into vans, I've learned how to pack efficiently. I moved to L.A. carrying only what would fit in my little hatch-back and I'm pretty happy with what I brought. The last photo is the cast of girls for the show I'm currently shooting called Get Out! We shot for the first few days in a mansion that was originally owned by Prince. It was enormous and ostentatious, but a good location for this kind of show. More news and pictures as soon as I get copies from crew members who don't hold a video camera the entire shoot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paragliding and Relief

It wasn't that I was nervous to paraglide, I was actually looking forward to it after I didn't get to go last year, but on a subconscious level I was probably terrified. Once we got in the air though, I was having a blast. After two days of beach activities, even after repeated applications of SPF 15 and 30 my nose STILL got sunburned. But the best thing that happened today, was that the footage I thought we lost, it turns out, was backed up by the assistant editor on the first day because he couldn't figure out how to manage the data. So not only did I live through paragliding, I kept my job! Now, if I could just get my hands on some aloe.

Settling In For The Month

Today was day 2 or 3 in the mansion, I don't really know. I'm not even sure what day of the week it is anymore. This is what hapena when you travel for long stretches. The funny thing is though, I actually live here. I haven't slept in my apartment yet since I arrived in town, but technically L.A. is my home now.

Today for the show, I spent the day in Manhattan Beach filming some of the girls getting surf lessons. What a nice little beach community they have there! Our instructor, Chris Brown, or C.B. as everyone calls him, owns a company called campsurf.com. When we got there they were teaching about 20 little wet-suit wearing wee ones how to shred the waves. Being from Texas, the idea of a camp teaching a sport that doesn't intail striking a ball is absurd. I found the whole thing very cool. I also settled into this job and decided to make the most of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dear Secret Diary

I may have lost something, basically irreplacible today, because I acted in haste. I'm really beating myself up over it and I don't think I can sleep because of how anxious I've suddenly become.

It's not the end of the world though and I have to just move on. I wish I could just shut the thought out of my brain as easily as that. If you think reality tv is weird to watch, you should really try making it. I want so badly to tell you in great detail exactly what I did today and also how I feel about it. But it'll all come out wrong I know it. So instead, as soon as I can get them off my camera, I'm going to post a few pictures of the mansion and the models, my office and co-workers for the week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

So Surreal It Hurts

I arrived in Los Angeles, this morning at 1am. Exactly 24 hours later, I am sitting in a giant bed, in my room, in the biggest mansion you've ever seen. And just to be clear, I am not bragging. This house probably cost about 20 million dollars to build and I would guess costs about a million dollars a year to maintain. I'm here working on a show. There is a guy subletting my room in my apartment, so I just decided to stay here on set while I can. It's easier this way too, I can wake up just before my call time and not have to drive anywhere. On the other hand, I get tired just walking from one side of this house to the other. Really, words can't express how outlandish and extravagant it is. This place is owned by the founders of Rockstar energy drinks. A fact that you are reminded of constantly as you walk around the grounds, finding mini fridges stocked with 16oz cans everywhere, including outdoors, next to the giant pool.

Did I mention I'm here working with my __-_________? What about the 10 bikini models? No? Whoops, I guess I left all of that out. Oh, don't worry, pictures will come soon.

How do I go from working with orphan children in India, to sleeping in a giant mansion and filming a bunch of bikini models? The film and television industry is so unpredictable.

The Lord is good. I don't fully understand His plan for me, but I needed money and I have fun shooting this show. I'm really thankful, not for this mansion, not for the luxury, but for my friends out here, my church and for being able to do a job that makes me happy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Posted While Driving

Current Location: Flagstaff, AZ

Storm clouds hang ominously over the mountain peaks and blankets of rain drop in slow motion on the horizon. In an instant the dirt went from burnt orange to deep brown and giant pines erected themselves along my path. Flagstaff Is just as I imagined it would be, cool, green and beautiful. I have to ask myself, why live in ugly places? Life seems too short. Maybe my journey should stop short here?
Ok, I stopped at a coffee shop and posted the photo. I couldn't figure out how to do it through the iphone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Driving In Two Legs

I'm just about to walk out the door and embark on a new chapter in my life. I'm driving to Albuquerque this evening, which should take about ten hours, staying at a friend's house, and then driving the second leg to L.A. on Saturday, which should take almost 12 hours. I'm pretty excited about this drive. I get to go through Flagstaff which I've always wanted to see, as well as the Mojave Reserve. Should be a really beautiful drive. While it's expensive, hard on your vehicle and not exactly the most environmentally friendly mode of transit, driving long distances on good roads, from sun up to sun down, is a great way to straighten out your thoughts.

Posting will be sparse over the next few days as I make this drive, settle into L.A. and start a week long gig there. That is, unless I get a Blogger app for my new Iphone, in which case, I'll blog all the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Moving To California

After a rough first year of college at TCU, in the summer of 2002, myself and 3 friends moved to Los Angeles to do film internships. I was living off the UCLA campus and I fully planned on staying and enrolling there, but long story short, I never did. I came back to Fort Worth, fell in love with the city and finished my undergrad degree at TCU in 2 and a half more years. In the process I also did two summer study abroad programs and European backpacking trips, as well as a bunch of ski trips, all paid for with my student loans. When I graduated from TCU I immediately got a job doing commercial post production at a company in Dallas - I'm talking bottom of the ladder work here. I also directed a short film, shot a feature length documentary in the amazon, traveled even more and got an apartment in Dallas. I always knew that I'd go back to L.A. but I saw all the work I had in Dallas as a great way to get experience in the film industry in a small market where the cost of living was low. I also got to be close to my family, who I love. So it was all very win-win.

In February of 2006, after quitting my job, shooting a TV show in Europe, getting another job and then quitting it, I decided to go into business with a fellow filmmaker and we opened up a small production company in Fort Worth called Double A Pictures. Using all the knowledge I had accrued, we were able to work very efficiently, producing good work with very low overhead, making good money and traveling all over the world doing it. Life was good. But I still knew that I was going to need to wrap things up and move to L.A. eventually if I was ever going to make movies. Don't get me wrong, I can make movies in Fort Worth. In fact, I have investors who are willing to give me tens of thousands of dollars to make movies in Fort Worth, but there's of course more to the story.

My best friend Ben, moved out to L.A. shortly after graduating from the film program at TCU. He quickly made friends with an amazing group of people, who soon became my friends, even though I only saw them when I came to visit once or twice a year. But these people have become some of the closest friends I've got. My friends in DFW are very important to me as well (Martha, you especially know this), but there is just something different about my L.A. friends. They seem to cling to each other. I don't even think they really notice it, but it's beautiful. Then one other thing happened. I found a home at a church called Reality L.A. Most of my friends happen to go there as well, but after 3 years of searching, I knew within five minutes that it was my church and I can't wait to be a real part of it's body.

All hope is not lost though. I still love Fort Worth, more than most people. In L.A. I will be selling a screenplay that I wrote that is actually about Fort Worth. I'd originally planned on filming it independently for about $100,000, but then it turned out really good and now I want 10 million. Is that so much to ask?

I'll be back one day I'm sure, but for now, L.A. will be my home.

Baby's First Iphone


It really is as good as they say it is. You can view actual web pages. I couldn't do my banking on my Blackberry Curve, I can on my Iphone. That's enough reason for me to switch. Now, it's time to get this thing unlocked.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bottle Rocket Goes Criterion Collection

Every feature film Wes Anderson has made is now included in the Criterion Collection. Here is a link to the Criterion Collection web page for the new release of Bottle Rocket.

Wes Anderson is currently the only filmmaker who's films I purchase as a matter of habit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'll Explain Later

I'm moving to Los Angeles on Friday. Yes permanently. It's just time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Japanese Magic Toilet

I absolutely LOVED Tokyo. Even though I was only there for a day, I did my best to explore the city. I went to the Shibuya crosswalk (from Lost in Translation) and even ate at one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants. I plan to learn basic Japanese and live in Tokyo for a year at some point in my life.

Oh, and I pooped in this magic toilet:
Here's a link to the Facebook photo album.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

11 Hours of Business Class

I got the very last seat in business class on my way home from Tokyo. I had been calling weekly, getting nowhere on the waiting list, even this morning when I checked in, before exploring the city, they said it was full and issued me a seat in coach.

Even though I already had my boarding pass, I stopped by the business class check-in before my flight and asked again. This time, they informed me that there was one seat remaining. I happily paid $300 in addition to 25,000 Advantage miles and they issued me a new boarding pass along with a day pass to the Tokyo Narita Admirals club. This lounge is nicer than I ever imagined it would be. Plush leather chairs, the highest speed internet I've experienced in a month, all you can eat sushi, snacks, coffee, beer, liquor, magazines, tv, and other things I'm probably not even taking advantage of.

Budget travel is an adventure, and I'm not going to turn into a complete diva, but this is a VERY nice way of capping off a wonderful trip around the world. See you tomorrow in Dallas-Fort Worth (although, it's already tomorrow here).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vietnamese Face Massage

It was supposed to be a hair washing. Really, that's all I thought I was getting. Sam said that it would take about 45 minutes and something about a head massage, but I had no idea what I was in for. I hadn't washed my hair in over a week so I was long overdue for some shampoo, and a dollar seemed like a very reasonable price to not have to do it myself.

First, she started by pouring a handful of Head and shoulders onto my dry hair and working it into my scalp with the assistance of a few drops of water drizzled out of another shampoo bottle. Then I was instructed to lay down with my head in one of those hair washing sinks. There was a bed in front of the sink, a patent leather bed, so I laid down and she rinsed out the shampoo.

Then she began to massage my temples and my eyes began to close. Soon enough she was scrubbing my nose with some minty scented exfoliant. The bed fell away beneath me and my body began to float. She began to grow fingers, a thousand of them to be precise. She was having a field day with my prominent chin, clapping her hands together as they connected at the end of my jaw line. She continued rubbing my face for half an eternity before she began working on my neck and shoulders. And when my time was up she lifted my head forcefully, throwing my noodly body off the end of the table and into a standing position, a white cotton turban atop my spinning head. Then she sat me down and continued to work on my shoulders and back. After 45 minutes she smiled and asked for money. I wanted to tip but all I had was 21,500 dong, about a dollar and twenty eight cents. She took it gleefully as all the other girls giggled at my loopy countenance.

I've been looking at the Asian culture all wrong. My hair smells nice and my face is aglow. I'll be sad to leave this strange, happy country.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One of the Nicest Yet

Tonight I'm being hosted via couchsurfing.com, by a very sweet couple from Houston, who currently live in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. It's one of the nicest rooms yet, free Wifi, bathroom, nice bed, desk and I'm free to raid the fridge. They are charging me nothing and asking nothing of me. Does this sound too good to be true? Well it's not, it's the strength of the human spirit, it's education and it's loving each other. It's humbling for both parties and it's beautiful. I'm having a really good time here in Vietnam. You really can't imagine it until you're here. It's a great place.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pictures From Cambodia

We hired our tuk-tuk driver to pick us up at 5am from our hostel and for $20 entrance fee and $10 a piece for the driver, we explored the 9 main temples of Ankgor Wat for a full day.



Backpacker Jogging in Saigon

My plan, the reason I've dragged my running shoes around the world with me, was to run every other day or so, during my entire trip. My running shoes came out of my bag for the second time in the last month today, to try out a little jogging in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. 

My bed and breakfast is conveniently located only a few blocks from one of the biggest parks in the city, and after 3 iced Vietnamese coffees I was ready to run. Have I mentioned that there are over 5 million motorbikes in this city? Venturing into the street is both risky and tons of fun. It's not uncommon to have the lanes be packed 10 to 15 bikes across, traveling at high speeds, disobeying every posted sign and stop light. I surged through them "Life in Technicolor" drifting soothingly from my ear buds. Although I took a different route than originally planned, I made it to the park and began running laps, counter clockwise with the flow of Saigonese, power-walking their way around the pretty park circle. I seemed to be the only one running, which was ok with me, it just showed off the might of my stride, for all to see. As dusk fell, I decided to head back to my hostel, through old women resting lazily on their mopeds, youth, playing a sort of hacky-sack darts, couples, ballroom dancing and a game of soccer. But it became clear, very quickly, that I was lost. 

I'd had the clarity of mind to stuff some Vietnamese bills in my pocket, but not to write down the address of my hostel. I walked around for about an hour, pouring sweat, in the dark, before my pride was finally defeated and I raised my hand for a cab. I wrote down what I thought was the address and handed it to the driver, who then proceeded to take off at high speed, in the wrong direction. After a few minutes, I asked him to stop at an internet kiosk. 20 minutes later, my gmail homepage finally loaded and I was able to copy down the address to my hostel. Two and a half hours after I began my run, I was finally back home. The driver was demanding a wad of money, it seems he left the meter running while I was waiting on the slowest internet connection I've yet experienced. So I paid the man.

It felt good to run, but it's hard to stay on any kind of schedule when you're backpacking. In short, forgive me for not posting videos, they'll come soon enough.

Real Work In Saigon

This is the last leg of my trip. For the next three nights I'll be in Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City). So far the city looks clean and well laid out. I was planning on couch surfing tonight, but just in case that fell through I booked a bed and breakfast and now I'm stuck with it for the night. Tomorrow however, I'm being hosted by some nice people I met through couchsurfing.com.

This stop is a little different for me because I'll be working on an actual commissioned video for LonelyPlanet.tv I've been having a great time, but I like my job, so it'll be nice to actually be working and not JUST spending money.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Angkor Wat

Got up at 4:45am this morning and left my hostel with a friend and our tuk-tuk driver So'di. Checked out sunrise over the main temple and then hiked all over the grounds for the next 8 hours.

Some of the spots were magical, but there were then tour buses would arrive and the place would be a flood of people in adventure-clothing. Took great pictures though. The place is incredibly photogenic due to the rich texture of the sandstone melting into the earth, speckled with moss. The place is falling a part, I mean really in ruins. But they are rebuilding it with concrete so in the future, the Angkor Wat you'll see will be more like it once was than it is now.

Relaxing the rest of the day at my hostel, then it's on the Phnom Phenh tomorrow to see the Killing Fields.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sunrise Over Angkor Wat

Today was a day of getting hustled. The bus from Bangkok to the border was fine. Then they dropped us off at a restaurant and asked for us to hand over our passports to pay more than necessary for a Cambodian visa. I refused of course but the 3 girls I was sitting with all handed theirs over, with cash in hand so I eventually had to do the same. After crossing the border, I had to pay an extra 500 baht to hire a taxi with a 3 other travelers, therefor cutting our time to Siem Reap in half. I took them to the hostel I had booked, easily the nicest in town, and low and behold there was room enough for them too. The same room actually. So here we are.

There is a pool here, free DVD rental, free internet, an incredible BBQ, and a tuk-tuk driver is picking up my friend and I at 5am. Angkor Wat should be quite an adventure. I'll have many pictures and video for you soon.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Heading to Cambodia

My tuk-tuk driver didn't know where the Vietnamese embassy was. He consulted his friends who told him  to take me to a certified travel agency. This is almost always a scam. I went ahead and did it, figuring if the dude tried to hustle me, I'd just book it like usual. But the second I sat down with "Jack" I felt at ease. I dropped $125 to have my Vietnam Visa expedited (what can be up to a 4 day process) and he promised me that it's be complete by 6pm. I also told him that I was going to Siem Reap and asked where I could pick up a bus. He informed me that not only was there a bus coming to the tourist agency at 7am, but that I could book it there and unlike the regular buses that only take you to the Thailand border, this bus takes you all the way to Siem Reap, Cambodia, cutting out the haggling process to hire a Toyota driver at the border. So I booked it all! I handed over my passport to a man in a leather jacket who promptly got on a motorcycle and sped away, and I left at 10am and enjoyed my free day in Bangkok, amazing! 

Tomorrow I will be spending the entire day traveling, by way of land, to Siem Reap, Camdodia. The day after that I will be spending 10 hours exploring the 23 square kilometers of temples at Angkor Wat.

Oh yeah, and pictures:
Front of the Taj Mahal, a wonder of the world.
A street in Jaipur. Looks nicer in a picture than it does in real life.
Prayer flags flying over Thimpu, Bhutan. Bhuddism is ferocious here.
Jigme, my wonderful guide from Bhutan Majestic Travel!
Tiger's Nest Monastery, a 2 hour hike from Paro. Quite a site!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Visas Smisas

Visas are something I just didn't take into consideration on this trip. Most of my travel has been throughout Europe, where Americans don't need visas, so I didn't really think about the fact that both Cambodia and Vietnam require them. Cambodia is easy enough, you can get the visa at the border. You have to pay a bribe to do it, but still it's not hard. Vietnam on the other hand, requires 1-4 days to process your request. It's the 3rd now, I fly out of Saigon, Vietnam on the 12th and I'm in a different place almost every night, so I have no time to wait for my request to process. On top of that, I didn't bring any little passport photos like I knew that I should have, so I've got to figure that out in the morning.

I got terribly ill in India and editing of the video blog had to be put on hold. For it's sake and for my sake I have made the decision to wait and edit it the week I get home. This way the editing will be better and it will have greater posterity. Thank you for understanding.

By the way, greetings from Bangkok!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bhutan Majestic

Bhutan Majestic Travel is treating me like royalty. Everyone walks slow here, talks in a whisper, no one honks their horn, the water is clear, the mountains are tall and green and the air is clean. Now I can understand why it costs $250 a day to be here.

It wasn't just dehydration, although I did get badly dehydrated, a fact which I'm reminded of a few times a day when fireworks go off in my brain. But I also got a stomach bug. It's either a virus or a parasite, because it's been plagueing me for 4 days. I think I'm recovering now, but it's been miserable. Today I decided to power through it and hiked with my guides from 8,000ft to 10,000ft to Dragoness monastery. We weren't the first ones on the mountain, but we were the first ones to reach the monastery, a good sign that I have my strength back.

Tomorrow I'm in Bangkok, Thailand. I went ahead and booked the absolute nicest hostel I could, spending a whole $12.00 a night, which is going to make Nathan furious, since he paid more like $2.00 for his rooms. But they have free wifi, AC and I need to recuperate.

I'm loving it, but I can't even comprehend how people do this for an entire year.