new filmmaker Temujin Doran: Videos about Ben Saunders + an interview (full version)

Temujin DoranBen Saunders – Resolute Bay

Interview in parts

Full interview

maja@tnf: How did your adventure with filmmaking start? What’s your artist’s statement and motivation for making films?

Temujin Doran: I made a few silly, short films when I was studying in Falmouth – it was mostly just for my friends and for fun, and I had no real ambition with them. But then I entered those films in a competition and managed to win.

Since living in London, I seem to be doing more film work than illustration – which is what I studied. That seems quite odd to me at times.

The film work I do is split between documentary work and storytelling. At the moment I don’t get many chances to do the latter, but I hope to do much more in the future. I also have an ever-expanding list of short documentary films I’d like to make in my spare time.

In terms of an artistic statement, I’m not sure I have one – but I do really like stories with sad endings.

maja@tnf: What’s the story behind the film of yours we featured? What was the inspiration for your film?

Temujin Doran: Ben and Andy got in touch with me completely out of the blue. They saw my film in the Vimeo Awards event in New York, and they asked me if I was interested in doing some documentary work for an expedition they were planning, and also whether I had any interest in the Arctic. At the time, I had just come back from a month-long artistic residency aboard a boat in Svalbard, in the High Arctic, and I really wanted to go back to a place like that. I tried to hide my abundant enthusiasm, and simply said ‘yes’.

The films I made for Ben and Andy were made to document the process leading up to the expedition, and to show how incredibly difficult and precise its initial stages had to be, not to mention the physical demands of the journey.

Temujin DoranBen Saunders – Living on Ice
maja@tnf: In your first short film about him, Ben Saunders says that “there is something addictive about the Arctic Ocean and [that not many things in the world] can compare to the experiences that you have out there”. In the video “Living on Ice”, he points out that the harsh environment of the Arctic makes your life ‘simpler’ and give you the feeling of being “unplugged from society” in a positive way, as you actually have to focus all your energy on surviving. Do you share any of Ben’s feelings about the Arctic? How did it all look from your point of view as a filmmaker and human being?

Temujin Doran: There really is something addictive about polar extremes. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can feel as if you’ve truly ‘escaped’. But life in the Arctic isn’t necessarily simpler – it just seems less cluttered with trivialities. A lot of what happens when you’re there is just subsistence, but it’s also really fulfilling.

I think realizing how much effort goes into surviving in such extreme conditions, can make you question how satisfying the activities you normally fill your time with really are.

The problem with being a filmmaker in such conditions is that you are constantly reminded of the society you left behind – it happens every time you use a digital camera, edit on a computer, or find yourself carrying a handful of batteries in your pocket. Because the urge to document remote landscapes is so strong, I rarely headed out without my camera, but one can at times become too obsessed with how images look through the view finder.

Temujin DoranBen Saunders – Killing Time
maja@tnf: Tell us about your music design for the video series about Ben Saunders:

Temujin Doran: All music for these films was made on location – some of the tracks I created during the flight from London to Ottawa, and some in Resolute Bay, on my bunk-bed. All the tracks feature the same piano melody, which I recorded at home before we left.

(You can listen to all the tracks I created, including some not used in the videos here)

maja@tnf: Every polar expedition requires careful planning. What special preparations did you have to make for traveling with Ben and shooting your films about him?
Temujin Doran: A lot of the preparations had to do with equipment, namely making sure I could use my camera in extremely low temperatures (about – 40° C ). Though the manufacturers were skeptical and quite apathetic, the camera I got worked out okay.
maja@tnf: Your documentary filmmaker’s “Ten Commandments”:

Temujin Doran: I’ve only been doing it for just over a year – so I feel justified in offering only one: I don’t believe all those people who say that if you want to get into filmmaking, you have to want it more than anything else. I’ve heard so many people from the industry giving these lengthy speeches about how filmmaking requires extreme dedication, and how you must sacrifice all your other interests in order to do it.

In my opinion, a part of what makes one a good filmmaker is all the things they do outside of their filmmaking. Of course filmmaking require dedication, but any other creative or adventurous things you do will help to improve your films, be they documentary, narrative or experimental, infinitely more than just learning about filmmaking processes or camera settings.

Temujin DoranBen Saunders – Open Ending
maja@tnf: From idea development to finished film – a short, step-by-step guide to your filmmaking process:
Temujin Doran: When I have an idea for a film, I usually start out by composing music for it, but in a loose way, so it can still be changed later, when editing together with video. Then I just collect a lot of relevant footage, sound-bites and interview clips. Finally, I come up with a story, while editing sound and video simultaneously.
maja@tnf: Your film technique – its pros & cons, and why you chose it:

Temujin Doran: For filming, I use a Panasonic GH1 / GH2. It’s small and light, and lets you get away with much more than any big camera. It is also much more affordable. To tell the truth, a GH1 was all I could afford at the time. The image quality it provides is just fantastic. I found out that these cameras work way better than larger ones in low temperatures, even though I don’t know precisely why.

The con of filming with them is when you say you’re filming with a DSLR, most people expect you to be using a Canon. Personally I find Panasonic cameras better, although their form doesn’t exactly glow with professionalism.

maja@tnf: Tell us about some problems or funny situations from the film set:

Temujin Doran: When I was filming in the Arctic, the flip-out screen and view-finder of my camera started acting up, and eventually stopped working completely. Fortunately I could still film okay and, and after about an hour of being back inside, both of them started working again.

The best thing you can do to protect your camera from the cold, is to let it gradually adjust to temperature changes, which helps prevent condensation on its sensor and electrical parts. So before coming in from the outdoors, I would wrap the camera in a small towel, put it in a zip-lock bag [take it inside and leave it the bag for about half an hour], and that seemed to work fine.

maja@tnf: A few details about your studies and/or workshops you attended:
Temujin Doran: I studied illustration in Falmouth, Cornwall. I work as an illustrator, and I also create music under the name “Studiocanoe”.
maja@tnf: Tell us about your forthcoming efforts:
Temujin Doran: I’ll be filming Ben’s expedition in the South Pole in 2012. I also want to finish a film which I shot during my residency at Svalbard – I’ve done nothing with this footage in nearly a year. Another video I want to make is a short documentary about falling in love. Maybe someday I’ll make a feature-length film – though whenever I’m asked about ideas for one, I hesitate to say, and usually deny having any :).

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