Music is a safe kind of high  -Jimi Hendrix

 It is my favorite assignment, photographing musicians while  in rehearsal or in a recording studios. It is the moment that the musicians delve deeply into the musical notes on a sheet of paper and give birth to a sound that becomes airborne with an arsenal of emotions. Like a still image, music can act as a synthetic acid which enhances flashbacks to a moment in time that has been joyful or painful and never forgotten. Music is the needle and thread that sews our humanity together and in spite of being in metal boxes on Golden State 5 you can witness the joy of Angelenos as they boogie, jive and groove to their own soundtrack, it is a collective consciousness of moving forward to the beat of their own music.

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Dave-Image047 There was a time in my professional life that the tools of my trade required 13 anvil cases, patients, and throw away paper underwear. The demands for international travel as a documentary filmmaker was like an assault on climbing Mt. Everest. Months of preparation are involved along with logistics, scheduling, and risk management. Once at the point of entry in a foreign country the arduous task of clearing customs begins with lots of patients as every item in the anvil cases are cross referenced to see that the serial numbers match the Carnet.  For those not familiar, a Carnet is analogous to a passport for equipment. It is an import/export document, which allows property to pass across borders without hindrance. Free passage is assured by the guarantee that imported property will be reliably exported again after a set period of time. However, the documents Whitewater Westmust be scrupulously prepared and every item’s serial number on the Carnet. The Carnet must be recorded through customs on entering a country and then checked out again on exiting. Any errors or omissions can cause the delay of the entire shipment unless you have Baksheesh which is tipping or as some may call it charitable giving. I call it outright bribery.
That was then and this is now, I can now wear brown socks with white tennis shoes, plaid Bermuda shorts and a “Go Dodgers “ tank top and travel as a tourist. Today, I travel “Light and Fast”  which is an alpine mountaineering approach to traditional mountaineering that seeks to leave behind everything but the minimum gear required to reach the 252617_3880792791286_1338272699_nobjective and allowing the climber to summit faster. An experienced mountaineer will jettison gear that was not used on previous climbs and go “Light and Fast”. With that in mind and since I’m not tackling Mt. Everest but Scotland I have downsized my gear to an carry on bag.
This is my equipment list today:Travel Gear
  1. Canon 5D Mark II, 17mm – 40mm Lens, for stills and HD video w/Sennheiser short shotgun mic, headphones.
  2. Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Lens
  3. GoPro Camera
  4. Macbook Pro
  5. Portable battery charger
  6. External hard drive
  7. 3 thumb drives
  8. 4 Report’s Notebooks
  9. Composition Notebook
  10. 5 pencils
  11. 10 copies of Cue The Camels
  12. 100 business cards

Part One

Dave Banks discusses and signs Cue the Camels
Jay Leno says, “Within these pages Dave has written gung-ho, self-deprecating, wildly engaging accounts of his exploits, with all the behind-the-scene high-jinks that go into shooting news and documentaries across the world.” In Cue the Camels, Dave shares his misadventures in a comedic style that is sure to entertain.

Vroman’s Bookstore Link: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/local629

 Cue The Camels available atwww.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, , Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385 , Amazon Kindle Edition: http://www.amazon.com/Cue-Camels-three-time-award-winning-film-maker-ebook/dp/B00IA10Z88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403461103&sr=1-1&keywords=cue+the+camels

 

Link to Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TLV4_xaYynY?list=PLjts4JMIwgQxcEwLBmDvkRE2Hx3QHGUU3

Chapter Two, Al Minya, Bed Bugs and Sex

Jimi Hendrix’s version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was blasting out from Mark Hufnail’s BMW stereo, fueling our adrenalin and chest-beating machismo. During Jimi’s solos, I strummed the invisible strings of my air guitar and glanced over at Mark, catching him head-banging to the beat. Two middle-aged white guys, reminiscing about hippie living and experimental drug days, we were now living on the highs adventure brought. Potential ‘fixes’ dangled from the grueling schedule before us to shoot three documentaries throughout Middle Egypt, along the Nile. All three documentaries to be shot simultaneously in sixteen days, to produce seven hours of programming.
Body Guard-13

With some security concerns, we drove from Mark’s Burbank office to a kosher Italian restaurant on the west side of Los Angeles, this was our last advisory meeting about security with the only Muslim we knew, Attallah Shabazz. Ms. Shabazz is the eldest daughter of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, the powerful civil rights activist of the ‘60s. Mark and Attallah have worked together on several television productions and have become very good friends over the years, to the point that Mark’s daughter, Megan, refers to Ms. Shabazz as ‘Aunty Attallah’. Mark set the stage to our trip, telling Attallah that we would be the first American crew to travel by vehicle through Middle Egypt in ten years, that according to our fixer in Egypt. Our security was our foremost concern; we’d be two unmistakably-American white guys shooting at various locations along the Nile. When we went into preproduction for the three documentaries – on February 23, 1998 – Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, a leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, along with three other Islamist leaders, co-signed and issued a ‘fatwa’. This called on Muslims to kill Americans and their allies, saying it was their duty. The declaration was made seven months prior to our scheduled departure to Egypt. I’d also read somewhere that Osama and Zawahiri hated Americans so much that they wouldn’t even drink a Pepsi. On top of all that, there was rumored to be a bounty of $16,000 for every American’s head in Egypt. I found this a bit insulting: why couldn’t they round it out? I thought I was worth at least $20,000.

Attallah interrupted Mark. ‘You know, I don’t thing you have anything to worry about, traveling through Middle Egypt,’ she reassured us. ‘The Egyptian government cannot afford another massacre, it would be devastating to their economy. You will Dave on location #2-2be well protected. Think of it as an adventure, don’t let the threat of a small group of extremists hold you hostage.’

We placed our orders for our meal and our conversation turned to shop talk and a bucket full of scuttlebutt. It’s traditional amongst our staff and crew to collect the best pithy quotes during production which we then use as a catchphrase during shooting when things get a little too heated. Over our kosher pasta with meatless sauce, we told Attallah that we’d collected three favorite quotes for the History Channel’s documentary, the ‘History of Sex’:

‘Does the composer actually see the show he’s composing?’

‘Regardless of their academic achievement and expertise, try not to use any male or female archeologist over forty years of age’.

imagesBut the killer quote, and my favorite when shooting ancient Egyptian statues, was: ‘You can shoot as Dave-Desertmany penises as you want, as long as they don’t move’.

“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”

–  Bob Dylan, 1967

Cue The Camels available at: www.cuethecamels.com, www.oodlebooks.com,  Also available at: Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, California www.vromansbookstore.com/book/9780957438385, and Book Soup in Hollywood, California,  booksoup.com/book/9780957438385