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Zsolt's 1st ATWFF2 Blog


Reflections... across the ocean

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What a whirlwind these past two weeks have been. As we were getting ready for the launch in Chicago, I recalled how before the launch of Season 1 I slept not a wink the night before the Early Show. This time would be better, I thought, but of course I was wrong. No sleep at all before the Chicago departure, and merely a single hour before this year's Early Show launch. Jeff seems a bit concerned - "Dude! You gotta get some sleep!!" but I think it's slowly dawning on him that this is how it's going to be, for the entirety of the trip, his own endurance rising day by day.

I can't help but compare the two beginnings since there are so many parallels. In 2007 we were completely unsure and somewhat terrified about what would happen at the launch, our website was shaky at best, and yet the exhiliration of those first hours on the streets of New York still stand unmatched. The shock and awe that yes, people were willing to step up, right out of the gate, and get us moving on immediately. Our shared joy at discovering, together with our hosts, that this adventure could actually fly, even though we stumbled through our first few days down the East Coast. And then, the excitement of setting out abroad with that first flight to Puerto Rico... a life-changing journey was underway.

Fast forward to 2010. This time, it's supposed to be "proven formula". Built-in audience. The massive support of the network. Way-more advanced technology. And yet, it still comes down to a rushed, 5am frenzied packing exercise on the final morning. Have we brought enough. Is it distributed fairly amongst the 3 backpacks (Alex and I could only walk one or two blocks when we launched in 2007 - the nearly 75-lb backpacks were insane). Are we going to regret not packing a dozen miscellaneous adapters, any one of which may prove life-saving (in the technical sense at least) in the jungles of Laos?

There are a lot of departures this time around, each of which dilutes the rawness a bit. First, leaving the production office in Santa Monica. I've been living in a suitcase for over a month, splitting my time between the office couch and Alex's gracious hospitality in his Paris-throwback pad in Santa Monica. A quiet walk at 5am on dark and empty Santa Monica Blvd to throw some letters in the mailbox. Stashing the well-worn suitcase in the closet, saying goodbye to a few worldly comforts - but it's not too bad. Hey, I'm bringing along Armani jeans this time around, coupled with a few Asian-flavor collared shirts ("You're rocking that tunic, bro!" - writes my best friend Malcolm fromToronto). Put on the last remaining ATWFF white T-shirt and off we go.

Chicago is a bit of a blur since we've done it all before but now must turn it on again - another dinner, another goodbye party, more editing in the Schroeders' basement. Jeff's observant mother Mary knows full well to fill up the bowl of chocolates downstairs, and she does, in between the amazing pannini sandwiches and endless coffee. The downstairs area is completely taken over by our cables and laptops. The parents know that separation is imminent, yet they hold their gentle supportive energy, unwavering and strong till the final goodbye at O'Hare... big thanks to them both. Jeff is already tired of having said goodbye umpteen timeson camera... and we're on our way.

Charlotte is a breath of fresh air in every sense. Jordan is upbeat as she takes us for our haircuts. It's pavement-melting heat and we are feeling it. We are moving and shooting a lot now, so much so that on the first night I have to face the inevitable - I can't film the dinner segment, must stay behind to edit the Chicago webisode. But this is the reason we have brought along a third colleague this time around, and John jumps to the task, capturing the Cajun barbecue feast for posterity. I stay behind in Jordan's lovely home, her extremely friendly rescued dog resting at my feet the whole night. As before, we are fortunate to beset up with some great independent music from our long time music collaborators Jason and Tyler (want to add that CBS Records have also come through with some of their solid artists) and I find a couple of tunes with a country flair for this segment. I've never heard of "Dark Country" as a genre, but definitely digging it. It'll be great for the road trip to Raleigh-Durham airport. And soon it's upon us, we are rolling through the green flatlands, Jordan's brother Peyton getting us there, bantering endlessly with Jeff on the ride, at times sad, but more often than not doing their bro thing with huge laughs...

This LAX-Narita flight I'm on as I write this seems far too short (at 10hrs... don't laugh - I'm used to the 14-hr longhauls to Bangkok) and Istill have editing to do to finish the last story from LA, so I'll keep it short. I cannot possibly touch on all the great people and places we've seen in these past 19 days since the Chicago departure, but what has been unchanged is the people's great hospitality and generosity. Each connection is just as intense and immersive as anything we've done in Season 1 - well, perhaps our comfort level is slightly elevated since we are enjoying far wider exposure than before. But day to day,experience to experience, it's just as fresh and spiritually-renewing as it ever was. And all this will go up a notch once we land in Tokyo.The everyday will become the exotic. The tried and true will become the unknown. The massive on-location audience we enjoyed in the States will taper off. But all this will make for a better show - for everyone.

I pushed hard during these first couple of weeks to keep the webisodes as raw and immersive as possible, though I wish I could've delivered them a bit sooner. Tried to jam-pack as much content as possible, and to hear from Jeff "in the raw" wherever possible. Now that we're in international waters, we're going to adjust the edits a bit to turn the stories around faster, and also because we will be needing your help on a more urgent basis. Want to take the interactive site up a notch as well (regarding my own and Jeff's participation) - we have not evenmbegun to use it to its maximum potential. Really looking forward to alot of "fork-in-the-road" moments where Jeff will just stop and throw to the audience, asking them to help him make a crucial decision. The user-generated tips will become vitally important as we get farther and farther from the safety of home. My hope is for the interactive site to be a buzzing hive of activity... knowing full well that while we can't possibly respond to or address all submissions, we will benefit greatly from all savvy tips.

Never been to Tokyo... very excited to stop by finally. I've spent extended time in a number of 10-million plus cities, but metro Tokyo, which is pushing 30mil+ is going to be mind-boggling. That's two times the number of all Hungarians on this entire planet - in a single place. I actually heard that in contrast to a place like Hong Kong, where the number of foreigners (and English speakers) is quite large, in Japan the same ratio hovers closer to zero. And sadly none of us count Japanese as one of our fluencies. So stay tuned for a lot of mimes and gestures on the streets on Shinjuku...

Till next time - -

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