Indie No-No turns failed filmmaker to would-be author

Vesna Damljanovic last winter raised $4,585 out of the requested $7,700 in her Indiegogo campaign to make “Gone North,” a proposed documentary film involving the middle-aged New England climber’s solo exploration of some of Arctic Norway’s most challenging terrain. The biophysicist ultimately discovered that adventure film-making isn’t necessarily a one-woman endeavor, resuscitating the adage “that’s not the mountain I want to die on.”

And isn’t that just the way it goes sometimes (most times); isn’t it so true that how we picture it all going down (or coming up) is not the way it unfolds?

Case in point: Vesna’s October Campaign Update:

You’ve Received a Campaign Update!
Hello Cynthia ,
Here’s an update for you from the ‘Gone North – The Documentary’ team:

1 new Announcement:

Dear supporters,

All perks sent or on their way. Except the movie.

First I couldn’t even watch the footage because my old laptop kept crashing. Then last year about this time, I bought a Mac with the iMovie software. But just as I got the Mac, I went back to Norway, to stay. Ahem, yes. A much bigger adventure than my Lofoten trip and I almost did not survive to tell the tale (jury is still out). I mention it here only as an excuse for why it took me so long to start converting and watching all the footage.

I managed to get it down to about 20+ hours of usable footage (meaning there is SOMETHING visible or movable in it). About 50% of it is me skiing to/from the cliffs and about 45% is me waiting the weather out in the tent and complaining. Lots of opinions on everything, including stupidity of climbing and idiocy of trying to shoot oneself while climbing. The rest is me in the dark, me cooking and me ‘climbing’ . All of the climbing staged, because I gave up taking the cameras up with me after the first attempt when I was so distracted by fiddling with them that I almost fell, so I made a few outings just for the shooting. But even that did not help.

Although my movie was never going to be about action, I was hoping to have at least one short action scene, at least a few seconds. Ahem. There is about 30 min of beginning of an action scene, with several starts interrupted by fishing for the remote in my glove’s gauntlet (while hanging by my ice tools halfway up the cliff), then dropping it into the snow at the base, then down-climbing, digging it out, repeating, and just when I finally seem to have dialed it in, the battery had died. And I finally gave up. There is NO action scene, period. It was simply not possible to do it all on my own, even if I was willing to risk my life (but of course I wasn’t).

I have now watched all of it 3 times and I can testify that it will not make a movie I wanted, let alone a video story that others might find interesting.

In fact, I am thinking of WRITING an all-out story, instead of making a lousy movie with an endless succession of skiing, pulking, cooking and tenting, not to mention bitching.

But this will continue to drag because I am still in the midst of my last adventure and need to survive it first.

Stay put but don’t hold your breath!


Here’s my response:

Dear Vesna,
I wasn’t a major contributor to “Gone North: The Documentary,” just a here’s-a-couple-bucks well-wisher. Even if I’d given more I think I’d call the debt good on the merits of your funny and honest update. Clearly you can write and I look forward to the “all-out” story in book form in lieu of a lousy movie. Welcome to the world of authorship! Oh, and if you need an editor …

P.S. What is pulking or is that puking in Autocorrect? 🙂

2 thoughts on “Indie No-No turns failed filmmaker to would-be author

  1. Hi Cindy. Had no idea about this page, till someone googled me and found it, forwarding it to me… Thank you for the comments and the editing offer. I am amazed that you felt it interesting enough to post on your own blog. Regarding the IndieGoGo funds, the truth is that, out of those $4K+ I officially got, I had ‘donated’ $1.5K myself (gave money to two friends and they made donations) on advice of several experienced campaigners… Even my total pledge was underestimated compared to the costs of both filming and travel in Norway, the most expensive country in the world. My opinion on adventures, and recording them for posterity, has evolved even more in the mean time, in the negative direction, but I am still in the midst of an adventure of sorts for the lack of better employment. I am not so sure the book I would write about it would be to anyone’s liking…. It all seems so far away now anyhow. Before I forget, “pulking” is not an auto-correct error. Pulk is a Norwegian word for sled (or British sledge). Pulking is pulling a loaded sled across expanses of snow, either by a person on skis or by dog teams (for which “mushing” is more common in US). I traveled to my mountain on skis, pulling a sled with about 80+ lbs of my camp and climbing gear and food for 4 weeks–otherwise, it would have taken me three trips to transport all that on my back. It’s a commonly used means of transport on self-supported expeditions. Best, Vesna

    • Fantastic to hear from you, Vesna! I found your sharing of your experience so down-to-earth and authentic and yes, both frustrating and funny, that I just had to share it. Definitely a flip side of the crowd-funding tales typically heard. And I related to your challenges attempting to cover your adventure while DOING it. I don’t climb, but I do sail and it is no picnic trying to get stills let alone shoot video, although a Go-Pro setup is going to make that easier in the future I’m sure, as tech becomes more responsive and affordable. I wish you well. Please keep in touch and if you ever DO write that book – which I definitely encourage you to do even if it’s not the book previously envisioned – I’m here to help with any questions on how to proceed. Warmly, Cyndi

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