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Old December 20th, 2011, 04:09 PM   #1
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Mondo Safari - Feedback

The Official Blurb:

Right; so there is a real lack of Biker / Wildlife documentaries with an Italian Mondo (circa 1960's) sensibility on the TV at the moment....so thats my TV show.

Yes: this is a Biker Wildlife hybrid documentary with a mild Mondo aesthetic influence.

In this, the first episode of Mondo Safari, the 'Expeditioneer' goes off in search of the elusive, prehistoric, man-eating, Whale Headed Stork. On a vintage motorcycle.

And yes, I know Expeditioneer isn't a real word; a strict adherence to Mondo principles means I can just make it up as I go along. Same like the stork which is not really prehistoric, but does eat men. Probably.


Behind the Scenes Blurb:

Admittedly I have always liked Mondo films (the original Italian ones from the 1960's that is), so this is like a little homage to the genre.

This documentary is actually a recreation of a trip I did a number of years back, when I took my old vintage motorcycle on a road trip to see the Shoebill Stork. In order to shorten the journey I took the bike across a section of lake on a wooden canoe, as it was much quicker than driving around the lake. I did not have a camera with me, but I did get a photo on my mobile phone as proof. But later I lost the phone so no one ever believed me. So by doing it again I got to kill 2 birds (Shoebill storks no doubt) with one stone. Theres the proof fellas - you know who you are!

I got the idea of doing a 'Mondo' tv show pretty early on when the DVC Challenge was announced, and knew I wanted to recreate the motorbike trip to see the Shoebill stork. But the first problem was that the bike had been unused for about 2 years after a number of mechanical breakdowns, and it took a lot to get it going again. It was not reliable at all.

The second problem was that I could not realistically film myself, so I had to get a volunteer to ride it for me. Luckily I convinced a friend of mine, Jotie, to do it, and he only learned how to drive the bike the day before we set off on the trip (being a vintage British bike the gears are upside down and on the wrong side. The brakes also don't work - at all. Ah, but thats the 'character' of vintage vehicles!). He's a big fella, but an excellent rider. In fact the biggest problem I had after setting off was convincing him to slow down!

Usually when I do short documentaries I interview the subjects and build the edit around their words. With this one I wanted to make the story firstly about the actual journey, and secondly about the actual animal we were going find. So I decided to not do interviews and focus on a narration driven story, with visuals focussing on the challenge of getting around the obstacles. I wanted to also focus on some small vignettes of Ugandan life; the markets, the food, the colors, the bad roads. I might mention that driving in Uganda is dangerous, and public transport is nightmarish. Its not unusual to see crashes, and the bus that overturned was incidental and written into the story. I wouldn't want people to think I take accidents lightly, I don't. But public bus crashes are a reality over here, and people have a fatalistic approach to boarding one, not unlike my glib take on it here.

The first narration was quite factual, and did not fit the Mondo ethos, so we went with a second narration that was done in a Pathe Newsreader style, and made it sarcastic and factually incorrect. Following that I decided to do the opening sequence in an old Pathe newsreel style. This kind of fit the vintage of the motorcycle. I'm not 100% sure if that sequence works, but so be it.

Obviously the documentary is a tongue-in-cheek homage, and not meant to be taken to seriously.

I shot this on a Canon XLH1 with the stock lens (I usually use a 6x wide, but the 20x was needed for the bird in the swamp), and a GoPro Hero HD which I used for the first time.

This was the first project I have cut on FCPX, and I have to say it has been a joy to work with! The program is very quick to work with, and rough cuts come together in no time. J and L cuts are unbelievably easy, as is audio editing. I'm never looking back.

Just to recap; the original Mondo 'shockumentaries' featured travelogue style vignettes from multiple cultures in far off exotic lands. Genuine documentary footage was mixed with staged (or 'creatively manipulated') scenes to enhance the story. Mondo films were famous for their so called 'shock-cuts', and had a predisposition for big zooms. The narration was usually deadpan, droll, and downright pithy.

Shot & Cut by: Simon Wood
Expeditioneer: Jotie Van Droogen Broek
Pathe Newsreader: David Wood
Music: Kevin MacLeod
Support Driver: Nelson Nyanzi
Support Rider: Moses Kaseddi
Maps & Graphics: Tom Tamale
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Old December 20th, 2011, 11:04 PM   #2
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Wow Simon! This is absolutely BRILLIANT!!!!

I will comment a bit more later.
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Old December 21st, 2011, 02:17 AM   #3
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Simon,

Really entertaining and beautiful. What great locations. I was sure bad things were going to happen with the motorcycle in the canoe, but it seemed to work out. Brilliant voice over narration. Our belief is... research to follow, lol. I am so going to use that one myself. Should be a Fox news mantra.

Those helmet cams are no joke. Really amazing, have to get one of those someday. What put you out in the wilds of Africa? I really do need to get out of town more often. Loved it!

Dick
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Old December 21st, 2011, 06:45 AM   #4
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Hi Simon,

A big fan of gonzo journalism so thoroughly enjoyed this film's fast and loose approach to travelogue/nature documentary. Loved the creative grading, presentation and overall approach. The whole thing was carried off with such charm that I really didn't want it to end. Great footage as well - the shots you got of that pelican/cormorant/whale headed dragon bird were worthy of any wildlife doc.

Henry
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Old December 21st, 2011, 07:04 AM   #5
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Re: Mondo Safari - Feedback

Simon -- absolutely loved it. Humorous, easy to follow with nice little touches (like the sparks out of the Enfield's exhaust). Snappy editing. But it was really the voice-over that got me -- perfect rhythm and style. I don't know anything about the Mondo series you referred to, so what you did came across as light and fresh and amusing for me.

Your found footage (the maps and the photos -- especially the monkey by the car) were great.

Was wondering: the other biker that took off after the canoe arrived -- was that you? Or just another guy on his way to be devoured by the whale-headed stork?

The stork itself lent itself to the UWOL side of this challenge, so it looks like you have both boxes ticked. Maybe if I were to critique anything in your brilliant entry it would be that a bit more of a climax over the bird would have been welcome (I dunno: slo-mo reveal? A swelling crescendo of music?). But the piece worked absolutely well as it is.
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Old December 21st, 2011, 03:25 PM   #6
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Re: Mondo Safari - Feedback

Hi Simon,

I really enjoyed watching your film! I think you did well!
Very different scenery from what I'm used to, so that made it more special to me.
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Old December 21st, 2011, 03:48 PM   #7
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This is another masterpiece from Simon. I like the humoristic and quick style. The narrating is excellent. The stork scenes at the end are impressive. The effect of old style film at the beginning is a question of taste, I think.
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Old December 21st, 2011, 10:13 PM   #8
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This was great! I liked the build up and the reveal. I enjoyed your show open and credits and use of maps. The edit kept it at the perfect pace for me and I thought your narrator was awesome.
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 02:03 AM   #9
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Re: Mondo Safari - Feedback

Simon, I have watched this at least five times since it was posted. Every time I think I smile more broadly and laugh harder than the last. Wonderful, wonderful episode that makes me want to see more of them...on a daily basis. :)
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 03:19 AM   #10
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Lovely, let's have some more please Simon. No nanoFlash?

Ron
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 04:16 AM   #11
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Hi Simon,

That was great, enjoyed watching from start to finish, well done! Relived some of my African travels

Mick
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Old December 22nd, 2011, 04:56 AM   #12
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Thanks to everyone who managed to watch, and comment!

Some quick answers to specific questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Mays View Post
Simon,

Those helmet cams are no joke. Really amazing, have to get one of those someday. What put you out in the wilds of Africa? I really do need to get out of town more often. Loved it!

Dick
Yup, the GoPro is probably the cheapest piece of camera equipment I own, but the most versatile. I'll be using it a lot in the future and would recommend everyone to have one. You can now select different Framerates (like 25p for me) to match up with your main camera.

I work in Uganda at the moment, and have lived in African countries on-and-off for most of my life, with a few short stints in Europe here-and-there.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Henry Williams View Post
Hi Simon,

A big fan of gonzo journalism so thoroughly enjoyed this film's fast and loose approach to travelogue/nature documentary.

Henry
Thanks; Gonzo is actually a good word for it. I have always been a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, and if he had made documentaries I'm sure they would have been something like what Gualtiero Jacopetti or Russ Meyer produced!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Burleigh View Post
Simon -- absolutely loved it. Humorous, easy to follow with nice little touches (like the sparks out of the Enfield's exhaust).

Was wondering: the other biker that took off after the canoe arrived -- was that you? Or just another guy on his way to be devoured by the whale-headed stork?

The stork itself lent itself to the UWOL side of this challenge, so it looks like you have both boxes ticked. Maybe if I were to critique anything in your brilliant entry it would be that a bit more of a climax over the bird would have been welcome (I dunno: slo-mo reveal? A swelling crescendo of music?). But the piece worked absolutely well as it is.
Thanks. Yup, the exhaust sparks (keyed from a grinder) represents just about the full extent of everything I know about compositing (not much)!

The second biker is Moses Kaseddi, credited as our Support Rider, a friend of our Expeditioneer Jotie. When he found out what we were planning to do he wanted to join us and help out. He used to live in India (where the Royal Enfield is very popular) so he had a good knowledge of our temperamental bike. He can also be seen in the motor canoe (he and his bike were in the front), and in the small canoe in the swamps.

Thats a good idea; I probably should have made a bigger deal about the ending (though the end was always going to be an anti-climax given that the bird is quite placid). At one point I toyed with adding various 'dinosaur' roars and so forth to the image of the bird! It looked hilarious, but was one step too far and thus removed....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeremy Doyle View Post
This was great! I liked the build up and the reveal. I enjoyed your show open and credits and use of maps. The edit kept it at the perfect pace for me and I thought your narrator was awesome.
Thanks! The narrator is actually my father, who for years growing up used to annoy us with his non-stop accents and impressions. It only struck me during this project that I had all that potential at my disposal.
The funny thing is that he lives in Ireland, so we arranged the narration through Skype and email. He had not actually seen the documentary when he recorded the narration (in different styles) and emailed the clips to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorinda Norton View Post
Simon, I have watched this at least five times since it was posted. Every time I think I smile more broadly and laugh harder than the last. Wonderful, wonderful episode that makes me want to see more of them...on a daily basis. :)
Thanks; not sure I have the energy to do it again though!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald Jackson View Post
Lovely, let's have some more please Simon. No nanoFlash?

Ron
Actually, my bad. I did use the nanoflash; in fact this was the first time I have shot entirely on nanoflash without using tape at all. Now, where to store all the footage??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mick Jenner View Post
Hi Simon,

That was great, enjoyed watching from start to finish, well done! Relived some of my African travels

Mick
Cheers; we must talk sometime in case you are ever heading out this way, or need some stock footage from Uganda :)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Trond Saetre View Post
Hi Simon,

I really enjoyed watching your film! I think you did well!
Very different scenery from what I'm used to, so that made it more special to me.
Yup; I thought the same thing when watching yours!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finn-Erik Faale View Post
This is another masterpiece from Simon. I like the humoristic and quick style. The narrating is excellent. The stork scenes at the end are impressive. The effect of old style film at the beginning is a question of taste, I think.
Thanks! Yes the opening sequence came about due to the Pathe style commentary (and the vintage of the bike), but its probably not for everyone (probably strikes a chord with British people more, and Americans to a lesser degree). I was kind of inspired by the opening sequence of the animated movie "Up!" which was done in an old American newsreel style. Goggles feature in both!
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Old December 23rd, 2011, 01:55 AM   #13
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Re: Mondo Safari - Feedback

I loved this one too. So many good films this time around.

First, with the roadside stop for food, I am hungry again.

From there, its a spot of beer, mud riding, night camping, soldiers with automatic rifles, a dangerous river crossing, and final safari into wetlands and a neatly edit little story about the subject.

Really good Simon !
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Old December 23rd, 2011, 04:05 AM   #14
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This film is wonderful Simon! You have taken what could have been an interesting exploratory trip in its own right and made it into something that is simply outstanding! I just love the British sense of humour here. Your narrator made this movie. Very inspiring stuff.

I appreciate the way you have woven into this the colourful vignettes that give such a clear picture of the setting in which this is taking place - the environment, the people and their livelihoods - so much here I can relate to. How long did this trip actually take from home to swamp?

Something I noticed towards the end that affects the feel of the film a bit for me is that you changed from addressing the ‘expeditioneer’ to addressing an audience: “. . eventually ‘they’ realize they are surrounded by the birds”. I'm sure that was a slip.

The GoPro attached to his helmet makes it look quaintly like an antique Prussian helmet – esp in the shadow - it (the GoPro) did however go missing somewhere along the way. Just love the T-shirt he is wearing at the start – very appropriate!

Now . . . about that colour correction you didn’t do . . .
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Old December 23rd, 2011, 01:18 PM   #15
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Re: Mondo Safari - Feedback

This is a great entry. I really liked the intro and title sequences. Others have said they are on the fence about the coloring, but I for one Love It! The green, red, and blue title sequence is great and with your permission I would love to use that as reference.

I like the use of the heroes. In nearly all my shoots we have incorporated 3-4. The down angle on the riders face was nice and not a typical shot you normally see.

On another note, your entry has changed my initial disposition on what Africa looks like (especially after I checked out your other videos). Reminds me a lot of southern Mexico and Bahamas mix.
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