Anyway I digress. The point is, there are still places in the world where real adventures can be had, which can enrich the traveller and even have a positive impact on the community. That’s at the heart of what Filmmaker Abroad is about. In fact we think that we offer the most authentically experiential travel experience there is to be had. I feel comfortable saying there is no more immersive and enriching experience than making a doco in a remote and exotic location. The camera provides a privileged access to a place and people – by empowering the storyteller to delve into the community in a way that a tourist could never do.
So, if money wasn’t your first consideration; if you craved that immersive experience in your next holiday; if you thought you’d like to try your hand at making your own documentary film; where would you choose to go? Can I make a suggestion?
What about Kodiak Island in Alaska for the salmon run? It’s a long way from Australia. Gosh, it’s a long way from the continental US! But this is a perfect example of where the journey is definitely part of the experience. Let me describe for you a Filmmaker Abroad trip to Kodiak Island:
The trip starts in Anchorage, the State capital. You’ll soon realise you’re in a different part of the world, as you’ll be collecting your bags next to men dressed in camo jackets, hefting pelican cases filled with firearms and fishing rods, and loading huge polystyrene boxes filled with Red Salmon onto trolleys. My fixer tells me that she often sees Hollywood-types slipping through the airport, hats pulled down over eyes, as they set off for 'boy's own' adventures and the bliss of anonymity. It's like Australia in that way, no one gives a toss if you're famous or rich and, like Australian's, Alaskans think they live in the greatest place on Earth.
We’ll probably stay a night here and take a stroll down the main drag lined with old-fashioned outfitters stores (fancy a plaid shirt and matching cap?) and bars, lots and lots of bars. No cafes, few restaurants, but that's alright, there's bar-food! It’s part of the experience of an Alaskan summer to do a bit of bar-hopping in the midnight sun. After the months of darkness the arrival of the long days of summer seem to whip the locals into - how shall I put this?- an elevated state. I’d describe the mood as ‘the world might end tomorrow, let’s make the f***ing most of today’.
If you find yourself walking home at 1am in full sunlight, you won’t be alone.
The flight down to Kodiak Island is short (even with a hangover) and – in the summer time at least – uneventful. Kodiak is sometimes called the Emerald Island (not sure how the Irish feel about that), about a third the size of Tasmania, two thirds of which is a wildlife refuge. To say this place is rugged undersells it. It’s like saying the bears here a big. They are so big some scientists consider them a subspecies. There’s a stuffed one at the airport that stands over 3 metres tall. His canines are the size of a man’s finger. But I don’t want to frighten you. You are safe from the Kodiak bears - unless you’re a salmon, or really stupid.
The township of Kodiak is small and relaxed. This is the home of the ‘Deadliest Catch’ fleet so camera crews are far from novel, but it’s not the town we’re here to see (having said that, I love the place, it's got the same frontier town frisson as Nome, but in a much more attractive location). Not far from the main airport is the flying boat airport, and what a beautiful thing it is; a series of docks lined with colourful float planes. This is the only way to access the lakes of the interior and that’s were we are going, in my favourite airplane of all time, the De Havilland Beaver. It’s not fast, it’s not new (in fact the controls are made from Bakelite and the dash is Art Deco in style) and it’s not very comfortable; but is there a more beautiful plane in the world? Well they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This may be a case in point.