November 2010 – I was asked by my friends – actor, director Jon Bessire and producer Daphne Bach – to join them in the working of their film ‘Living Lost’ . My role was to assist with sound recording and help whenever necessary – as with only 7 people on the core crew, it was going to be a case of all hands on deck! Then in post production I would put my ‘Music Supervisor’ hat on to help with the soundtrack. Also , I had been learning Spanish for some time so I welcomed the opportunity of putting it to some practice on the trip.
The film tells the story of a man (played by Jon Bessire) who has sacrificed his relationship with family for his job until one day his doctor tells him he has a very serious illness. Feeling very alone he takes off to Guatemala where he begins an unexpected journey of discovery and self realization.
I arrived in Guatemala City two weeks into the shoot and we were staying just outside Antigua. My first impressions were that it was greener and more hilly than I had expected and the public buses were so colourful you almost forgave them for the thick black fumes that they belched out into the Guatemalan sky! I soon realized that what I thought were hills and mountains were volcanoes many of which were still active – this was going to be an interesting trip!
The style of driving in Guatemala is pretty hairy – most of the cars and trucks were one hub cap away from the scrap heap, many could barely make it up the steep hills and then, having made it to the top, they nearly ran off the road when their weak brakes strain on the descent down! Due to the heavy rainfall of the last season many roads had been washed away and all that remained of them was a few white painted rocks marking a semi circle where the original road had collapsed down the hillside below.
Our vehicles would take us all over Guatemala over the next two weeks (and had done many miles prior to my arrival) and neither of them were in great shape so we said our prayers more than once while on the road , and when those needed a bit of help we took them to the local mechanics or llantas for tire repair.
Jon Bessire – as writer, director and lead actor in ‘Living Lost’ – usually drove one of the two vehicles too so he was extremely busy .
He was one of the producers too along with Daphne Bach. Daphne and Jon’s company is called 3 Sides Entertainment and includes their friends and co filmmakers Keith Beinart (on sound and camera) John Price Church – actor and camera and sound assistant and Reina Salas who worked on the script as well as sound and camera.
I was part of the additional crew with Audriana (on second camera) Cherise on continuity – plus we all wore a few hats given the size of our team and the epic nature of the shoot. I joked one day to Jon that it reminded me of Werner Herzog’s ‘Fitzcarraldo’ and he laughed and said that was precisely the film he had wanted everyone to watch before we left the US! I’m glad to say Jon did not channel Mr Herzog and nobody was as bonkers as Klaus Kinski!
The shoot took us far and wide taking us through different terrains and architecture ranging from simple dirt floor huts in the countryside to stunning colonial architecture in Antigua , the hot springs up near Garifuna country, the colorful houses of Flore and its placid lake in the morning , the hillside villages around Coban, the rock pools of Semuc Champey, Lake of Atitlan with its misty water surrounded by huge volcanoes, and the incredible ancient pyramid structures of Tikal. I would never have got to have seen so much of Guatemala had I not been part of the ‘Living Lost’ team !
As far as shooting went, it went well but was tough given the time restraint and scope of ‘Living Lost’ – we were filming an epic story! The sound should have been easier when we were in remote areas but we were dogged by the sounds of trucks , tractors and farming vehicles plus the omnipresent cockrels and dogs!
We were very lucky to have been able to stay with Daphne’s family on several occasions during the shoot, as her father is from Guatemala and was one of the main actors in the film, as was her wonderfully indomitable Grandmother who lived about 3 hours from Antigua on a beautiful piece of property surrounded by hills, a river and numerous buildings providing shelter and care to both family and ailing locals alike. As well as being our hosts , actors and location providers, we also got to eat local food and meet members of the local community . Daphne’s family also owned a spa in Jocotenango so we were able to have some wonderful massages and steam baths whenever time allowed.
It was a challenging , adventurous and memorable trip and I can’t wait to see how the movie is coming along!