Explorer, author, trail prospector & travel writer

Diary Of An Adventure Filmmaker: How To Overcome Creative Block

Sometimes, when you’re working on a creative project, the way forward is not at all clear.

And sometimes it’s impossible to see it at all.

As you may remember from the last update, this is where we found ourselves with the still-untitled Patagonia film project.

What do you do in this situation?

Go for a walk.

You’ll find this kind of advice popping up across the full pantheon of creativity-related advice and self-help.

Julia Cameron, in her ground-breaking book The Artist’s Way, prescribes a weekly ‘artists’ date’, in which you deliberately go and spend time with yourself, doing something new or going somewhere different, in order to remind yourself where you fit into the world.

Anne Lamott, in Bird By Bird, suggests going for long, meandering, observational walks as a way of stimulating the imagination and overcoming writer’s block.

Consider too the plethora of writers’ residencies and artists’ retreats, to where creative people go to nourish their inner artists. Needless to say, few of these are located in the middle of chaotic, bustling metropolises.

So Leon and I went for a walk.

Specifically, we walked the Camino de Santiago. (Some of it, at least.)

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In retrospect, perhaps we shouldn’t have gone for the same walk. But as it turned out, we only saw each other a couple of times a day. Which left hours of steady tramping through the mountains of Galicia to be alone with our thoughts – thoughts which would eventually turn to the topic of how we might fix the Patagonia film.

Walking worked.

We’ve now got another two weeks of editing time to put the resulting ideas into practice.

It’s still unclear whether this will be enough time, largely because fixing the film will mean destroying it and then putting it back together differently. But we have to try, because our prerogative is to make the best damn film we can (no pun intended), given the material and story we have to work with.

There’s every chance that we’ll need even more time – tricky, as both of us have commitments all summer which definitely do not involve sitting in a dark basement in Soho.

So it would be later in the year before we had the opportunity to resume editing. You simply cannot rush these things, and I doubt anyone will hold it against us for wanting to do everything we can to make the best and most effective film possible.

What that means, of course, is that it may well be the case that – when our launch party comes round in late September (eligible backers will be getting an email about this shortly) – it’ll be an exclusive preview of the Patagonia film we’ll be sharing with the audience, rather than the finished article, which may not appear until 2016.

Karun, on the other hand…

Excitingly, we will have a finished full-length version of Karun to show to our assembled backers in September.

I know this because we’re signing off the final cut of the film this week.

We’ve spent a lot of time in the studio recently with Rhys and Nigel (respectively the director and editor), and we’re incredibly pleased with where we’ve got to. I’m particularly happy with the tone and feel of the film as a whole – I always wanted it to paint an honest portrait of our journey through Iran, and it really feels like we’ve achieved this.

The story is also a good reminder of how good it often is to stop taking yourself seriously, particularly when travelling. Tales of adventure these days seem to be increasingly jumping on the motivational/inspirational bandwagon. While everyone loves a Mark Twain quote plastered across an epic landscape, I’d much rather watch (or go on) a ‘suck it and see’ adventure in which everything goes a bit Pete Tong.

That is precisely the way that Karun has turned out. And I hope you’ll agree, when you see the finished film, that it’s all the better for it.


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