THE WEEKLY #152: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE EAST JAVA FILM
This week, I’ll give you a little insight into how you have the time of your life on a 9-day road-trip, create a film, crash a drone, spend your birthday sweating in a twin bed with another guy and make $0 on a film project.
Last year in October I created this video with one of my mates Nic Morley as part of a collaboration with Polarpro, a filter company. They shared it back in March but I was finally able to release it on my own channels this week. Polarpro gave us the task of creating a short film depicting ‘my story’ or at least part of it when focusing on my adventures, photography and my journey as a creator. It was a sweet collaboration as they gave us a small budget of about $4,000 and just said ‘Go get it done’.
Normally, a brand accompanies you, breathes down your neck and wants full creative control. Admittedly we got paid once we submitted the video and they were happy with it but we felt as if we had complete creative control, which believe it or not is quite strange in this social media, content creation industry when creating for a brand or company or even a tourism board. I’m just trying to give you some insight into the conditions of creating this film.
With a $4,000 budget and the need to create a film that is at least 4 minutes or longer we opened up the maps and said what about a road trip around East Java. Why not? I usually spend about $1000 a month or less when traveling at my own pace but this project was never really about the minute. It’s nice to get paid but essentially it didn’t really change much for us. On our first night, we slept on the floor of a random house in Malang with 10 other Indonesia lads from Lombok after they had cooked us some home-made nasi. Stretch the dollar, make those friends.
Generally, when I visit a location I want to see all of the awesome spots. I usually find no-one has written an in-depth guide about the spots or how to get around to them and the best order etc. East Java was no different. It was actually quite complex to plan but we really did nail it with the time we had. Here’s how it unfolded.
I flew into Surabaya Airport and found Nic sitting on the ground in the middle of the Terminal editing another video with hard drives and cords sticking out in all directions. We hadn’t seen each other for quite a few months but picked up from where we left off last. That’s how it goes. Neither of us had planned a thing but luckily, I had been chatting on Instagram to a local adventurer called Roes. He said he would meet us at a coffee shop/local waroeng for lunch and help us plan the trip. We jumped in a Grab (like an Uber) to the Waroeng, took a seat and then in came Roes. He’d taken time off from his office job around the corner to come and meet us.
We gave him our list of places we wanted to visit. He removed some and added others we didn’t know. We trusted his local knowledge but also knew some things we were sure about. Once we had somewhat of a list the hard part is planning the route. We only had 9 days really to do the adventuring. There were several key activities such as two overnight missions on Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater. There were also several spots that needed to be visited for either sunrise or sunset for the nice lighting and other factors. We planned out the first few days and Roes called ahead to organize a few homestays or friends houses we could sleep at. What a legend this lad was.
You can check out the entire trip, route, and guide I created after my trip: 15 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN EAST JAVA, INDONESIA
He helped us organize a car rental and a random guy brought us an SUV, 4wd type of car to the parking lot, we gave him the cash and he took a photo of our passport and off we went with a rental car for about $30 a day. I’d never really driven a car in a South-east Asia city so wow what a journey this trip would be. Roes bid us farewell but would join us at several points in the trip by reaching us on his motorbike.
Driving through the city was pretty insane and I was just trying not to touch anyone while constantly being engulfed by hundreds of motorbikes. That first night we went a house where Roes had told us was a homestay. It was a home we could stay at but it wasn’t a homestay. It was a bunch of lads who did adventure photography and they all lived together. We hung out with them, had dinner and all slept on the floor on little mattresses.
The next morning we began our tour with some waterfalls and visiting Jodipan Village, the colorfully painted town near Malang. That night we ended up at another quite homestay this time in the mountains next to the famous Tumpak Sewu waterfall. We woke early and began to explore the gorge of the waterfall and Nic crashed the Mavic 2, which landed in the river! Day two of filming and we were a drone down. We kept exploring but that night Nic drove back to Surabaya on the motorbike of Roes and bought a new Mavic. Essentially he had just paid more for the new Mavic than his split of the payment for the job. It was sad but we weren’t really mad about it. We travel like this normally so it didn’t feel like a job. Just another adventure trip. Things happen.
We continued hitting location after location, getting incredible weather and conditions throughout the trip. We weren’t getting much sleep with all the sunrises and long days but it was an awesome adventure capped by sunrise at Ijen Crater, Mount Bromo, Red Island and island hopping at Tabuhan Island. Each night we just figured, let’s do one more sunrise what if it’s awesome. Living with that type of FOMO really destines you to be permanently tired. I was also putting in 50km of running a week somehow at this stage so I’d run in the dark along the side of the road towards the oncoming onslaught of big trucks. We were really missioning.
I think we never really lost the enjoyment or motivation throughout the 9 days because East Java was truly incredible. You hear it a lot like this place is amazing, that place is great and often they are quite good. But… East Java is mindblowing. The waterfalls are genuinely huge and the volcanoes were epic. We were shocked daily. Nic was also nailing so many shots so we were enjoying the process of it all coming together.
My birthday was spent sleeping just 3 hours in the hottest room of my life, sharing the smallest twin bed of my life with Nic. However, it was for good reason. At 11:45 we jumped into our car and drove up to Ijen Crater. We were among one of the first there and the last group to leave spending over 12 hours at Ijen Crater exploring. What a remarkable spot this sulfur lake is in the middle of the volcanic crater!
After 9 days of epic adventures, my mind was melting after all of the intense driving and we were both dust. We checked into an Airbnb in Surabaya for three days and two days later Nic had finished editing the whole video. We made a few reviews and revisions and then sent it to Polarpro. I think we spent about $1,000 between us on the 12-day trip plus the new drone crash. We did a few things like island-hopping on a private boat for $100 because we didn’t have time to recruit friends or other travelers due to our time restrictions so was a bit more expensive than other trips as we wanted to get certain shots for the film but overall we still stayed everywhere cheaply and ate at local waroengs for the whole trip. You can do East Java very cheaply!
Profit = about $0
Memory: One of my favorite and most worthwhile trips of 2018
Down below I’ve put some of the photos we took along the journey as well.
That is a quick little insight into our crazy 9 days of shooting this film, backpacking, road tripping, budgeting, planning and making our way around East Java.
This week I’m still in South Australia and just had my second hip surgery. I’ve just been blogging a lot, working on the computer and spending time with friends and family. I’ll be flying out for my next adventure on the 2oth of June so I’m just appreciating this period of life for what it is. Rest, recovery, rejuvenation and a chance to take a breath and think things through while my body brings itself back to life.