Earned: Keith Hale’s Ducati 750ss, the most beautiful bike ever built.

Motorcycles are and have been inherently cool since their conception, even elevated to works of art. They kind of have to be. They are horrible machines. Extremely uncomfortable, requiring constant maintenance, and not so much a question of if you are going to die on one, but when. They are extremely dangerous, and considering the fact that this is the only vehicle where you become the fuselage and ride the engine, they have earned the title “death trap”.

That all said they are extremely cool. What is cool exactly? It can be hard to define but to me cool is something that exists for the pure pleasure of existing. A little Greek philosopher having a wee too much to drink perhaps, but it is an illusive term and that I suppose is what makes cool, cool. It’s hard to put your finger on it. Well, when I heard about Keith Hale and his 1974 Ducati 750ss only one word came to mind. Cool.

Let’s wind it back. Ducati wins 1st and 2nd place at Imola in 1972. This is the Grand Prix or the Daytona 500 of moto racing you see, and it’s a huge deal. The bike they won on, a 750ss, has amazing engineering and is clearly technologically superior to it’s competitors. What it is also, is the most strikingly beautiful bike ever built. A sunset green frame supporting a warm, silver tank in the shape of a bullet you can ride. It is sublime and is known as the most beautiful bike, if not machine, ever produced.

1974: Ducati makes 401 of these stunners and sells them to the public with almost no modification from their race specs. It is the first time a real race bike is available to the public and it causes a sensation. Only 88 make their way overseas, and only one enchanted a very young Keith Hale in northern California.

She’s a looker. The Ducati 750ss. Most beautiful bike ever built.

Keith heard the bike before he saw it and fell in love on sound. If you’ve ever heard one in the wild you would understand why. A mechanical symphony, the 750ss is run by a desmodromic valve system. What that means is the motor’s motion drives the valves instead of springs which is how most motors actuate. The way this is done is with a tower of precision machined gears and bevels that when running at 9000 RPM spinning faster then the earth rotates it makes a heavenly sound.

But then you see it and you’re done for.

Keith had to have it. He was just a kid from a big family that moved a lot and worked in a factory. So he scraped together as much money as he could, and begged the unwilling old man who purchased the bike from the factory to sell it to him for 3,200 bucks. He promised the old man he would race it and ride it everyday. Keith kept his promise in a most unusual way.

On a bike that was meant to do a 1/4 mile at a time, Keith did something that no one had ever, or has ever since, done. He put a ridiculous 100k+ miles on a track bike, riding it not just in a loop, but around the country, to work, to weddings and funerals, to the beach and the mountains. This race bike became an extension of Keith and their personalities merged over the 50 years he owned and maintained his machine.

And maintained is the key word.

Every bike needs constant attention. Some less than others. A Ducati, especially a desmodromic 750ss needs perhaps the most attention. It is the persian cat of bikes, and no ordinary diet will do. Keith had to learn this bike as if he were the engineer who built it and perhaps the physicist that defined relativity as well. These bikes were not meant to do a fraction of the milage that he put on this machine, but here it is, with so many miles on it that the speedometer eventually just gave up. It was the only part that Keith neglected to fix.

This story to me is cool because here is a person that does one thing and learns to do it perfect for the sake of knowing how to do something perfect. It wasn’t his career to be a racer, or mechanic, or engineer; Keith is a teacher, humble and lovely, soft spoken and artistic. His drive to maintain this bike came out of love, pure love of an object. He gave it value beyond it’s worth with a lifetime of memories marinating this aged piece of automotive history. He has also done the impossible; proven that these bike have been engineered to perfection, perhaps the only tested example that a bike’s engine simply will not fail, ever.

While this is a story about a machine, it has a very human center to it. Keith, after a lifetime of being defined by his bike, has to face the harsh reality of his mortality. There is no simple way to say this, Keith is getting old. A race bike is hard to ride for someone in their physical prime, and while Keith has maintained his body as well as his machine, and somehow eluded death which comes on tap with motorcycle riding, realizes that the bike he loves isn’t fitting in his life like it used to. Not that he loves it less, but realizes that it’s not being used in the same glory as it used to. Perhaps it is time to part ways with her, to pass her story onto the next keeper, who will love her in a different but same intense way.

Keith was an educator. He taught children most of his life, dedicated to making young people better at who they are and giving them purpose and direction in life. Now, when most people retire, Keith finds himself unable to stop working; there is no pension for school teachers in his district and requires a steady stream of income even living a humble life as he does. It would seem that he would have to spend his last days expiring in some random job that would have him, just to keep money coming in for increasing medical bills and daily living.

Here comes the twist.

What’s truly cool about this story is the because Keith has taken such exceptional care of his machine, has dedicated his life to keeping it not just in perfect condition but to proving its engineering superiority through miles of testing, he is now able to sell his beloved machine for a sweet little nest egg that will keep him comfortably retired well into his later life.

The machine he took care of his entire life now takes care of him for the rest of his life.

If you needed a more Disney ending for adults I don’t know where you would find it. It’s a lovely story, only made more unbelievable because it is in fact real. Keith is really a nice guy, a teacher with a heart of gold, and his motorcycle really is one of a kind and perhaps the most beautiful machine I’ve ever seen. It’s the kind of story that transcends motorcycle culture and enters the kingdom of human existence, illustrating the beautiful ballance that happens when we dedicate our life to something for the sheer pleasure of the act of doing it. It’s a beautiful mix between wabi-sabi and Kaisen, and just knowing about it puts a smile on my face a mile wide.

Which is exactly what happened when Keith heard his bike start up for the very first time.

For me, my Ducati 750ss is documentary. It’s these stories that I get to share, and these amazing people I get to meet. I don’t make them because someone pays me, the payment is in the process, and if you asked me honestly I would tell you that becoming a filmmaker was my hack to life. I get to be part of these amazing people’s lives simply because I know how to put together a film. It’s an honor to tell these stories, and hope you enjoy them too.

I think you do, because the story without any impetus seemed to find its way to the top of the news cycle. I love hearing what other’s think about not just my films, but the subjects of my films. Some of my favorites were here on the Vintagent, here on Iron and Air, and on Motorcycle.com … but this interview I did for Taylor Brown over on Bike Bound is a special look a little deeper in what this film actually means to me.

Of course we must not forget that while this is a truly beautiful story, it is afterall, just a motorcycle. It’s something that I think Keith mitigates exceptionally well in his life, the balance between putting improtance on an object, and always remembering it is just a thing. But what a beautiful thing it is, and in so … well, we had to have a little fun with it. May I introduce you to All The Pretty Things:

This was a little fun film we put together to celebrate, well, all the pretty things we love. In it you’ll find a dozen cherished items, from handcrafted Hedon helmets, to museum worthy glassware and even our favorite recipe for the perfect Negroni. Add in a dash of star studded cast of our favorite people and you can get a sense of how easy it is to fall in love with this bike, how inspirational it can be.

This was a divine experience for me, to meet Keith, explore his world, and even get to play in it for a while in my own way. The older I get the more I feel burdened by things, the more I realize how materialistic we are, and don’t get me wrong, I love my pretty things, but it’s nice to see someone truly own something, rather then just having something, you know what I mean?

You can find out more about this amazing machine and amazing person at www.ducati750ss.com

Rs

Oh, because you asked … here are all the pretty things;)


All The Pretty Things:

Helmets: Hedon Bespoke Helmets https://hedon.com/
Motorcycle: Ducati 750ss www.motoborgotaro.com
Mamiya 23: www.vintagecameraquest.com
Pink Whip: James Marsh www.instagram.com/jamesthomasmarsh/
Eyewear: Tom Ford https://www.tomford.com/eyewear/men/sunglasses/
Sandwitch: Canter’s Deli http://www.cantersdeli.com/
Cellphone: Samsung Ultra s21 https://www.samsung.com/us/smartphones/galaxy-s21-ultra-5g/
Menswear: Michael Andrews Bespoke https://www.michaelandrews.com/
Timepiece: Rolex of Grey and Patina https://greyandpatina.com/
Switchblade: AGA Campolin http://www.agacampolin.com/
Coin: The Explorer’s Club https://www.explorers.org/
Camera Holster: Hold Fast https://holdfastgear.com/
Gloves: Shinola https://www.shinolahotel.com/
Motorcycle: Royal Enfield Himalayan https://www.royalenfield.com/
Boots: Justin https://www.justinboots.com/en-US Leather
Case: Vintage Stanley https://kevinscatalog.com/
Hat: Goorin Bros https://www.goorin.com/
Glassware: Maximillian Elcke https://maxidnystore.com/
Future Gin https://www.futuregin.com/
Campari: http://www.campari.com/
Tempis Fugit: https://www.tempusfugitspirits.com/

Produced by: One Man One Camera

The 12th annual Taste Awards, oh my.

Well, tonight is the 12th annual International Taste awards in Hollywood, California, and I have not one, but TWO films up for 6 possible awards. I have no words other then wow. I am so excited to have these films be part of such an amazing event, one that has showcased the works of most of my idols.

Here’s the two films that have risen to the top…

Italy in Bocca – A journey of two friends to reconnect through four amazing dishes from the worlds funkiest cookbook collection.

  • Best Short Film or Documentary (10-40 Minutes)
  • Best Filmed at Home Episodes or Film

Sobrino De Botin – an intimate look at the worlds oldest restaurant and how it’s still making magical dishes after 300 years of continual operation.

  • Best Food Program – Online and Streaming
  • Best Food Travel Series – Online and Streaming
  • Best New Series
  • Best Mini Film or Documentary (5-10 Minutes)

Here is a livestream of the event tonight, 5:30PM PST:

Or join me on Facebook or Instagram where I will attempt to livestream me watching and quickly getting intoxicated off imported capocolla and Jura wine. 


Much love to everyone that made these films possible including Get Lost Magazine  Peter Boggia of Moto Borgotaro  Pete Crimi of Sound Lounge  Brad Stuart & Jackie Farris, and of course, my mother, who I promised I would thank first if I ever won an Oscar, and this might be the closest I will come;)

Fingers Crossed!

Rs

Unattended Baggage featured on Film Shortage.

More fun news to wake up as one of my very rare, personal short narrative films is being featured on Film Shortage currently, a great honor indeed. From Film Shortage’s review:

“You know we love films that bring in real emotions. And while watching ‘Unattended Baggage’ you know that the words must be coming from a real life experience. Brilliantly capturing the tiniest details that can make a person unique – something that we absolutely adore in this film. Following the lines of all of Serrini’s work, lots of attention goes into the editing. An element that dictates the flow and almost comical pace of the film.”

I made Unattended Baggage a few years ago now, after a very difficult breakup, that luckily filmmaking and a few really great friends help me get through. I guess it’s based on a true story so it’s still a quasi documentary;)

It’s great to see it still out there and enticing people. The film has been translated into a handful of languages, and won some really nice awards which is always so strange since it came from a weird place of pain. Always so ever grateful to Natasha King, Mikko Timonen and Russell Dreher for this and everything my little film family has ever done with me.

https://filmshortage.com/shorts/unattended-baggage/

Italy in Bocca featured on Film Shortage

This week Film Shortage will be highlighting Italy in Bocca as one of their top pics. This is extremely exciting news, as lots of new people will be introduced to these amazing books and our little story. Also Film Shortage has always been an inspirational place to find really quality independent film, so I’m honored to be included in their collection.

Here is a snippet from their review:

We immediately fell in love with ‘Italy in Bocca’, the film speaks directly to our hearts and bellies. The nostalgia of it all, the trip, the people, the towns… the first part of the doc really brought us immediately to a happy place and kept driving us forward being dynamic, fun, and incredibly well produced, to a very satisfying ending. Bravo.

So very satisfying to us as well. What a wild ride it’s been and it keeps going. The little film we shot in one day has been shown so much love I honestly don’t know what to say. I guess when you do something out of love you get it back. I’ll eat to that. Thanks Film Shortage for sharing the In Bocca Love!

Thanks For an Epic Year!

It’s that time again for a classic Year End Review … amazing how you can fit 365 days in 3 minutes;)

You can watch it on YouTube, or on Vimeo, or on my website (just scroll down).

Thanks to everyone who made this year one of the best yet. I’m so blessed to have done so much with so many magnificent people.

2019insta
2019insta

Looking forward to making more magic with you this year!

Rs

 

 

Kids see a drone for the first time.

This was taken a few years ago when drones just hit the market and I was working on a documentary in a small village named Anuk Lang. There is no electricity, no TV, no internet, and no real connection to the modern world there, so when I brought out this little drone the kids went absolutely bonkers. They never had seen a cell phone let alone a flying quad copter. The look on their faces are priceless, and reflect the pure beauty this extraordinary country offers.

This is by far my most popular drone film, the (longer) original version
Vimeo https://vimeo.com/82292117 – but we wanted to share this rare view of Cambodia’s lush back country with you today, which we find absolutely stunning. You can read more about it on this Huffington Post article

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/drone-documentary-cambodia_n_4957251

If you want some tips on best settings and color correcting drone footage check this out:

https://cineclast.com/2015/01/04/best-settings-for-perfect-drone-footage-me-thinks/

And if you dig this film please like and Subscribe … we’ll be bringing you NEW CONTENT EACH DAY so count on us;)

Much love,

TC

JOIN THE CLAST!
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/travelclast
Instagram: @TravelClast
Twitter: @ClastTravel
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TravelClast
Blog: http://www.cineclast.com

GEAR:
Drone: DJI Mavic https://goo.gl/jLa257
Camera: Sony A7rIII https://goo.gl/ijE1vZ
B Cam: Sony a6300 https://goo.gl/cs7AJm
Art Lens: 25mm CCTV f1.4 https://goo.gl/EgZShq
360 Camera: Samsung Gear 360 https://goo.gl/1jsfn8
Mic: Zoom H6 https://goo.gl/Gani8E
Lavs: Sony UWPD16 https://goo.gl/LXpHyg
Tripod: Manfrotto 390 https://goo.gl/6PzxBv

How To Get a Vimeo Staff Pick.

 

So clickbait, amirite?

This essay isn’t really about how to get a Vimeo Staff Pick. I am fortunate to have a couple of my films to have been showcased on Vimeo’s Parthenon of special Staff Picks, but I couldn’t tell you a recipe on how secure your acceptance. Besides, other people have offered their advice on the subject, so why add to the noise.

What I do want to discuss is why some of my films become Staff Picks, and other’s perhaps not.

I have upward of 600 films on Vimeo. Each unique pieces of work, a mixture of client driven and personal projects. Somewhere along the way I left the ranks of an office worker and dedicated my full-time to being a filmmaker. I say filmmaker because I direct, shoot, and edit. It’s totally consuming, and even when I’m not “working” I’m still working. Like they say however, if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. That is true.

Even though I have some compelling work with famous athletes or well-known actors or insane SFX, there are a few films that really resonated with the Vimeo staff. What I find interesting is that they are all projects I did on my own dime, with my own crew, and were totally self-produced. I think this is an important point for any filmmaker.

This last film, “Heretic” is a short documentary about Douglas Little. Douglas is an amazing guy; he’s one of the creative visual geniuses behind sleep no more, an award-winning designer, but what put him on my radar was actually my girlfriend. She forwarded me an article about this guy who makes personalized perfume in his baroque upper west side apartment. He sounded absolutely mad, and I really wanted to meet him.

So I wrote him an email.

I basically said I was a filmmaker, and make short docs about people I find interesting. I asked if he would be interested in shooting a short doc in his apartment. He said yes.

I’ll pause here for a second to explain why these short docs are so important to me. I love narrative work, both commercially and otherwise. Docs though hold a special place in my heart. Living in a city like New York you are literally surrounded by people whose stories are always as or more interesting than most narratives. These are real people, who are your neighbors, your office mates, your friends even. Their stories are already written and all you need to do is record them. For me the short doc is an easy day at the filmmaking gym; just bring your gear and work it out.

For Douglas, along for others I’ve done, I like to keep the crew real small. Just 3 or 4 people. Maybe two lights if any. Good sound. It makes it fast and easy to move around, and easy on the subject too. I’m sure Douglas was open to having 5 people in his living room instead of a crew of a dozen.

I also move fast and cover everything. I have a set list of questions, but really just want to have a conversation with my subject. I find out what’s interesting about them on the spot. What’s fantastic is there is no consequence; there is no client, no one paying you, so it really doesn’t matter if you get something or not, you’re there to experience someone and no more. It’s the going commando of filmmaking and it’s amazing.

Finally you must have fun with it. The crew I roll with is all other filmmakers and shooters. Since there is no client it become professional playtime, meaning we get to use all the toys we never do on paid sets because we’re not exactly sure what they will do. Russian anamorphic glass you bought on-line, a weird 360 camera you want to cut your teeth on, even an old 8mm film camera you found at your grandparents. We get weird, really weird with it, and it makes for some very interesting footage. Weird angles, strange lighting, you name it, the weirder the better. Leave it to the editor to figure out.

That’s me also. I love and hate editing like most editors do. When it’s tedious, it’s life sucking, but when its good, it’s mind-blowing. When I do a personal project like this because there is no consequence to anything we’re doing, it becomes extremely enjoyable. I make some editorial decisions that are frankly horrible and I love it.

In the end what happens is a few things. You get to meet someone who is very interesting. You get to learn and invent new techniques and gear, and you get to try something new in post that may or may not make sense. It’s basically the Jackson Pollock style of filmmaking; throw it against the canvas and see what sticks.

Now I’m sure some people will say that a planned line of attack is a much better use of a filmmakers time, and yes, there is a time and place for that. However if you consider that it takes half a day to shoot, and maybe a week to edit one of these films, it really isn’t that much of a risk.

The result has always been rewarding, not just from accolades, but from the experience of meeting new people and working with my core crew. One film we did together about master mechanic Peter Boggia went on to win a few great festivals and even brought Peter and I over to Italy for a month-long, once-in-a-lifetime motorcycle trip. This latest film about Douglas has spurred a bunch of new work from new clients, which I wouldn’t have even know how to approach otherwise. What I’m saying is that while paid work is great, it’s usually the personal projects that stand out, and often get the new work knocking at your door. What’s more it doesn’t really cost anything to produce, other than some lunch for your friends.

So how do you get a Vimeo Staff Pick? No idea, but if you know please tell me. In the meantime just email someone interesting, grab a camera and a friend, and go make a short doc, you won’t be disappointed.

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a professional Filmmaker who records his adventures in word, photography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

How To Make A Good Drone Film.

Drones. We all got drones. Everybody is doing the drone thing, amarite? I mean there is even a Drone Film Festival in NYC (which I’m a judge of;) so lemme tell ya when I say drone vids are a dime a dozen, they are.

So, how do you make a good one? How do you make one that stands out? One that people actually watch, and dare I say it, share?

Well, here are a few tips I use when making my vids, and things I look for in other flyer’s vids. Just some armchair advice, and you can’t beat the price.

  1. Shoot it right. 

This should be a no brainer but like cooking or construction if you use crap material, you get a crap product. So what do I mean “shoot it right”? Here’s a few things to think about while flying:

  • Fly steady. Do long sweeping moves. Try to ease in and out of panning shots. This is where the skill is in flying.
  • Know what you’re shooting at. Flying into the sun can be cool, but it usually isn’t. Be aware of propeller shadow hitting your lens (e.g. don’t fly 45 degrees to the sun)
  • Use a ND filter. This will slow down your shutter, and keep your footage more cinematic. Don’t have a ND filter? You can tape a piece of exposed 35mm film over the front of your lens. That one’s for free.
  • Be interesting. Sure you can go high, but the best drone footage has movement. If you are ballsy enough fly through something (safely people) or easier, set up a shot where you fly sideways across something, e.g. a wall, coastline or even a fence, you’ll get a cool shot.
  • Set your camera up right. Many of you have seen my post on the “best” settings for drone footage. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, I always opt for more resolution over frame rate. It will give you more latitude in post bringing me to my second point:

2. Dress up your footage. 

Sure, you can upload your entire clip to YouTube and let it rot there with the millions of others, or, you can do some dress up in post. Don’t be afraid of post, frankly it’s more fun then flying sometimes, and will make the difference between amateur footage and pro footage. Here’s some tips:

  • Cut it down. Then cut it down some more. Then cut it down, once again. Drone videos don’t need to be over 2 minutes ever. 30 seconds is actually totally appropriate. Short and sweet is the best rule of thumb here, choose your best moments, and get out.
  • Think story. I know you’re just shooting a field, or the ocean, or a strip mall, but build a story. Could be anything; start low and go high. Maybe try alternating closer shots with wider shots. Build a story, like you are leading a viewer on a ride. I alway re-order my clips (that’s editing;) so that they tell a story, abstract as it may seem.
  • Think backwards. Don’t be afraid to reverse your footage. 80% of the time I will have my shots playback in reverse, reason being is because with most drones, especially Phantoms, you can fly backwards faster and without the props getting in the shot. Reverse this and you look like Ice Man from Top Gun. Just make sure there are no people, or waves in the shots, or it might look a little weird.
  • Get weird with it. I know I just said be careful not to get weird with it, but I definitely want you to get weird. 99% of all drone films are just beautiful footage from the sky. Thats cool. Sometimes it’s real refreshing to see something new, weird, and edgy. Mix in B roll, stuff on the ground, handheld. Turn the image upside-down, that will make your head spin. Stand out footage will make you stand out.
  • Color Correct and Optical Correct always. Your footage isn’t really done when it comes out of the camera, it’s half done. If you can, shoot “flat” or “protune” to have latitude in post to color correct. Massage your contrast, grade your film, and give it a look. I guarantee you will make it 100 times better. Another great thing to do is optically correct the footage. Most footage coming out of the camera will have a pretty noticeable fish-eye on it. It will look like you shot it through a hotel door. Most programs, like After Effects, have a “optical correct” plugin that you can slap on your footage. Here’s a good tutorial that I every time without fail. Pro Tip: click the “optimal Pixel” checkbox. It will “bow” the top and bottom of your footage. Then just change your frame/canvas size to crop the image. This will give you the most resolution and a nice letterbox.

3) Music

I can’t stress this one enough. Good music makes good footage. Music is so important to film in general, but it goes triple for drone footage. A sweeping orchestral piece will elevate and give your film gravitas. Something electronic and modern will give it an edgy feel. Depending on what you want your film to be, music is the vehicle to get you there. You can use a famous song, but beware, some sites may not let you post it. Or you can go to a site like pond5 to get some cheap tracks that can be used anywhere. Even finding something at freesound.org can get you on the right track, so to speak.

Here is a little side by side of ungraded and graded footage:

And here is the final film with music:

that’s it really, three solid rules to follow when thinking about drone films. This is a special genre of film and relatively still new, so there is lots of room to bend and break these “rules” but I guarantee if you are at least thinking about them, you’re going to have a better end result. If you don’t I’ll be happy to refund your money.

Happy flying!

Rs

Roberto Serrini is a NYC based commercial director, editor, and avid drone operator. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com

The Most Eye Opening Trip.

When I was 37 I went to Cambodia. It was the first time I ever went to South-East Asia which is odd because it would have been my favorite place likely in my 20’s, much like the rest of the male affluent white world. Loads of sex, cheep beer, and endless adventure is hard to pass up, but I did, probably because deep down I knew that if I did go there I would never come back, due to the fact that I probably would die there due to some circumstance directly under my control.

For whatever divine reason I dodged that death sentence and ended up in Phnom Penh on a film shoot with a guy I had worked with a handful of times named Sami Joensuu.

Sami was a super nice, super cool guy from Finland via Sweden. He had fun tattoos, a skater attitude, and a great smile. He was a pleasure to travel with, was funny, adventurous, and we would have made one hell of a travel show. We weren’t there for a show, we were there to film a documentary about a small village called Anlung Leak, which is not on any map, and about two hours due west in the backcountry from Phnom Penh.  A humanitarian, Christian organization named FIDA wanted to document the benefit their assistance did on the town. We were to focus on one woman, a mother, and wife, named Ana Ong.

serrini_cambodia-124

Ana lost her youngest daughter to Dengue fever, a completely treatable and curable disease even without medication. She lost her because the way her village had treated this sickness for the last millennia was to put the affected out in the sun, and let them sweat it out. Most died including her daughter. Then FIDA came and taught them what we of the first world would consider some very basic education; that there are these things called germs, untreated water needs to be boiled before drank, and washing your hands can stop you from being sick most of the times. They also taught her that she killed her daughter.

Not directly of course, but the understanding was that she did not need to die. The understanding was that if he mother just had this knowledge a little earlier, she would still have her daughter. It was a singular experience, that I will never have again, to witness, for the first time, another person, for the first time, be illuminated in such a profound way.

Of course that was life in the village. Here in the states I imagine there would be all sorts of ceremony, therapy, years of medication, self-doubt, and a life dedicated to “what ifs”. For Ana Ong it was part of a larger cycle, no doubt horribly difficult, but was a life that did not afford the luxury of pity.

We talked to her in a little wood shack that her husband built with his hands, axe, and rope. She showed us her most treasured items: two poorly photoshopped photos of her parents that were a tradition in Cambodia. A generic red sports car behind the man, and a disproportionate commercial center behind the woman, framing them in their dreams and aspirations.

serrini_cambodia-107

On a derelict but well-kept wood chiffonier was an old 13 inch CRT tv. I asked what her favorite show was and she didn’t understand the question. She went over to the TV with a big proud smile and turned it on. White snow illuminated the dim shack. The TV was hooked up to a car battery and they would turn it at night to use as a lamp. They had never experienced it for it’s intended use. During the day the kids would ride a stationary bike attached to a generator to recharge the car battery.  This was a town that had no running water or electricity, no cell phones, no current knowledge of the outside world, not even the basic knowledge that washing your hands could save your life.

serrini_cambodia-102

Yet, here humanity thrived. Outside the children laughed and played like any child does around the entire world. A rich kid with a Xbox, or these kids that invented a game played with discarded rubber bands, had the same laugh, the same desire to win, the same need to be accepted. They were just as happy, and that, to me, was a tremendous discovery. It made me closer to humanity, made me realize that what was important was human not object, and made me feel that we do start pure, that the world as a whole does have a chance. You can read a thousand books, see as many documentaries as you like, I doubt you will be able to see it any clearly then a gaggle of kids giggling over a game they invented with garbage.

The village was fascinated with us. We were big and different and we came with these cameras and microphones that didn’t look like anything the had seen before. The kids loved to see their picture taken, one of Ana Ong’s daughters even posed like a model, hand on an extended hip, chin down and eyes up at the camera, without being asked, almost, instinctual.

serrini_cambodia-45.jpg

“She wants to be an tour guid” said her mother, “that would make me very proud.” That however would not be the fate for the young daughter who has never left the village; at 12 she would go to the factory and begin to make t-shirts, or assemble electronics, like her older sister did. “School is very expensive, and hardly anyone has money to go to college.” I asked her how much it would cost to send her to school. “Well, from elementary, through high school, and then college, with all the supplies, it’s nearly 15,000 Bhat.”

That’s almost 400.00 USD. Almost.

We carried on filming, at one point even brought my little DJI drone out to get some aerial shots. I’ve never blown so many minds at one time before. The kids went absolutely nuts, and some of the older villagers ran into their houses, unsure and unwilling to participate in whatever the hell this loud, flying, flashing, buzzing white thing was. The drone to me represented perfectly the modern world, and to see it in this gentle, primitive setting was quite extraordinary. We flew over the rice fields, through the village, and down dirt roads, documenting an ancient place with the newest technology. I imagined this is how explorers felt when they came to lands filled with indigenous people. For me it was inspiring, to share the possibility of the future with the youth, but I could easily see how this power could be manipulated for other purposes quite easily.

And here is the film I made, just of the drone footage. It’s stunning to see the country this way, and must have been for many people; it’s won numerous awards around the world, and what’s more, I’ve had people actually leave comments thanking me for showing them their beautiful country. The pleasure was truly all mine.

We shot for about 10 days, and became very close with the people of Anlung Leak, and the children who welcomed us each day as if we were some sort of show for them. The last evening we shared a humble meal with Ana Ong and her family, she insisted in cooking for us. Lovely young rice and fresh eggs with golden yolks, fried as an omelette with garlic. Fish sauce and tapioca. It was simple and beautiful, and was probably more food then she eats in a week.

After dinner she took a large towel off an old cast iron ice shaving machine. It was French made, and was left over from a people who colonized her land that she never met over a century ago. She took a precious block of ice, rare and precious, and placed it gently under the mechanism. Children jumped for joy as she cranked the machine by hand; a giant iron blade scraping a symphony for them to dance to. The shavings were gathered, placed in a bowl with tapioca beads and some tapioca vermicelli, dried fruit, and condensed milk. She offered this treat to us first, before making any others and waited. It was delicious. Everything about it, delicious.

While we packed up, and the kids collectively helped clear the feast, Sami and I snuck into the little dark shack. Under her rag stuffed pillow we placed 400 dollars tied together with strand ripped from my red bandana. We piled into our car, placed our hands together and bowed a hundred times, and made our way back to the modern world of Phnom Penh. In the wake of dust behind us we left the hope that maybe one little girl might experience a larger world, and maybe bring the good things of that larger world back to her home town. Maybe.

Here is the full documentary we produced:

And if you like, hop over to my Flickr album … so many beautiful images.

Rs

 

Roberto Serrini is a professional traveler who records his adventures in wordphotography and film. He is a staff writer for Get Lost Magazine, a senior contributor to Trip Advisor, as well as a commercial film director and drone pilot. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com where he can be contacted as well.

 

introducing bella branded.

So it’s a special day today, as we launch the creative agency arm of no-frames, our humble, bad-ass production company. Bella Branded has been in the works for a while now, and as we have opened office in Los Angeles and Gothenburg, Sweden, now is a great time to announce this specialized department.

What is Bella Branded? It’s the creative component to an outstanding production company that creates original, fun, sexy, cool branding and identity concepts for any brand wanting to stand out. We work a little bit differently than most of the branding teams out there … We like to collaborate with scientists, buskers, graffiti artists, performance artists, and creative individuals that are actually making socially consumed art, rather than just advertising jockeys, so that our concepts are perhaps a little more fresher, and a whole lot more authentic.

Lead by the creative team at No-Frames, who has over 15 years experience producing high concept media for global brands in the advertising arena, we corral this raw talent into producing ideas that cannot be ignored. We are all only children, so we know a thing or two about that.

Anyway, do check us out. Even if you are not interested in rebranding yourself, the ideas and films we offer are pretty dope. Worth a peek.

Much love and happy birthday Bella! We’re sure you’ll grow up to be a stunning young lady.

Rs