Music and Mangroves

Today we started out at our usual 5:30am call time and were treated to one of the most incredible sunrises I’ve seen so far. As we took the boat from Mansuar to Sawinggrai, everyone was grabbing their cameras and phones to take pictures of this glorious event. It was a good omen for the day, weather-wise.


On our way to Sawinggrai, assistant cameraman Rob Walker and Dylan Reade, our head IMAX® 3D camera operator, compared war wounds on their ankles. Rob had scratched himself on the stairs of the Kalabia, whereas Dylan had been bitten by what we were later told was probably a Forest Spider.  They were each trying to one-up the other with whose wound was worse.


The second we hit the Sawinggrai pier, Greg announced that we needed to have the IMAX camera up in five minutes to get three of our young characters—Jawi, Gibson and Jacob—in front of the sunrise. The camera was quickly set up and the boys got ready to go. Greg wanted them playing ukuleles and singing on the end of the pier.  They sang a song that Steve Wood wrote in Bahasa. Steve is a brilliant composer we’ve worked with for as long as I can remember, and he was here with us on this adventure to pick up local musical sounds for use in the film’s music score.  Since he’s been on this trip he’s already written and composed at least three songs.  One is made up of birdcalls, rainfall, and guitar set to a beat he taps on a jar of toothpicks. Steve can make music out of anything.


All of the boys had memorized the song and it was pure pleasure to hear them singing and strumming on their ukuleles. Each of these children is so naturally musically inclined. They are always humming, playing guitar or ukulele, or even just tapping out a beat on whatever they have available. It was a beautiful way to start the day, listening to Jawi and his friends sing Steve Wood’s song on a pier while the sun was rising. 


We filmed on the Kalabia again today, working with nearly all the kids in the entire village. This requires a lot of direction, translation, and patience. These kids are absolutely amazing and they enthusiastically repeat the same shot again and again, never tiring. We’ve established a rallying cry that they absolutely love. One of our translators chants “Sawinggrai, Sawinggrai!” and they respond, “Go! Go! Go!” and then he yells “Go! Go! Go!” and they all scream back, “A-le, a-le, a-le, a-le.” I don’t know where they learned the soccer chant but it really gets them going! The best part is watching the littlest kids run as fast as they can to keep up with the bigger kids. They are most definitely great cast members to have.


We finished the day with a shot of the three boys on their canoe in the mangroves.  Every location here is beautiful, but if you get stuck out in the sun for too long, beware.  Before you know it, you have a nasty sunburn to go with your mosquito bites.  That’s what happened to me today.  We spent hours in the mangroves under a scorching sun. I’m sure the shots will be incredible but my ears and neck are sure paying the price.



Today was one of the longer days and we were out on the island until dark.  We finally stumbled into the dive lodge well after our normal dinner time. These 14- to 16-hour work days take it out of you, but the announcement at dinner that our call time the next morning would be 6:30 instead of 5:00 was a welcome relief.

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