Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?
Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?
The film has felt extremely blessed. People have really responded to its heart, and to the spirit in which it was made. It has won some awards, screened on HBO, and raised a lot of money for the community, so it has really been a dream.
What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
Love and compassion are incredibly powerful forces for change, and they are available to us all.
People heal people – the kids at Jhamtse Gatsal are healing each other and we have the capacity to do that for those around us too.
Meditation not medication!
Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:
Select a scene that evoked a particular emotion in you. Describe what you were feeling and why.
What can we learn from Lobsang and/or the children at Jhamtse Gatsal?
Do you know anyone like Tashi?
How would you have handled Tashi’s behaviour?
What is compassion and how can we bring more of it into our lives?
Who could you show more compassion towards?
Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?
Tashi is doing well. Johnny and I decided to sponsor her after the filming so we receive updates every few months and just got sent her annual report card. Lobsang is still struggling with the dilemma of not being able to accept more kids into the community but hopefully that can change if enough funding can be raised.
What motivated you to make this film?
I visited the community three and a half years ago on an assignment and realised there was a deeper story to be told. It was unlike anywhere I had ever been, and the life/story arc of the founder Lobsang was so compelling that I knew I had to go back. So I raised a small amount of funding and returned 18 months later to try and capture the amazing atmosphere in this “Garden of Love and Compassion”.
Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.
We spent time (2 or 3 weeks) building trust and getting everyone used to both us and the presence of a camera. Once the kids stopped seeing it as a novelty they relaxed in to being themselves. The access they gave us to their lives was amazing. We (myself and co-director Johnny Burke) also discussed the creative process on a daily basis and this really helped shape our approach and our focus. One major challenge was translation/subtitling – it all had to be done on site because we weren’t sure we could find anyone who spoke the same dialect elsewhere. It was a painstaking process but we worked with two teachers from the community who went through the dishes with us line by line.
Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.
When we finished shooting we decided to do our edit differently so we headed to Kerala in South India, hired a cheap apartment which we christened The Edit Ashram, swam in the sea every day, ate amazing home cooked food, took yoga classes on the roof, and generally tried to ensure we finished feeling inspired rather than exhausted. It worked.
Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.
I filmed with a 5D MK II. The whole project was extremely low budget so we had to use what we already had. I’ve got a great Miller carbon fibre tripod which has travelled the world with me. The canon 70-200 is a beautiful lens, I had that in the bag. And I also bought a 1.4 50mm so we could shoot in very low light (electricity is intermittent there).
How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?
We arrived thinking we might make a simple 15 minute interview based film and very quickly saw there was a much more interesting way to do things. It was always important to try and make the film look good but capturing actuality and the verite approach evolved quite organically.
Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.
Very early one morning I found myself on the side of a hill with our protagonist Tashi Drolma and filmed her makings friends with another girl. Suddenly Tashi pulled a walnut out of her pocket, broke it open with a stone and shared it with her new friend. Seeing her reach out and connect with another human being, possibly for the first time in her life, was an amazing moment.
What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?
Let your passion and intuition guide you – they are never wrong.
What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?
The search for a story is wonderful but I love the grade. At that point you’ve got a film and you’re just making it really come to life. I’ve been lucky to work with the same wonderful online editor on a few projects and I know when I reach the point where I sit down in his suite everything is going to be fine. It’s a lovely (very relieving!) milestone in a project.
What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?
I’m quite partial to a Moleskine notebook. Great for capturing ideas.
What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?
People can donate, sponsor a child, volunteer or visit the community: www.jhamtsegatsal.org
Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):
Lots of links at www.tashiandthemonk.com
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