The final week of pre-production, in any performance based industry, carries with it an uncanny alikeness to the opening scene of Martin Scorcese‘s “Raging Bull”. The troubled boxing champion, Jake La Motta (played by Robert De Niro), is found backstage rehearsing the lines for his nightclub act as if sparring with himself in an endless bout. Regardless of genre, whether it be an one-act play, shoot-em-up epic, or travel documentary series, this feeling of wary exhilaration before the big “show” never ceases to emerge.
Thirty five days ago, Allan Karl‘s motorcycle “Doc” set its wheels, albeit while locked in a crate, on the shores of The Peoples Republic of China. Since then, Doc has remained in that same crate and as the days pass, it seems less and less likely that the port authorities will set it free in time for our pilot episode. Allan is spending his nineteenth day in Vancouver and, as the common adage reminds us, “the show must go on”. We have made use of our additional time here in Vancouver, troubleshooting, running camera tests and filming Allan while he befriends Ethiopian restauranteurs, Hastings Street musicians, and Starbucks baristas. Most importantly, we have purchased an identical BMW F650GS Dakar in China and, while we remain committed to freeing Doc, we will hop on a plane en route to Shanghai this week. There, our carbon copy of Doc awaits and production will begin in Northern China along a narrow stretch of the Yalu River. We’ll head south, for over three thousand kilometres, and rest in Vietnam or Myanmar with our cameras abounding with vibrant Chinese culture and connection. Perhaps, then, we will reunite with Doc.
For months we have obsessed over contractual details, budgets, schedules, and equipment specs. From afar, we have laboured over the geographical specifics of our travel route, size of our transport vehicles, and adequacy of our hiking boots. Being seated firmly on that China Eastern Airlines flight to Shanghai, amidst the here and now of production, will be like taking a sedative. After months and months of imagination and second guessing, the soothing reassurance of moving ones self, truly, into the heart of the unknown and the inevitability of having no choice but to roll camera is days away.