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Nov 29, 2012

Episode 136: Trailer for "Mist of the Perfume River"

Here's the trailer I put together for some pre-sales and funding of the documentary.

We need more funding to get the translations of the interviews taken care of.
Please hit the donate button and toss a few dollars our way.


I need help: documentary in process (More info here )


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Nov 23, 2012

Episode 135 : Interview at the Citadel, Hue Vietnam


The Citadel in Hue is a tourist attraction, and it's also the place where Hung's father lived and worked for a period. 
The guards at the back entrance wouldn't let us in with all the camera gear despite having a piece of paper saying that we could shoot 'anywhere in Hue'. 

Heading around the front entrance we bought tickets to enter as tourists (and the others as locals - cheaper!), the camera and tripod came out in a field under an enormous tree. 
Hung Interviews one of his Dad's old Art Pals
The horse grazing in the field behind me as we filmed, made horse noises from time to time, so when we were done, I had Hung go over and say hello:
It was a very hot and humid day
The professor left us and rode off on a motor bike. Cigarette in mouth. 

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )


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Nov 22, 2012

Episode 134: The Facilitator: every documentary shoot needs one

"Can you make that happen?"

Pretty much everything that was said during this shoot would be in Vietnamese, so there was a large element of trust that things would unfold in the right direction. I would have to let go of the need for control and accept that this has all been pre-determined.

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

The man who would become known as "The Facilitator" shook hands with Hung in the lobby of our hotel in Vietnam's city of Hue.
Pete and Huy (wearing one of my Mother's paintings)
Vo Xuan Huy is a man not to be trifled with. My thoughts expressed in simple English words, if said in an ernest enough way would soon end up taking place in reality if Huy was involved. He only spoke English if he was full of alcohol, so daytime planning was dependent on Hung's Vietnamese, which he says is that of a seven year old.

The first moment I realized this man's power to move was when the three of us boarded a boat on the Perfume River, 18 hours after I had mentioned the wish to hear some traditional Vietnamese music.

We were about to witness a concert of some of the city's best specialists in Vietnamese folk music, dressed in traditional garb. No public were allowed. Just the camera, Hung, myself and the man who made it happen: Vo Xuan Huy.
Five of the seven musicians giving the camera a private concert

One morning, Huy had some time to show me some of his artwork. I was surprised to see that he is actually a famous artist and teacher. Beautiful stuff. I intend to buy some of his work online this Month
Have a look: Visit his site

Huy's stills from our shoot will feature in this blog

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Episode 133: Bulbs blowing in Vietnam. Sunshine forecast.

The Hue Heritage Hotel was like walking onto the set of The Shining.

The off-season is our friend! Quiet nights, and breakfast in hotel restaurant with not a soul.
Pete and Hung at Breakfast: strong coffee and an old guitar
The Mist of the Perfume River shoot, taking place over 3 weeks was delayed by a few days because of SANDY. Somehow, though, all things to do with this shoot have been blessed.
The delay enabled Hung to get things organized before my arrival from New York with the camera gear. Interviews were scheduled, locations chosen and the City of Hue's stubborn clouds drifted away, giving us gorgeous sunshine to light the interviews. The bulbs I brought from America blew during the first indoor interview, so it seems that this would be a sun drenched documentary.
During a time-lapse shoot of the Perfume River at Sunset

I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Nov 8, 2012

Episode 132: Vietnam shoot, Scotch Whisky blend

Being accepted into the inner circle of the city of Hue is not something that many white men can claim.

I have found myself teary eyed many times in the first five days in Vietnam. The people honor what we are undertaking to do with this documentary, especially when they hear that Hung, the 'protagonist' is the son of the artist responsible for the famous statues by the Perfume River.

Yesterday we were in the home of one of Hung's father's colleagues, interviewing him. We joined him for lunch and almost drained a bottle of Scotch/Vietnamese spirit blend in the process.

In Vietnam, the tradition is to drink together, not only in the general sense, but to 'drink as one' each time. It has an interesting effect.


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Nov 6, 2012

Episode 131: Shooting in Hue, Vietnam (a world on 2 wheels)

After a full morning of Documentary shooting: interviews, B-roll and taxi cab chats... my protagonist character: Hung and I sat down for some special local food. The chairs and tables are all children's size, and it was pointed out to me that people are tiny here.

It had been a busy and stressful morning: interviews set up hurriedly with limited time to complete, rapidly changing weather, rain and beating sun, workman's machinery shattering the silence, guards turning down our permits to film, and all of it happening in Vietnamese. Miraculously though, the material all exceeded my expectations and we got what we needed.

Walking to the restaurant for lunch meant running the gauntlet of pedestrian crossings. Hung's advice:
"Don't Baulk".
The continuous motorcade flows around a calm pedestrian as long as his movements are steady and predictable, but they do cut it fine....

It's a country of bikes, and having spent all morning on the back of a motor bike yesterday in Saigon, all I can say is that you have to trust.

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Nov 5, 2012

Episode 130: Ho Chi Minh City



The girl next to me on the plane from Tokyo to Saigon was on her way to a WMD Non-proliferation Conference. An Aussie living in Hawaii, we had a lot to talk about before the screaming baby behind us shut down everyone's enjoyment.
ANA's Video screens are huge by today's airline standards
The aftermath of Tropical Storm Sandy had already made me five days late for the Documentary shoot in the small Vietnamese city of Hue. A TV crew had covered the filming of the ceremony for Hung's Dad's 10th year memorial. For a small fee they will furnish us with the footage, but I wish I'd had control. An opportunity to 'remain calm and let the mud settle' which is the approach I've adopted for this period.

The hotel room I've awoken in, jet lagged at four this morning was paid for by Hung's cousin, along with a sim-card for my unlocked phone, a bowl of noodles and a beer. I haven't worked out the why's of who pays, but hopefully that duty-free vitamin cream I gave him for his girlfriend will even things out. He won't take my money though, and I withdrew Two Million Dong at the airport….  2 million.

The front desk girl was bedded down on the couch along with another girl in the little lobby adjacent to my room.

A wander around the neighborhood revealed that the people are very friendly and quite curious. It reminds me of China in the eighties - the people have a good look at me, a smile waiting just below the surface, especially the old people.


I was glad I brought my sunglasses out to breakfast as I was picked up on a motor bike: riding bitch across town weaving through oncoming traffic. Beef noodle soup for breakfast is not everyone's cup of tea. Off on another hair raising mystery trip to meet some more cousins for coffee, which the Vietnamese do in a very special way. 

The motor bike culture here is ingrained across the generations. 

Things I saw on motor bikes today: 
  • Babies
  • One 40 litre propane tank
  • One 40 foot pole
  • One family (they were moving house)
Shooting tomorrow in Hue, 7:30 start. Can't wait to get working on this project.


I need help: documentary in process (More info here )

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Nov 2, 2012

Episode 127: Sandy keeps Pete back a few days


Stormy Sandy rained on my plan to arrive in Vietnam on November 1st... still sitting here in NYC.
 Hung, the protagonist of the upcoming documentary shoot  is in Hue, and has arranged for his cousin to pick me up in Saigon on Sunday night for a bowl of noodles, a hotel for the night and them a flight the next day to join Hung in Hue.

Hung has managed to make a deal with a TV crew to film his Dad's 10th anniversary memorial, so that's covered hopefully. Thanks to my lovely wife for helping me dodge all of those canceled flights which would have put me in quite a spot.

 Anchors a'weigh


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