It is with a mix of excitement, nerves and total exhaustion that I now can finally present the first instalment of The Inland Sea: An Australian Odyssey. It’s an adventure and an experiment. It’s an online documentary made under mindboggling harsh conditions, while attempting to do too many things all at once. This, in order to replicate a somewhat extreme pressure on contemporary journalists to become “Inspector Gadget” reporters, mastering everything from writing to producing audio-visual material, making singular stories in to multimedia events.
Our crew, three men and one lady strong, drove across Australia in ten weeks, covering a distance similar to that from Melbourne to Oslo. We had not a single interview set up before departure. We had little or no time to do prior research, and no previous insight to the interview subjects. Having driven for 12 hours non-stop, in 40+ degrees, we walked out of the car and straight into an interview, and then on to post a blog and photos online. Finally, we’d pitch our tents for a couple of hours of sleep before repeating it all again. We did this almost every day for ten weeks.
It has been just over two years since we returned from our adventure. It has taken this long to digest the experiences, and to get enough distance to the material to actually sit down and write and edit it, without being too conscious of myself, of us, being subjects in the narrative. That is, we’re not really. We made the stories, and rarely turned the camera on ourselves, because we were too busy chasing the next story. Hence, the stock footage has its limitations, both in what we’ve captured, as well as the quality of what we did capture.
The footage is rough, the sound occasionally very poor, and the editing likely to be a bit choppy along the way.
Having said that, I really don’t mean to be apologetic about the quality of the production. But, I believe it makes for an interesting project that reflects contemporary movements in the journalism industry. We now have so many tools at our disposal; only the imagination really sets the boundaries for development of new expressions and new genres. That is, as long as we learn to properly utilize the new tools we are offered, and as long as our editors and employers will allow us to experiment with them.
This was the impetus for the project. I came from a newspaper background, and besides being a useful point-and-shoot photographer, I didn’t really know much about the practical applications of visual journalism, let alone using audio, and building online publishing platforms. But, I’m slowly learning, and I’m eager to learn more.
Over the next few months, the webisodes will roll out approximately fortnightly. At this point I can’t say how many I will be making, but a rough estimate is 20, following our travel route. This coming part of the process is about making as much material, as many stories as I can out of what we’ve got.
We will visit ecovillages, encounter wildlife and talk about community experience in the outback. We will have audience with royalty, try to celebrate Christmas and new years very far away from home (with debatable success), and we’ll even go scouting for UFOs in the red centre.
The process has been amazing and awful at the same time. It has been overwhelming and exciting and, not to mention, eye opening. It has been, and will continue to be, a path of stratospheric highs and equally remarkable lows.
My hope is that at the end of the journey, I will have learnt a whole lot – and you will have been reasonably informed, perhaps even entertained.