Rolf: We tried out all kinds of things, not hindered by any knowledge. One could say that the areal shots of the film were shot in a very unorthodox way. Without the budget for a glass-bottom plane, we shot all the aerials in America over Hiawatha Forest and Lake Superior from a powered parachute. And the signature shot of the film, flying over the Namib Desert was the most adventurous. We had tried to shoot it form a plane window but it didn’t work. I shared my frustration with the pilot and jokingly said that he would need to take out the door of the plane to make it work. To my surprise he said: ‘we can do that’. The next morning he arrived with a screwdriver and took out the door before take off. It allowed me to point my camera down whilst hanging out of the small airplane. But only after the pilot had strapped to the back of the plane with a bungee-jump cord, just in case I would be pulled out by the air pressure.
Constructing The Film
How did you go about crafting a story from 200 hours of raw footage?
Rolf: The editing was the most difficult part of the process. First of all the translation of all the footage was an incredible amount of work. It took us almost a year to get al the translations finalized, with some of the tribal languages only having very few translators. When everything was scripted, we ended up with a stack of transcripts the size of a telephone book. But where do you start? Shamans talk in stories and in the beginning we had no idea how to start cutting into stories that on average run for ten to twenty minutes. The first cut we made was actually on paper. We started literally cutting out snippets and ended up with a whole room full with stacks of paper snippets. From that the leading themes and the first storyline evolved.
Did you edit yourselves?
Renata: We have done a lot of editing ourselves but we are very fortunate to have been able to work with two great film editors who both felt attracted by the project. Even though we have been in charge of the choice of the themes and the construction of the story, we couldn’t have done without them. Both editors have contributed a lot to the weft of the story. The first cut we made with Award-winning editor Andrew Quigley, who is very gifted in structuring and creating the different layers. We still love that first cut. Where many directors do it afterwards, you could say we first made the so-called ‘director’s cut’. But then, based on the audience and industry feedback, we decided to add our story to the film. That’s when Sahil Gill came on board as editor. We initially told him we needed some help for a couple of months with some changes to an existing film. Well, that became a process of no less than three years! Pulling the puzzle apart and trying to fit the new pieces in… well they didn’t fit at all at first. It was a long process of creating and re-creating. It was like sculpturing; reworking the film, layer after layer.
The music is an important part of the whole film experience. How did you get Stephen Warbeck involved in the project?
Rolf: He came on board early on. We came in touch with Stephen shortly after our journey, through the new school of our children. Our daughters happened to be in the same class as his daughters. When he heard about the project, he asked us to show him a rough cut. After the viewing he offered to write the score for the film. It was an incredible gift to the project that he came on board. Not only did it instantly lift the profile of the project, but working with him was a real joy. Stephen is a most humble and down-to-earth character, who is an amazing listener. He has almost as little ego as the Earth Keepers.