Hi, I'm Lee. I'm currently walking from Madrid, Spain to Kiev, Ukraine on foot. Click here to learn why.
Subject: First Steps.
Those who know me have heard enough talk of this project, so I decided I'd make a website and talk about it to strangers, too.
This is the website I will use to document my travels next year, in words and in photographs.
Before I leave, I will record my progress in preparing for the long walk and my plan for the film I intend to make from it..
Walking almost 3,000 miles will be, I imagine, difficult. I don't know. I haven't tried it yet.
What is difficult, I know, is raising funds for a project like this. I suspect my project doesn't fit in with the narrowly-focused and bankable stuff that corporations and grants boards tend to favor.
Which is fair enough. I haven't given up on those avenues yet, but I have devised an alternate plan.
I can meet all my living and filming expenses during the walk for twenty grand. Rather than try and get that from one or two sources, I'm splitting it up into a thousand.
Getting twenty bucks from a thousand different people fits in with the ethos of the project, anyway. Just as a journey of thousands of miles can be completed by walking for 20 or 30 miles a day, a major cache of money can be raised from many little donations.
Read about my Fellow Travelers Plan here, and learn how you can get your name in the credits of my film and a postcard from me, too.
Since I launched the site yesterday I've got two such donors: Matt Walters of Spade Kitty records, and the lovely Sandy Francis of Los Angeles, California. Thanks much, folks. 998 more and we are there!
I truly believe that with your help, I will be able to raise the money I need by the end of my journey. However, I am fully committed to leaving in late February of next year, no matter how much money I've raised.
I believe in Werner Herzog's dictum: "It isn't money that makes films. It's faith."
"A failure to plan," they say, "is a plan to fail."
It's an adage I think of often as I prepare for this trip. And it's something that came to mind the other week when the first freezing winds hit Chicago.
The first day it caught me unready. Now I take no chances. Two coats, two pairs of socks, and my new secret weapon: long thermal underwear.
Why did it take me 23 years to decide to start wearing this?
It's a discovery that should stand me in good stead in the first few weeks of my walk. The Spanish winter is mild compared to Chicago's, sure, but I hear it can get windy up there on the plateau that makes up central Spain.
Apropos of being unprepared, Tien-Ann points out that I forgot to include Quicktime versions of my trailer for those without Windows Media Player. That's been fixed. Actually, the Quicktime versions probably look a bit nicer.
Since my last entry I've had ten new fellow travelers join. They are Tien-Ann Shih, Richard Iwanski, Jason Fanning, Philip Rosengren, R. Lyle Schipits, Jody Gannon, Walter Stucke, Cheryl Wierzbicki, Robert A. Schipits and Ann E. Schipits.
Thank you for your support, good people. The momentum is building.
Subject: A Thin Line.
I've been away from the site for over a week, busy shooting a short film here in Chicago.
The film, as yet untitled, is about do-it-yourself filmmakers. It combines fictional and factual elements. There's a scripted story about two friends who struggle to make a filmed poem. This will be intercut with interviews with three real-life local filmmakers, whose stories of making movies on no-string budgets will serve to give context and comment on the fictional story.
Some of my favorite films scumble the thin line between fiction and reality. For the documentary Nanook of the North, Robert Flaherty staged scenes and even went so far as to build a bigger igloo for his title character so Flaherty could fit his camera in it. Abbas Kiarostami had his documentary subjects re-enact the con-job squabble in Close-Up, and The Beaver Trilogy is Trent Harris' obsessive attempt to make sense of a bizarre real-life event by restaging it, shot for shot, two times.
The work of Errol Morris, Jill Godmilow and Harmony Korine fits well here, too. And Werner Herzog openly admits to staging scenes in his documentaries to arrive at what he calls "the ecstasy of truth."
The footage in my own film of the Madrid to Kiev walk won't be staged, but the structure and voiceover that I lay over the images will be highly subjective, centered somewhere in that part of the imagination where reality is re-interpreted so it makes sense to us.
In the meantime, I've had some new Fellow Travelers join on to my project. Ann Batkiewicz, Liz Deligiannis, and Laurel Lindemann have all donated, as has filmmaker Peter Thompson, who runs Chicago Media Works and is a scholar and practitioner of my favorite genre of cinema, the essay film.
The writer and filmmaker Paul Cronin has also joined. He's the man who conducted the interviews and did the editing for Herzog on Herzog, the book that inspired my plan for the Madrid to Kiev walk in the first place.
Subject: Year's End.
It was the kind of Christmas where a good pair of socks seemed like the perfect gift.
Also, Santa stuffed my stocking with the above-pictured inspirational sticker. I love it, and I now carry it in my wallet and show it to clerks and cashiers when I buy something.
"What do you think of this?" I say.
"Ha ha, pretty good," the cashier usually says.
I started up a MySpace Group for this project to get some awareness on the vast community there. With over 300 members already, it's going well.
Some new Fellow Travelers: Veronica Pszczola, Colin Deikuper, Michele Hendriks, Kristine Trever, Beth Swierczewski, and Kathryn Ostrowski. My sincere gratitude to those who gave during the financially-hectic holiday season.
Apropos, now that the holidays have ended I've got to hunker down for my final preparations before I leave. That includes getting a plane ticket and the rest of my camera gear this week.
Destiny approaches, like a gigantic bird into the mouth of a cartoon cat.
For now, though, it'll be revelry at the neighborhood haunts. Happy New Year!
Subject: South Down State.
I've decided to share a short video I made last summer called South Down State.
I made it when I first became interested in the idea of making a film about walking. For this, I walked from the center of Chicago down State Street to Hyde Park, where I lived at the time.
The walk yielded enough memorable images and surprises in its ten miles to make me think that 3,000 can only prove a bountiful harvest.
Watch South Down State:
Thanks to the new Fellow Travelers since last update: Chris Aubin, Adam Gerdel, and Blaire Holmes.
Subject: Set in stone.
Pictured above, in candid internet-style self-portrait, is me with my two latest purchases: a digital camcorder and one-way plane ticket to Madrid.
My flight leaves on Tuesday, 28 February 2006. That gives me about six more weeks to prepare for this journey. I'll arrive in Madrid on 1 March, spend a day adjusting to the time schedule and another trolling around Madrid for footage. And then I'm out on foot, into the unknown.
As for the camera, it's Sony's HVR-A1U, an incredibly small high-definition model. It manages to deliver 1080 lines of resolution while weighing only two pounds.
No turning back now.
I've still got to buy some good microphones to plug into the camera and the proper hiking gear I'll need. And I need to spend more time on the treadmill . . . .
The combined donations of my Fellow Travelers so far have more than paid for my plane ticket. I'm hoping more will be encouraged to donate now that I've set my departure date. If you do, you'll get your name in the credits of my film and also be one of only 1,000 people (at most) to receive a postcard from me during the journey.
Click here to donate today. Your generosity will stand alongside that of recent Fellow Travelers Pamela Swierczewski, Cheryl Donovan, Nick Purves and Jeffrey Glazer. And what better fate than to stand alongside those folks?
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Dec. '05 - Jan. '06.
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writing, photographs and video all rights reserved, etc. etc.
Dec. '05 - Jan. '06.
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writing, photographs and video
all rights reserved, etc. etc.