The making of "I've Been Everywhere, Man!" written by Cameron Edser
In 2011, Michael Richards and I decided we wanted to go on a trip around Australia, with the intention of experimenting with the new camera gear and rigging equipment we had been building. We'd developed an interest in time-lapse photography, light painting and stereoscopic 3D filmmaking, so we thought we would go to some remote and interesting locations to try out these techniques.
To launch into these new areas of filmmaking, we received a professional development grant from Carclew Youth Arts in 2011. This enabled us to build our own motion control camera rigs and also prepare for the big trip around Australia. We bought an old campervan and a caravan, just big enough for us and our partners. We decked them out with solar power, loaded up all of our film gear and hit the road. I realised I wouldn't be able to live without basketball for such a long time so I installed a ring on the back of my van and painted basketball themed artwork all over it. The Jam Van, as it was called, became my home away from home, and surprisingly kept chugging along all the way around Australia.
Just before we left in 2012, I had the idea for “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man!” I had been watching a few videos on YouTube of long-term time-lapses, showing people’s hair grow, or faces aging over many years. I thought the idea of a time-lapse travel video was pretty neat, because it would capture not only the way I changed but also all of the places we went to. But this too has been done before (see The Longest Way on YouTube...great film!) and I wanted to do something original to build on this idea, so I thought, what if I was singing along to the words of the classic Australian travel song “I’ve Been Everywhere”?
I contacted my musician friend Joshua Fielder (aka Facey McStubblington from The Beards), and asked him if he wanted to collaborate on another film for Tropfest. Back in 2010, our film My Neighbourhood has been Overrun by Baboons was in Tropfest, and he won Best Original Score as a member of the band The Dairy Brothers who wrote the song. He was very excited by the idea so we got together and recorded our own version of the song, which he absolutely nailed.
I’d done plenty of lip syncing with stop-motion animation before so I knew what would be involved. I sat down and went through the song frame by frame, deciding what mouth shape I would need to pose in shot for all 2500 images. This took a couple of days, and I started to realise what a ridiculously ambitious idea this film was going to be.My then-girlfriend and fellow filmmaker, Lysah Kenny, enthusiastically committed to taking a photo of me every day. We broke up half way through the film but have remained good friends. Amazingly, she stuck to her commitment and we continued to work on this ridiculous film together. I cannot thank her enough for all the effort she put in.
Before we left home, I shaved off all my hair and vowed not to cut or shave until I finished this film. At the time, I thought it was going to just be for 1 year and I was planning to enter Tropfest 2013. However, as the year went on, I slowly slipped behind schedule, and realised it would be much more impressive if the film spanned two years anyway. So I eagerly watched Tropfest 2013, waiting to see what signature item I needed to incorporate somewhere in the second half of my film. When I found out it was "mirror" I figured I had to do something involving my van. We also changed the words of the song to suit, finding a few interesting Australian town names that rhymed with mirror.
Logistically, this film was the most ridiculous endeavour you could possibly imagine. Hundreds of locations, thousands of photos, two years of shooting. But one shot stood out as the most ridiculous. To shoot the boogie boarding shot I had to climb up and down a sand dune at Port Willunga about 200 times over an entire day in the hot sun. I was moving the camera by myself, just on a tripod, lining up the images on the LCD screen. I stabilised it a bit in post but it suited the film for the camera move not to be a perfectly smooth anyway. I should have waited for a day where I had my trusty camera assistant Lysah available. It would have made that shot 10 times easier not needing to walk up and down the hill for every frame. By the end of the day, I don't think I've ever been so exhausted in my entire life. Totally worth it though. It's my favourite shot of the film!
I often had to pose in strange positions and remain still. People passing by thought it was very entertaining. They would react in different ways, like yelling or honking their horns, if I was on the edge of a road. Some people must have thought I’d gone mad, like the rock climbers at Morialta Gorge that watched awkwardly as I pretended to almost fall off a cliff, and didn’t know whether they should intervene.
The most shocking would have been when some people walked by while I was lying on the ground looking half-dead. I had tomato sauce (that looked like blood) on my face, and was lying next to my van that looked like it had just crashed into a sign. I guess the thing that gave it away that I was okay was the camera, because they weren’t exactly rushing over to help me. I had to remain lying in the correct position while reassuring them that they weren’t going to disrupt anything if they walked along the path behind the shot.
Making this film was an interesting experience, because I have never worked on one project for so long. I’m generally pretty patient, as stop-motion animation is very tedious and time-consuming, but this film pushed my patience to a whole new level. Despite spending two years working on the film, I still found myself staying awake for 48 hours straight to add the finishing touches in the final days before the Tropfest deadline.
The film was shortlisted for Tropfest 2014 but didn't make the final 16 for the festival. In the end, it's probably much better suited to YouTube, being a short, wacky film with a few clever camera techniques that people can go back and watch over again if they want to figure out how it is done, or try to spot places they recognise. People keep telling me that it's the kind of film that you can't really take in with just one viewing. I hope that people enjoy watching the film as much as I enjoyed making it. The trip around Australia was an incredible journey. I grew a lot over that time, and not just in terms of facial hair. Travelling really is the best way to find out who you are and what is important in life. It was a truly rewarding experience.
To watch the film on YouTube click here.