Julia Louis-Dreyfest Interviews Jacob W. Madness (MINT Film Festival)

Julia Louis-Dreyfest and Waste Division are teaming up to help sponsor the DREYFEST EXPERIMENTAL & MUSIC FILMS block at MINT Film Festival Saturday, September 15th at 2905 Montana Ave. in downtown Billings, MT. Here we have an interview with director Jacob W. Madness about his featured piece “The Other End of the Earth.” Waste on…

Jacob Madness-headshot.jpg

by Daniel Nichols

How does The Other End of the Earth compare to your other artistic output? Are you interested in producing more travel-themed content in the future?

TOEotE was an exercise in intentional discomfort. Venturing outside the walls of structured narrative, and copious preparation, was in itself terrifying; albeit creatively thrilling. The pressure of no scouting, same day shoot/travel, a microscopic crew, and some heavy-duty gear, put hair on all our chests - we earned every one. To come out the Other End with the footage we did was such a huge reward.


Keep producing travel themed content, same or otherwise? Absolutely! Even the content we captured that ended up on the cutting room floor was validation enough that we thrived in the unknown. 


I didn’t want to make a concrete decision as to exactly what was being created until I reviewed what we had captured. This was by design but still a monumental risk. 



If you could choose one location to visit again for an extended period of time where would you choose and why?

That’s a tough one as each location offered something uniquely wonderful. If I had to choose I would have to say Bali. The culture and the people seemed so disconnected from the culture I see everyday. The people were so welcoming and pleasant, always offering assistance, a smile, or even a joke when language was a barrier. They’re religion is so ingrained in there everyday life that I now understand why so many people flock to Bali for spiritual realignment, you feel their intentions everywhere you go. 



The Other End of the Earth is narrated by the words of globetrotter Nellie Bly. Many people have written about traveling and experiencing other cultures, and you could have chosen the words of any of them to narrate your film. Why Nellie Bly in particular? What about her writing led you to choose her over any other travel writer?

My producer, Daniel Cabrera and I both agreed that the dialogue we pored through to narrate this journey had been done to death. Henry David Thoreau, Allan Watts, Kurt Vonnegut, all great but we were looking for a fresh perspective. 


Nellie Bly defied the rules and traversed boldly in the face of obstinate adversity. As Daniel stumbled upon “Around the World in Seventy-Two Days,” we couldn’t help but find her words appropriate for our own journey. As we continued to read her work, her mannerisms and words mirrored women I grew up with, women that I saw as incredibly strong and ahead of there time. Nelly was ahead of her time and her drive in the face of overwhelming defiance was remarkable. Her words grounded the film. I felt this was a way to both honor her legacy and potentially introduce a few uninitiated to her work and likewise honor my friend’s who inspired me. 



What was the most interesting thing that you saw or experienced abroad while working on this film?

We were actually incredibly fortunate to stumble upon a ceremony in Bali that happens once every fifty years at the Pura Ulun Danu Brata Temple, the Temple on the Lake. We were blessed and invited in as locals as our handler Ketut, had negotiated our entry. It was difficult as first to remain reverent while trying to film in this sea of kneeling thousands. They met us with smiles, food, beads, musical instruments, and hugs. What I didn’t know was they actually made an announcement to the congregation before we started filming. The leader told them we had treated Ketut with such respect and generosity during our journey that we were to be seen as family. Even though the weather was perfect, I still got something in my eye that day. I’ll take that with me from here on out. 



How long did cinematographers spend at these locations? Were there any places where you wanted to either stay longer or leave earlier?

We traveled as a group to almost every destination, parting ways only once. Two, sometimes three cameras worked at once, between the four of us. Each location was covered in mere hours. We knew we had ground to cover because we didn’t know what was around the next corner. At each location we had to ask, “Do we keep exploring and potentially discover gold or should we move on and wonder, what if?” Every location could have used several more hours, if not days. We were very fortunate to find locations that looked amazing no matter where you pointed the camera.


We thought Niseko would be a bust as we were traveling off-season but we decided to risk it. When we discovered Masafumi Sawada, the locally know artist, architect, and blacksmith, we knew our risk paid off. Not only was he a town hero, his artwork adorned the local businesses, hotels, and restraunts. He was also an incredibly kind and gentile family man who invited us into his home and studio. He seemed to live a life of balance that included his artistic pursuits and family. We envied him. From what we saw he had ‘it’ figured it out. He was definitely one we could have continued to film for a few more days. 


In making The Other End of the Earth, you must have had to communicate with people from all walks of life and from every corner of the planet. Can you say anything about your experience of intercultural collaboration in filmmaking and its importance in producing a film like this?

Part of the Cinematic Dogma that I created, in order for each cinematographer to create a cohesive pallet of shots, said to: “Follow the eyes. The eyes tell the story.” Often when traveling to distant countries, carrying a large camera, filming people who may not want to be filmed, and language is an issue, the expression in their eyes can tell you a lot. Being that you’re not looking to be intrusive but still needing to get the job done while capturing something authentic, you must communicate somehow. Using your own eyes to negotiate a shot with someone who doesn’t entirely understand is key. Your eyes must tell YOUR story. 



Would you kindly choose three adjectives to describe your experience in each country?

Tenacious, Wonderstruck, Reverent



What are you working on now? Do you have an idea of films you would like to make in the future?

Everyday is a new adventure! Working for Substance Over Hype has afforded me the opportunity to write down any creative idea I have and potentially see it come to light. I have loads of narrative ideas I’ve been constructing, three in particular I’m highly motivated to create. However, with the outpouring of love for The Other End of the Earth, I believe a part two is inevitable. Fingers’ crossed!