Back at the Campfire

Back at the Campfire

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Three years ago my life on the other side of the world ended.  A neat line was drawn under seven years of friendships, relationships and work. I got on a plane, left one life and started a new one on the other side of the world.

Three months ago I did the trip I promised myself since leaving.  Heading back to see my friends by the fire pit.  My spot was still there saved for me.  I sat back down to hear how the people I once shared everything with had made out.

As my memory of everyone had been frozen since leaving the changes were sometimes a shock. Three years can bring a lot of change.

Couples broke up, friends drifted apart, businesses were on troubled waters.  And one friend was no longer with us.  His chair still left respectfully empty, an absence still  keenly felt.  Drinks were held high and his toast given “He wasn’t bad for a dickhead.”

Of course there were the ups as well.  Marrages, new business ventures, childeren, homes completed and friends now in better health.  There is a lot of life that can be lived in three years.  Lots to miss out on.  I was all the more touched that there was still a place by the campfire left for me.

It will be a long time until I am back and who knows what i’ll find then.

 

 

 

Some Highlights of the Trip.

Going Down in Tasmania

Going Down in Tasmania

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The whole Going Down Crew after Dove Canyon.

“He’s been down there a long time…” Gab was staring at the rope stretched taut over the cliff. I have to admit I had been snoozing in the afternoon sun. I opened my eyes, the canyons shadow was now at my feet. Nick had been down there a long time.
We had been exploratory canyoning in Tasmania since boxing day and were well into our third week. We started with modest expectations. How many good things could there still be left to explore? Even in Tasmania. Haven’t humans gone everywhere? We all canyoned for different reason and for me, the attraction lay in this exploration.  Mountains are obvious, rivers are easy to find. But canyons are the last to get explored.  Normally skirted by walkers and explorers, there are so many still to be explored.

 

Our first stop was Dove canyon, the only commercially operated canyoning operation in Tasmania. The folks at Dove had provided us with whitewater canyon training. Dove was originally scouted via Helicopter as a potential kayak route and later taken up as a commercial canyoning route. It was fantastic, with features so like a water park it is hard to believe they were naturally occurring. Such A good omen for what we could expect from the area our collective expectatins lifted.

Unlike the folks at Dove, we didn’t have a helicopter. Nick hadn’t put it in the proposal. So what we had to find our canyons were maps. Of the thousands of creeks in the North West of Tasmania, we started focusing on those with marked waterfalls, decent gradient loss, steep canyon walls and easy access.

 

The three L’s of Exploratory canyoning.

 

Exploration, it seems, is like opening Christmas presents. You can pick one up, shake it a little, look at the shape. But until you open it, you just don’t know. To open a canyon you need to get in and make your way down all of it. Only then do you find if it is a picturesque adventure or log choked bush bash. During our time in Tasmania, we got both.
As the first group to enter a place there is no book to tell you what equipment you need, how much water there will be nor even whether you can walk to the top of the canyon. Exploration required training, equipment and a lot of sweat for what was sometimes a very small return.
We were heading into the unknown. When Nick started his abseil on a 60 meter rope, he didn’t expect the cliff to be over 90 metres. He only found that out when he was, well,  literally at the end of his rope. Due to the slope of the cliff wall and the water, he was out of sight and unable to signal to us. The first person to be where he was, dangling over an abyss, this was true exploration.
Whether Nick appreciated his fleeting moment of pure exploration or just sunk into hysteria (It should be mentioned that Nick is scared of heights), we will never know. Prusiking back up and penduluming over to a ledge, he was finally able to use the drill he had dutifully carried for weeks. Now all we needed to do was to make sure we could pull down the 60 meter rope he had used to get to the ledge so we could continue. Continue and not spend the night on a cramped, cold ledge.
The canyon, which we later dubbed “My special place”  was the pick of Canyons for the trip. Its high flow through unusual rock in a dry area made it totally unique. It was an open canyon down a cliff-face overlooking tableland, presenting stunning views all the way down the canyon.

“My Special Place” Canyon

There were many beautiful moments and exciting abseils among the three weeks of exploration. In my opinion, there were three new canyons which I would deem to have been “discovered” and that I would be proud to suggest to people. While many others while sharing their beauty were not enough to justify the work to get to them. But our standards were pretty high.
On our final day, we geared up to explore one last canyon that Nick’s father had spotted from Google maps. We nicknamed it leviathan.   A waterfall so large it could be seen from space. Packing all the things and leaving early, it seemed to be a perfect way to round off our Tasmanian Exploration adventure.

Leviathan from Google Maps

Unfortunately that was when the Tasmanian forest fires started. The fires almost surrounded us that day after 40 flared up overnight. They would eventually burn down as much as 11 000 Hectares of World Heritage Area., the majority of which will not grow back. One fire scoured through an area where we had explored two of our three new canyons, and the fate of their rainforests remains unknown. While we’d been excited to be the first to see some areas, we had never thought for a second that we might be the last.

Just another reason to get out there and explore.

 

Horror in the Tasmanian woods.

Horror in the Tasmanian woods.

Its 1:00am in a small cabin in the Tasmanian wilderness.  Nick lies on the floor covered in blood, a circle of black candles and runes form a perfect circle around him.  Jess stands over him, smiling, casually playing with her cleaver.  “Seriously” I think, “what the hell are we doing here?!”

We are half way through the 2016 Tasploitation challenge.  Our footage is almost collected; we are up to our final scenes revealing Jess for the flesh-eating succubus she really is.  As she verbally unloads on her unfortunate victim ( also fiance) I wonder a little as to how she is so good at this.  We certainly were not organised enough to have a script, she is not a horror fan and I only had time to give her the briefest description of what Lovecraft horror was.  But there she was spouting a tirade on cannibals, Tasmanian history, old gods and scaring the crap out of us.  More so Nick, who was lying under her casually held meat cleaver (we were also not organised enough to have a prop meat cleaver).  I can only put it down to the fact that she was enjoying it on a lot of levels.

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One of our most useful devices it turns out was a spray bottle for Nick’s face.

The Tasploitation Challenge is a 48 hour film comp where participants are given a sub genre of horror a line of script and a prop.  Then its up to the team to make a six-minute film.  We lucked out a bit getting Lovecraft as our subgenre.  While I was the only one with film experience so to speak Nick and Jess came with some unexpected skills.  Nick is a self-confessed rope nerd and was able to aid in several scenes including my hanging (which I am never doing again) and a long home-made slider which came in handy during our pivotal scene.  And Jess, well-being a natural red-head is sole-less and therefore a convincing cannibalistic succubus (Oh man, I hope she doesn’t read this).

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The source of the evil. The Pickled Frog hostel.

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This bag smells terrible!

Our take away from this experience was that dialogue scenes are much harder than I thought.  Sound is still as hard as I thought.  Watch out for the wide-angle lenses for catching light stands in the shot.  But most importantly, never let the cast put a hessian bag on your head and hang you from a rafter…  Just don’t do it.

At the end of it all I was truly relieved when Jess and Nick said they had fun.  I find often friends do not know what they had signed up for when they help me with projects and quickly regret their helpfulness.

The team has already decided to be back for the 2017 challenge.  I said I would stay down in Tassie after the Christmas break.  Jess has promised to watch more horror.  And Nick promises not to be eaten until then.

The Hunter of the Dark from jasonmacqueen on Vimeo.

 

Local flavor with Tree83

Local flavor with Tree83

30 Seconds short

Working with Tree83 this past week has been truly a treat.

Tree83 recently signed up for Jimble, a small Canberra start-up aimed at connecting customers with local businesses and their offers.  To promote their business on this new platform they were looking to produce a 30 second clip designed to give customers a “taste” of what the cafe had to offer.

Interview
What you’re hearing from Ralph is actually a question and answer session between himself and me.  This session went for only about 5 minutes.  But as Ralph lived and breathed his cafe all week, he knew better than anybody what his business stood for.  It certainly didn’t take long before Ralph was coming up with memorable tag lines like “You just cant skimp on quality” and “homegrown and home produced stuff really does taste better”.

Message
30 seconds is not a lot of time to capture the full range of experiences Tree83 has.  So the focus was on what the cafe wanted to be known for.  It was apparent from my talk with Ralph that this was:

  • Consistently good product with good sized portions.
  • Freshest ingredients available
  • Fantastic atmosphere.

Visuals
Amazing food, warm sunny eating spaces and a continuous motif of fresh herbs.  A prominent feature in the Cafe.  Backing these up of course were the sounds of the cafe.   Frothing milk, the chink of cutlery and friendly animated background conversation.

The result?
The owners were ecstatic about seeing their ethos and business represented so faithfully in this short video.  They were so impressed that they commissioned the longer 2 minute video shown below.

2 Minute Edit

Tree83 2 minute edit draft from jasonmacqueen on Vimeo.

Public Sector Innovation

Public Sector Innovation

During the past couple of weeks I have been working with the Department of Industry for the launch of Innovation Month. The department requested a selection of videos highlighting recent government innovations.  The final deliverables were individual case studies and one larger video to be shown during the launch.

Message
Innovation is increasingly essential to government. To highlight this, the videos were to show that innovation,  although not always easy and safe are an important and necessary part of government.

The Audience
While most corporate case studies are created for viewing by the general public the innovation series was designed specifically for a public servant audience. With this in mind we were able to  focus on how the innovation came into being rather than the end benefits experienced by the users.

Authentic
As this series was being done by public servants for public servants we wanted the tone to be conversational, as if the viewer was listening to a colleague. To achieve this, subjects were asked not to prepare answers in advance. The end video is actually an edited question and answer session between me and the subject. The result being a subject that is talking in a seemingly relaxed and natural manner to the viewer.

Structure of the 10 minute launch video
10 minutes is a long time for a video, but not so much when you have to explain 8 innovations. While we wanted each innovation sufficiently covered, we saved the final two minutes for a central message.  

Innovation can be risky, but is essential for the evolution of Government.

This was the shared experience of all participants. Interviewees were edited together taking over from each other sentences, as if they were talking as one to the audience.

Below is the final video which was presented during the launch of Innovation Month, supporting a speech by the Secretary for the Department of Industry Ms Glenys Beauchamp.