It has been far too long since my last update. I have no excuses, nor will I bore you with an attempt. Also, I have no news important or otherwise to pass on. Well, other than I completed a chapter of my thesis and received positive feedback from a couple of heavy-hitters in the world of academic philosophy. No one was more surprised than I, let me tell you. Seems that getting away from the philosophy department of the university of Tasmania was a blessing for it afforded me the luxury to focus on the task of writing without the distractions of long lunches, philosophy seminars, and all that goes with university life. And as I said to a friend when leaving Tasmania, “it will be nice to just be another monk amongst many.”
Now, you might (or not) be wondering where I am…and the answer to that question is…India. Yes, India, still! In fact I have been here for almost five months now. It has been a wonderful five months indeed. No major sickness to speak of (extended periods of sickness anyway) and I have been lucky enough to have had the good fortune of deepening my friendship with Geshe Yonten.
While here Geshe-la has cooked lunch and dinner for me each day—without expecting anything in return, I should add. Well, except that I turn up on time of course. But other than this he has looked after me as if I were family. This has let me concentrate on writing and I must say his friendship is the reason why I am still here.
So in return for this kindness I offered to redesign his Save Zanskar. In the throws of redesigning (I say “redesigning” loosely as it is really just a wordpress theme) the website I thought it might be a good idea to create a video similar to the others I have done in the past (you know those low budget videos recorded on a cheap camcorder) for the website in order to help promote Save Zanskar and the website.
As it turned out the idea of creating a “little video” opened me up to the new world of HDSLR filmmaking (filmmaking that uses an ordinary digital photography camera such as those sold by Canon to shoot cinematic looking film). See, I did not bring my video camera to India, just a cheap “point and shoot” and this would not be good enough for anything other than a really really low budget video. Something I was unwilling to do. So I began researching the possibility of buying a quality camera while here in India to shoot a video for Save Zanskar and to help Geshe-la. To cut a rather long story short, and it is a long story, it is cheaper to buy a quality camera in the West and have it shipped here. Go figure! Of course, having an expensive digital camera delivered to India has its own set of difficulties. Think customs…enough said.
Suffice it to say, I made my purchase nay, investment, after 3 weeks of research (including emails to experts such as Philip Bloom) into HDSLR filmmaking. The only thing was, the camera was going to be delivered by hand in five weeks. You see one of Geshe-la’s U.S. friends was coming to Dharamsala in 5 weeks and it was going to be much safer to have a Westerner deliver it than gamble on it getting through customs. So I had the camera, lens, tripod, and accessories delivered to a New York address and began to wait patiently for its arrival—all the while continuing to work on my Ph.D and reading about filmmaking at night. It was a long five weeks, let me tell you but, thanks to the grace of a native New-yorker the camera arrive safely on the 5th March, 2011.
Now, here is something that many of you will not know, back in the day—before I met the dharma—I was a (no-talent) musician and budding artist of sorts in the first year of an arts degree at the Victorian College of the Arts. In fact, just before I left the VCA to live and study Buddhism with Geshe Loden I was planning a multimedia performance which combined music, dance, and the spoken-word. I do not regret any of my decisions (if anyone was wondering) as Buddhism and Geshe Loden saved my life, literally. However, coming across a relatively cheap means to create cinematic stories which might communicate Buddhist principals to a general audience has lit something deep within.
While I will continue with the Ph.D as I love writing, and philosophy, and getting paid a stipend to do both is not something I am willing to throw away easily—even if what I write will be read by perhaps half a dozen people…ever! With HDSLR filmmaking, however, I can see a means and a path to communicate the ideas found in Buddhism with a wider and far more diverse audience than could be reached by abstruse philosophy. And after all communicating with others was the reason I began the Ph.D in the first place.
So, I plan on making a couple of short films and then see where this takes me while continuing the Ph.D.
The first film is “in the can” and will be published here within the next day. It is, as I am sure you can guess, I short documentary for SaveZanskar.org. It is a short film running just over five minutes shot on the Canon 60D and one lens—a 28mm f1.8 USM II. The second film is a narrative about a seven year old Buddhist monk named Tashi and his poem on compassion. I wrote the screenplay (sounds rather pretentious as it is simply a 5 page document with dialogue but that is what it is called) over the course of a night. Since then (with the help of Geshe Yonten) I have found a young monk to play Tashi (more about this amazing story with behind the scene footage later), completed the first rehearsal, and if everything goes well, shooting will begin this Sunday.
So, I guess there was a little bit of news after all. More soon….
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