CHICAGO318 W. Adams, Suite 1600Chicago, IL 60606312.585.7649
KANSAS CITY4600 W. 51st Street, Suite 300Roeland Park, KS 66205816.868.8320
August 16, 2022
I’m going to be honest, I don’t want to write this blog. Currently, I’m enjoying a lovely state of denial in which I never left Turks and Caicos. In fact, I’m mentally sipping Rum Punch on a boat right now. Is my stupid body in actuality sitting on my couch in the most land-locked state in the country? Sure, but forget about that. I’m certainly trying to, and not just because I stubbornly coated myself in sun lotion and that is definitely going to leave a stain. Never mind that it’s sixty degrees and raining. If you’re going to live a lie, go hard.
Writing this blog is the final death toll to that blissful daydream, and I do not appreciate being forced back into reality. Not one bit.
Do you know what Turks and Caicos is like? Let me describe something for you. At one point during the shoot, we were able to jump overboard to cool off in the middle of the ocean. I put some goggles on and dove down. What I saw down there, as my body became weightless in stark defiance of all the conch fritters it had consumed, was the definition of the color blue. In total 360-degree view there wasn’t a speck of shade differentiation. A pure, uniform blue as far as the eye could see.
*looks around apartment*
Right, well let’s get this over with.
The Turks and Caicos Challenge was a personal journey of Mario Rigby’s to traverse his home nation in a six-day span. He began on the southern-most Salt Cay and made his way north until he hit West Caicos (it makes sense, I promise) – over 200km distant. It was a remarkable feat made even more impressive by the fact that Mario chose to accomplish all this through purely man-powered transport. Mario succeeded in this journey purely by kayaking, biking, paddle boarding, running, and hiking. His goal was to prove what can be done by eco- and environmentally-friendly means, and the strength of will to push through the difficult boundaries.
And it was difficult. One of Mario’s earliest days consisted of a 50km kayak trip over open ocean. It was an eight plus hour grueling physical and mental challenge. His next day, instead of resting his muscles, forced him into a treacherous hike through uneven terrain in the dark as the length of travel took him close to a midnight finish time. All before waking up and starting the next day’s bike ride.
It was a journey that required more strength of will and character than strength of body.
From a filmmaking perspective, it was about as good as you could ask for. We had our own challenges, absolutely, but when you’re in a location as beautiful and welcoming as Turks and Caicos, with someone as positive and driven and inspiring as Mario… well, the challenges are worth the exchange.
But they were there, nonetheless.
How best to describe the logistical nightmare that was the Caicos Challenge? Oh, I know. On the first day of the production I was picking up a vehicle and trailer from the local man on the island. We opted to leave the trailer there and pick it up in the morning for the shoot. When I asked him for his address to be able to pick it up in the dark at 5am, he laughed in my face and responded, “Address? I don’t have an address.” Not just this man, nobody used addresses. Granted, they’re relatively small islands whose streets are more populated by wild donkeys than actual vehicles, so that’s probably on me. However, it highlights the difficulties in trying to schedule pick-ups, drop-offs, overseas deliveries of important equipment and props, etc., etc.
Eight main islands, several uninhabited and abandoned; over 20 small cays; approximately 200km from start to finish. It would have been easier to produce Tenet.
We’re a small crew; there was literally three of us. And even that involved complex algorithms to find transportation, lodging, and food on certain days.
The island vibes of Turks and Caicos natives don’t mix very well with a producer’s relentless need for total and unequivocally set-in-stone planning, but whether through determination and hard work or acts of God, we got it done.
It isn’t easy to accurately convey the exhaustion this production caused. To reiterate: over 200km total. In six consecutive days. In the Caribbean’s summer heat. You’re out early to beat the sun, but the distances you have to travel each day mean the hardest leg of your journey is going to be during the most brutal hours.
The terrain changes on each island; you’re constantly on the move throughout the day, traversing every obstacle and pushing your body though you haven’t fully trained for this. How could you have? This isn’t supposed to be possible. On day two you’re tired; by day five the word has a new definition.
But you can’t stop because you’ll lag behind, and the production depends on the whole team toughing it out together. Wait. Didn’t you pass that same palm tree twelve hours ago? That rock looks familiar too! Have you become turned around? It’s possible, but you’re tired enough and your mind is constantly thinking about the countless blisters and aches. You’re imaging it, surely. Yes. Just calm down, you’re being silly. But no, you’ve definitely seen that bird before. You know that much. It was there when you started the 5k. It was there when you hiked the eastern shores. It’s been there the whole time. But is it following you or are you following it?
What did that son of a bitch just say?! It’s mocking you! It’s been leading you astray from the start. The whole challenge has been compromised, it’s all going to fail and everyone – everyone – will blame you. The shame hits you harder than the sun. The bird flies off, it’s mission complete, cawing and cackling as it recedes into the distance. You can’t see the path through the tears. But what does it matter? What does any of it matter? Maybe the bird has led you to your death. Wouldn’t that be better anyway, you think to yourself. And you resign yourself to death. You welcome it. Because it’s better than failure. Better than letting the team down.
The team. They’re somewhere out there, gathering the rest of the shots. They probably don’t even realize you’ve gone missing. You can just picture them now, all smiles and laughter in the sun, free from the torment of that damned bird. They didn’t fall for its tricks. They kept the production moving but then one notices you’re not there and they look around confused; they call your name, once, twice, over and over. You can almost hear it in the wind.
No, you can hear it! You see them, there on the beach, down the path. Part of you can’t believe it, won’t believe it. The bird, you think. Another illusion by the bird. But you want to believe, you need to believe so you slowly stand and stumble towards the mirage. You prepare for the disappointment, but the bird’s magic is strong and the illusion won’t fade. It gets louder. It gets clearer. It gets…real. You made it. You did it. You survived.
It’s day three. You’re only halfway done.
As we watched Mario do all this stuff alone from the safety and comfort of our 15-foot, shaded catamaran, I cannot stress how exhausted it made us. I’m tired again just writing about it. I need a nap.
Let’s get a little serious here. Camera operators aren’t known for their awareness of personal space.
Ours is no different, but this was a shoot that required a bit of delicacy.
For starters, Mario was on an intense journey that required complete attention to every detail. At times the lack of focus could have resulted in placing himself in serious danger. Despite the use of rescue boats, Mario was out in the elements alone, and turning his attention away from the task at hand could have easily pushed him off course, caused him to lose his footing, or any number of potential accidents.
Following him too closely could have caused injury, but there was also the risk of simply distracting or annoying Mario. That may seem like a small element, but the mental focus that this challenge required was enormous. You can brute force your way through this challenge, but to truly accomplish it safely it needs dedicated focus, planning, anticipation, adaptation…just a wide gamut of mental fortitude. Mario is incredibly mentally durable, but our job was not to compromise or complicate that in any way.
It feels good to know we accomplished that. Mario had the space needed to succeed in his challenge, and we got out of there in one piece with a hell of a story to tell.
It’s still raining here in Kansas. For the fifth straight day.
Screw this, blog’s done. I’m plugging back in to the matrix. Where’s my rum?
All of that, for this. Check out the final product!
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