We met in Santo Domingo where he came to work on our friends’ film project. I think the first night I met him was the night of Jaime’s baby shower/pañalazo(?). We talked by the fire about Bay Area rap, and how we each have a sometimes regrettable soft spot for Lil Uzi Vert. On other days, we shared conversations on the cushions in the back of Jaime’s van, on our way to check the surf. And one day, he asked me if he could make a short film about my life here in Chile. I was on board: “Yes! Let’s make a movie.” I wanted to make something about all the people I’ve met living out of their vans here in Chile.
Leve had something else in mind. “No, I want to focus on what you’re doing. Your research project in Chile. Your life living in your van. Your personality.” He told me if we were going to do this project, I’d have to give him full creative control. The film would focus on me, as seen through his eyes. I remember him specifically telling me, “you may not like what I make.”
It’s strange to let someone in to your life. To answer questions, and potentially have my answers live in YouTube perpetuity. Scary, even. But I said yes. I let Leve follow me around in my van, filming the parts of my life that matter the most to me—my work here, my tiny home, and the time I spend in the ocean.
We filmed almost everything over the course of two very busy days. Armed with our borrowed equipment, we spent a morning surfing Playa Chepica, 30 minutes north of where we were both staying in Santo Domingo. Chepica wasn’t so épica on this day, so we didn’t get the footage we wanted. We spent the afternoon filming a workshop I taught at a high school in Talagante, which became Part II of the film. That night, we drove into Santiago, and spent the night in the park I used to live. Leve filmed the scenes where I appear to be very concentrated on chopping something. After dinner, Leve and I went under the covers—to cut the background noise—and used my iPhone to record the interview you hear in the film.
So, what we’re showing you is experimental. We didn’t really have a clear picture of what we wanted to make when we began. But we had the help of some good friends, and everything kind of came together. We borrowed camera equipment from our friend Diego, “Inspector Gadget” since he really has every wea you could possibly need to film in cinema quality. Check out Tree House Films for proof, everything they shoot is t*o*p*a*d*o. (Thanks again Diego–you are rad, albeit crazy…)
Leve and I had some problems filming in the water on the first day. It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot of factors to account for when filming surfers in the ocean. We tried a second day, with the help of Barney, a super buena onda Aussie, who was also doing Workaway at our friends’ house in Santo Domingo. Barney was unknowingly cast as our film assistant for the day. He’s the guy I’m standing with at the end of the video, looking out over the bluff. That was after a long day of me surfing really badly and him trying to film what I little I was putting down. But he helped us film underwater, and a bunch of other shore break womp shots that didn’t make it into the film.
We got super lucky with the music. I met Chris of Butt Montana a few years ago, when they were playing at a Wet Hot American Summer party in Venice Beach. They were playing Phish covers. I specifically remember an unforgettable version of PYITE, which is definitely not an easy thing to do—and I had to introduce myself. We kept in touch, lots of Phish talk the fall tour.
When we started filming, I began thinking about their song,”Shoobie-wop”—which I’ve always loved. I liked the idea of all of us paddling out in the water, freezing our butts off in hoods and booties. All that superimposed by this beachy, song. Laying in the sand, with the sun on my arms, getting me tan… I asked Chris if we could please, please use it. Chris talked with the band, and they were nice enough to let us go ahead. So big thanks to Butt Montana. If you haven’t heard their music, for sure check them out.
To all of our Santa Barbara friends, I did want to clarify one thing. There’s a part in the film where I talk about how Dylan and I were scared to come home and tell people that we were no longer together. Dylan and I didn’t want anything to be awkward. We are still very close friends, we still talk, nothing is weird. We made the decision to tell you guys in person, when we saw you. I hope you guys understand that we only wanted the chance to show you all that things aren’t that different.
Also, big thanks to the very talented Stevie Rowe, who followed me around Oakland one day, filming.
So all in all, it was a group effort. Lots of people helped us make this film possible.
And one last thing. This was an experiment. Both of us wanted to tell a story. We tried our best to finish it given the constraints. But it’s still a little rough around the edges. We had to finish quickly because Leve was going to travel with Nadine and her public transportation bus turned traveling circus. So Leve finished editing between stints on the bus, gunning through the Atacama desert.
Finding internet, to upload the video, was a challenge. When I spoke last with Nadine, she told me that they have this system. When someone on the bus hooks with a local, the entire bus family then goes over to that person’s house to take showers and use the internet. Leve was only able to upload the video after one such occurrence.
While broken down in La Serena, Leve sent me a low res version of the video, which I showed a few people to get their opinions. I was stoked I could show it to my family. Even though I write a decent amount about my research project, I still think they might not get exactly what I’m doing down here. I like that the video shows small moments that I may not have described specifically to them—how I cook my food, what my classes are like, small things. Leve and I both agreed we wanted to show the reality of what my life is like down here. So here it is. Definitely let me know what you think.