Tandem in Borderland

Poland 2012, 61′
Dir. by Anatol ‘Lolo’ Mszyca
Script by Podlasie Makes Me Happy
Concept by Maciej Rant
Cinematography: Pawel Nazaruk, Tomasz Adamski
Editing: Pawel Nazaruk and Hermanos de Chamuco
Sound: Krzysztof Sienkiewicz, Adrian Grassman, Daniel Baranowski
Produced by Podlasie Makes Me Happy
Starring: Radek Dabrowski and Pawel Mickiewicz
Graphics by Przemek Tyminski
DVD Mastering by Marcin Pawlukiewicz

Tandem in Borderland (Poland / Belarus) – ‘ road movie’ style travel documentary
‘Tandem in Borderland’ is a documentary film following two friends – a Belorussian Pole (Radek) and a Polish Belarusian (Paszka) sharing one tandem (double) bike in their travel across Polish and Belarusian borderland. From the beginning it was meant to be a road movie where adventures they live through during their travel provoke build up their mutual relationship. We had a very slim budget and 9 shooting days in total working with DSLRs, 2 GoPros and double system audio. We ended up with about 12 hours of footage ready for synchronization. Pluraleyes helped a lot but didn’t get all the issues out of the way. We learned the hard way the necessity to use the GoPro cases letting enough sound through so that automatic synchronization in post was successful. However since we had the footage nicely logged and tagged at the end of each shooting day, it helped to get all the synchronization issues resulting from poor sound pickup by GoPros out of the way manually in a matter of hours in post.

It was my first project where so much GoPro footage made it to the final edit (about 20%). At first, thinking about the project, we meant GoPros primarily to deliver some variety to the material – to get a few shots from crazy angles you typically see in commercials and product promos. Soon, on viewing dailies, we realized this is in fact a distraction from the documentary storytelling. The GoPro images just felt gimmicky.


So, putting away the GoPros, we focused on our primary aim – the classic documentary shooting with two DSLRs mounted on handheld rigs following live action. The standard shooting scenario was with the two guys travelling on bike and the crew in the van following them  within viewing distance. Whenever something interesting was happening we approached them and began shooting. Very soon we found out how limiting it was. Not only did we miss some spontaneous action when the guys started conversation with someone on the road but also our ‘arrival’ with 5 people of crew with all the equipment didn’t help to keep it natural.

So we came up with the idea to mount the GoPros on the bike helmets so that each of the guy’s face occupied the whole central part of the frame. But we had no proper equipment for this. And since we we already on the road travelling through the Polish-Belarusian borderland we had to devise some improvised head mount. We ended up with a wooden stick, a stone for counterbalance and lots of duct tape. It worked fine.

This setup gave us access to some pretty unique footage. We would let the guys ride the tandem for a couple of hours without our van even coming in sight. They were all alone. On viewing daily rushes it turned out that the guys ‘acted it out’ in front of the GoPro hanging off their helmets for no more then 30 minutes. After that time they became more natural and spontaneous. Access to their faces from such a close focal distance was something special for documentary narration. It mingled the artificial with the natural in a new way. Watching it later on a big cinema screen felt extremely intimate.

Tandem in Borderland has so far screened at over thirty film festivals and organized screenings both in Poland and abroad. It has also been released as DVD.

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