There is a famous idiom that we, as filmmakers, treasure. With every “Hold for sound!” and uninvited rain drop, we have grown accustom to the act of screeching to a halt, holding our breath, in a state of purgatory. As the Roman Catholics can attest to, we are neither damned nor saved, but instead waiting for salvation. For action. The “hurry up and wait” business, they call it.
Allan Karl, the host of our travel series, arrived in Vancouver, Canada on May 15th. Busting at the seams with duffle bags, DSLR cameras, and a ten year Visa, Allan had near everything he needed for our one month journey across China. He came equipped with a “Lonely Planet” travel guide, “Action Wipes”, and even a portable, foldout chair. Allan, having travelled by motorcycle across 35 countries and 5 continents, alone, is a polished excursionist. As a film crew, we were scurrying, tightening bolts and placing orders for last minute elastic bands, velcro, and synthetic animal hair (microphone windscreens). We tested walkie talkies, bought a satellite GPS messenger, and counted our immunizations. We bought anti-malarial medication and stock-piled gauze. The word “ready” is like contraband to filmmakers. Taboo. We were close, though, and wanted to board a plane.
“Doc”, Allan’s prized BMW F650GS Dakar, departed the port of Los Angeles/Long Beach on April 12th, 2015 at 14:50 GMT. 192°(S) at 6.3 knots. The vessel was called the “HANJIN SPAIN” and, bruising in at 14.3 knots sixteen days later, arrived safely at the port of Ningbo in China. Doc has cut into the Nubian Desert, crossed the Gulf of Aqaba to Jordan, and crawled across wet tarmac towards Maceió in northern Brazil. Now, and as the pilot episode of our series, it will shine yet another light on a darkened corner of its map. China. We felt the need for haste. The executive producer of the series, RPK, insisted that we, as a crew, remain patient. Although Doc was indeed in China, it was not ours yet.
Since then, and as a product of unforeseen customs technicalities, Doc remains sealed in its crate. We were told that Allan requires a Chinese drivers license. So, he’s been studying through a pamphlet of fifteen hundred questions, one hundred of them to be present on the exam he will take in China. We were then told that Doc, at a decade in age, is too old and should have been inspected prior to shipment. They won’t set it free. The answer is “no”. The Chasing China Challenge, as Allan calls it, has come to a fork in the road. Via a whirlwind of 3AM “WeChat” calls, emails, and #freeDoc campaigns, we have exhausted our little black book placing multiple irons in the fire. The most promising of which, so far, is to purchase an identical motorcycle, pre-owned, in China. Doc’s identical twin, a world away, would allow us to make tracks on the open road. “Open road”. We are hesitant to use that term right now and, yet, we remain optimistic. We’ll catch up with Doc in Vietnam. Filmmaking is perseverance. Somewhere, somehow, Terry Gilliam is still trying to make “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”. Few things worth having in this industry come without toil, sweat, and controversy. It’s May 23rd and, if need be, we’ll get on a plane tomorrow or the next day or the next. Allan has told us, multiple times, that the most important item a world traveller can pack is patience. Our bags are ready and our thirst for story is unyielding.