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The beginning of the end

Note: Under the banner PhDelirium, I will be blogging about the project, sharing my excitement and frustration with the tasks at hand. I also want to use this space as an online research journal of sorts, to share more fully the ins and outs of the project.

Right. After a year of reworking the project and upgrading my candidature to a PhD, it is finally time to start our ‘second trip’ around Australia.

Just over a year ago we were in the middle of the desert, crossing the Nullarbor, on our way back to Melbourne after 72 days of charging through the Australian outback, armed to the teeth with cameras and laptops, and other recording devices.

We were coming home from an odyssey that none of us could possibly wrap our heads around pre-departure.

It was extremely weird to come back to Melbourne. It had been an extended period of camping, working around the clock in burning heat, and often driving for days without much social interaction beyond the personnel in the car.

Coming back to Melbourne, all we wanted to do was to hide away and not talk to anybody. I think it funny in a way, seeing we had set out to explore the notion of ‘community’ in the outback. I will consider this point to greater extents in upcoming blogs.

Going over the footage, we soon discovered that what we had shot on the road was something very different to what we had initially thought. Then again, I’m not sure we even really knew what we thought it would be like in the first place.

We were throwing ourselves out there to see what we could find, and trying to make sense of the unknown as we rushed onwards in a battle against time.  We often referred to our trip as ‘the Japanese tourist’-version of documentary making. Hence, some ‘holes’ were to be expected in the film stock.

To a notable extent, the footage we got suffered because of three main things: little time for planning the documentary pre-departure; limited time to travel, rarely giving us more than two-three days in each place; and finally, our very poor sound gear.

Having gone through the motions from excitement to outright despair in the last year, it is with a refreshed pair of eyes that I am now going back to the footage, to present the material, with the benefit of hindsight. It’s an exciting task (at least at the moment) to now go back and revisit what we actually did get, work out ways to present it online, and cataloguing the process of editing as well as the trip itself.

I believe there are still good stories there to be told.  Different from what I had imagined at the start, perhaps. But there are stories to come that definitely do focus on the notion community – from alternative communities such as a handful of ecovillages and the micronation Hutt River, to community groups like Care for Hedland in Port Hedland, monitoring turtles on the local beaches, the Margaret River Soupie, a group of tree-logging protesters in a WA forest.

There are stories about people – and places. Some very short stories, some longer stories. Some little interviews, some bigger.

There is some Australiana; snakes and crocodiles, and the desert spectacular that this country has to offer. There is even a failed attempt at discovering UFOs in the red centre.

So without too much ado, I say it’s time to get started.

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