Friday, 8 October 2010

The Brahma Kumaris

We were on the road again. Leaving the fresh mountain air, we descended South into the furnace of pre-monsoon heat.

With Uttrakashi behind us, I was able to reflect on some of the experiences I had there. One that stayed with me was my first day there, when I was propositioned by a celibate monk.! After being told that he he wished to marry me and take me to live in a cave with him, I started dressing like a monk.

There are so many things that I love about India, but there is one thing that I hate: the attitude of the average Indian man to Western women. What they know of Western culture is what they see in Western media. Beautiful girls dancing in skimpy clothing is the norm for us here, but in the context of India's conservatism it looks like porn. Uneducated people presume these images are of indicative of Western culture, and that Western women are okay with being being touched and fondled. Therefore, we're fair game.

Disguising myself as a monk was, ironically, a sexual liberation. The orange trousers, orange T-shirt, and orange shawl that covered my shoulders and hair were like an protective field. I suddenly felt free.

This journey was our longest and most taxing so far. We got rickety government buses from Pilot Baba's ashram to Uttrakashi, Uttrakashi to Rishikesh, Rishikesh to Delhi, Delhi to Jaipur. From Jaipur we got a taxi to Mount Abu, which involved driving through the desert state of Rajasthan. The whole trip took 48 hours.

On the rocky road from the Himalayas we grew accustomed to the sound of people throwing up over the side of the bus. We carried the equipment in our laps to absorb the shock, our legs went numb, and we mastered the art of sleeping sitting upright with no feeling below the waist. We were awed by the majesty of the mountains, and the wistful beauty of the desert.
We stopped at Dabbas (Indian road side restaurants) , and ate Indian food for breakfast. Local kids would come on board the buses trying to sell water, soft drinks or crisps. During one of our stops, a ticket inspector grabbed one of the little boys, and shoved him out of the bus while it was moving. The boy tumbled onto the road, and his crisps exploded and mingled with the red dust. Our taxi driver was legally blind, and Dipesh had to read the road signs for him, while Raj had to resist his urge to jump behind the wheel every time we had a close call with death. In India you're always on the edge of civilisation.

The peace and cleanliness of the Brahma Kumaris headquarters at Mount Abu was a safe haven for us after the journey, and I quickly shed my orange robes and replaced them with white.

You see, the Brahma Kumaris have a couple of rules. No sex, no alcohol, no drugs, no smoking. You must be vegetarian, you must wear white, you must take a shower every morning, you must get up at 3.30am to mediate. Those who live at the complex full-time have to take a shower every time they empty their bowels. (I shit you not!)

Their goal is to purify the self and become Angels. Once December 21st 2012 hits, they believe modern civilisation will end, and be replaced by a Golden Era on Earth. The majority of the 6 billion inhabitant on Earth will die, but those who have attained a sufficient level of purity will survive and become Deities.

The rules and the philosophy combined create an environment which is like something out of a James Bond film. The complex is completely self-sufficient, and run on solar energy, and everyone floats around wearing white, and being peaceful. Everywhere you look, there are pictures of deceased spiritual teachers, a red glowing light, and a symbol which represents the point of light of God.

It was interesting that neither myself nor Raj were phased by this place, but then again, this wasn't my first time at the BK. We came here in 2009, to research, and that time I had a pretty violent inner-reaction against it. I objected to the teachings, fought with several of the teachers, and even took up smoking on the balcony. I wasn't trying to rebel, but I felt so repressed and restricted that I needed to do something to know that I was free.

So a year had passed, and I obeyed their rules, and didn't argue. I still didn't agree with their vision of life, but I was prepared to hear them out and not judge. Had I changed, or had I simply become accustomed?

Since becoming interested in spirituality, I have always preached the philosophy of "not-knowing", but it was in a Bill Maher "Religulous" ( kind of way. (ie. I said I didn't know, but I secretly thought I did). It was at the BK that I really opened my mind to the possibility that I don't know what's going on in this Universe.

This happened because of one Westerner living there: a German called Golo. Golo made the point that I can't judge God or spirituality unless I actually mediate, because it's through mediation that God is experienced directly. So I mediated with them, and something weird happened. As I was meditating, the BK symbol floated into my mind's eye. It was around this time, that me, Raj and Dipesh started talking about joining the BK.!

In my defense, I was attracted to the idea of having free places to stay all over the world (you're not charged for anything when you stay at a Brahma Kumaris centre, and they have centres in more than 60 countries, including one in New York, U.S.A), but needless to say, we hadnt fully thought it through fully. Raj was the voice of reason, saying that we should see how we felt when we left.

And as soon as we got out of the complex we realised what had almost happened! It was at this point that I realised the power of being in an environment where so many people were visualising the same thing. It gets inside you. And then it becomes validated for you - I had seen the symbol float into my vision when I mediated, and this could be taken as a kind of proof that this was the path to Truth.

It makes me wonder how much we are all products of our environment. Every day we pass through environments which send out specific messages, which filter into our subconscious. (Advertising is a prime example of this).Are our beliefs ever the truth, or are we simply processing information in accordance with how we have been programmed?

Monday, 17 May 2010


Going to Uttrakashi was one of those moments where we threw our itinerary in the bin, and took a leap of faith.

The Kumbha Mela has similarities with a political rally. Posters advertise the many gurus that are in attendance, and these guys have stalls where people can come and meet them, hear them speak, get an idea of their teachings. I could be wrong, but I think ultimately their goal is to recruit followers.

We were filming at the stall of a guru called Pilot Baba, and while there I took a soundbite from an Australian female monk called Sunny. It transpired that Sunny was a former top model, who turned away from her highflying life when she discovered God.

We left after interviewing Pilot Baba, and I thought that was it. But after digesting the Kumbha Mela a little bit, and discussing things with my guru (Raj), I decided that there was a story worth pursuing.

So we embarked on a 24 hour journey to beautiful Uttrakashi, where Pilot Baba's ashram is.

The accommodation was basic... very basic! If you were coming for a spiritual pampering, this was not the place for it. The buildings were old, and the paint was peeling. Most of the surfaces were black with flies. There were stacks of rotting potatoes everywhere (a big help to the fly situation) and the food that we got twice a day was curry with... potatoes. This was occasionally peppered with gourmet pebbles.

All this said, the location made up for it. From our room we could see the Himalayas, the forest, and the roaring Ganga. A million dollar view.

The iconography on the walls, and the dilapidated environment didn't sit well with me. But over the course of the week I started to understand what was going on here.

The accommodation was a step towards asceticism: the renunciation of the material world. I met a Russian man in his late thirties, who lived in a tin hut on the banks of the Ganga. He built it himself, and had a bedroom, a living room/kitchen, and a garden (a patch of ground where he grew vegetables). He didn't want to be filmed, but I spent two evenings with him, drinking chai and talking about life and spirituality.

It's clear that some people operate on a different level to the average person who works 9 to 5, and wants a family and a house. They feel a connection to God that made them want to devote their lives to their spiritual journey. This guy, Sunny, and some other disciples I spoke to (who were mainly from Russia and the Ukraine), believe that the best way to do this is with the guidance of a guru (teacher). The guru is a bridge to the divine.

According to Sunny, this is the most intimate relationship two people can cultivate, because the guru enters your mind and teaches you telepathically. It requires complete surrender, and complete trust.

Over the course of several days, Sunny showed us around the ashram, and explained Pilot Baba's philosophy and powers (his 'power' is his ability to submerge himself under water or ice for days, and then resurface, alive). We took a trip to one of the most spiritual places in India - Gangotri: the source of the river Ganga. Sunny told us about her own complicated life as a top model, and how she unexpectedly found God at the lowest ebb of her life. After some years, she came to India and found a guru. She was with him until his death, and for the last year she's been with Pilot Baba and is "spiritually in love with him".

Apparently every true guru's goal is to connect their followers with their own inner guru. But until that point, they must follow the word of the guru without question. The Pilot Baba followers I met were intelligent and articulate. They admitted that they were following blindly, and yet they weren't blind.

But I still struggle with the idea of surrendering yourself to another person as a way towards God. Followers may tell me that's my ego refusing to believe that someone else may know better. How to resolve this disparity in thought?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Kumbha Mela and Rishikesh

I've been in India for nearly three weeks now, and I've realised the futility of trying to write a daily journal. So many things happen here in any day and trying to record them becomes a burden that detracts from the experience.

So far we've had lots of highs, and very few lows. Myself, Raj and Dipesh have all been plagued by ill health (lung disease is a huge killer in India because of the dust and air pollution, and all of us got a dose of bronchitis), but other than that Rishikesh treated us well. It took about 10 days to get into the swing of filming, but during the last couple of shoots I've really felt the magic happening.

We spent about seven days filming the Kumbha Mela. We interviewed some gurus, including a Brazilian called Prem Baba (a.k.a "The Love Guru"), and of course we met their followers.

As we shot this stuff my views on Gurus and their followers were in flux. Personally I can't relate to someone who wants to put all their trust in another person, but when I think about it perhaps we are all doing the same this to some extent. We wear clothes that allow us to integrate into a particular culture or subculture, we aspire towards values we've assimilated from our culture, family, and people we respect. We believe that we are individuals that think for themselves, but perhaps we're no more independent and free than these gurus disciples. At least these guys make a conscious decision to follow, and they trust and respect the people that they follow. Most of US, on the other hand, are blindly following our politicians and media without any trust or awareness.

Getting to know Tony was an interesting and rewarding experience. His philosophy is based on laughter and silliness, which is such a refreshing change from many teachers I have met. I admired his determination to live

One of the things that surprised me over the last few weeks was that my perception of Rishikesh differed dramatically from last year. Last year I didn't like it at all. The spiritual conversations wearied me, and I found the availability of spiritual practices commercial and vulgar. But this year I felt something different. Instead of my prior perception of the pretentious freak show, I now observed many diverse people connecting with each other. Through music, through words, and through breathing air that is a rich mixture of dust, smoke, and traces of the Himalayas.

On a personal note, I've spent the last three weeks sharing a double bed with Raj and Dipesh. The joys of budget film making! Actually, it's been a great laugh. The guys feel like my brothers, and every night is like a slumber party where we fall asleep giggling over inane jokes. The great thing about travelling and working with Dipesh and Raj is that we're all on the same page. We're here to do something we love, and we want to enjoy every minute of it. The guys are very positive and upbeat, and even though we don't have much physical space, we understand each other and give each other all the mental space we need. I think it's the highest testimont to a friendship when you can sit in complete silence for hours without ever having to explain yourself. This is crucial for me. I'm constructing a film in my head and I need to zone out quite a bit. I really couldn't have wished for two better people to be working and travelling with.

In addition, I was blessed to meet a very special group of people in Rishikesh, who don't feature in the documentary, but who irrevocably shaped it as I talked with them, laughed with them, and learnt from them. That's the fascinating thing about film making - the stuff that goes on behind the lens has the biggest impact on the film, and it's the stuff that's never seen, known about, or even imagined.

Our next stop is Utterkashi, where we'll be visiting the ashram of one of India's more notorious Gurus - Pilot Baba. He used to be a Pilot in the army, before he got his spiritual calling. We met one of his female monks, Sunny, at the Kumbha Mela, and she invited us to go there. Let's see what happens.

Days 1 - 5

DAY 01

Being back in India rocks. I feel like I never left. Delhi is as dusty and chaotic as I remember, but it doesn't faze me. There's a strange peace that I find in myself as I walk across a road with six rows of unstreamed, unordered motorbikes and cars beeping and driving at different speeds. What is that?

Dipesh, who approached me a few months ago and asked to be part of the crew, is a great guy. He brought us back to his home, and Raja and I experienced true Indian hospitality. His mother cooked us a delicious meal, and his friend and sister were so happy to meet us. His friend wanted to know if I liked India, and when I responded that I love it, be wanted to know why. I told him that it's mainly because of the people. Indian people are so warm, friendly, they always have a smile for you, and on average I think they are very intelligent. His friend was touched by my response. What I observe of Indian people is that they have a a very strong sense of identity and patriotism, but are unsure of how the rest of the world perceive them A compliment, a smile of appreciation, a thank you, humbles them. They are truly a beautiful people.
We're on an overnight bus to Haridwar now. The Kumbha Mela happens here. Tomorrow will be a full day of reccing, organising, and meeting interviewees. After travelling for 24 hours straight I should stop waffling and go to sleep!

DAY 02

I've only been in India for a day and a half, and already I can feel the light coming back into my eyes. India is a place you cannot fully describe to someone unless they've been here. You can speak about the colours, the noise, the smells, the dust, and even the people, but you can't describe the feeling that it carries. Maybe these blog entries may convey some of it to you.
After 40 hours of travelling, and a few more hours of filling out paperwork, we finally reached our tent at the media camp at the Kumbha Mela. I don't know why I was expecting more salubrious accommodation - this is India after all! - but we quickly realised that our cameras, laptops, and sound equipment might not be exactly safe in a room resembling a marquee at a music festival.! So we're moving tomorrow!

We saw very little of the Kumbh today because we were meeting Tony (a character in the film and my future Tai Chi teacher) in Riskikesh, which is an hours drive away from where the Kumnbha Mela takes place.

Tony is one of those people who has the gift of laughter. Within seconds we were laughing raucously, and within minutes he had captivated us with an incredible synchronicity-laden story. More on him to follow.

Dipesh, our fixer/researcher is great. He was a bit of a wild card. He contacted me a few months ago through Facebook saying he wanted to work on 'Prisms', and proceeded to overload me with contacts, information, and emails where the subject was always "HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII IT'S DIPESH FROM NEW DELHIIIII". After my initial assumption that this guy was crazy, I've realised that you can't judge a book by its cover because he's turned out to be the sweetest and most reliable person we could have hoped for. Everything looks promising!

DAY 03

The last few days have gone so quickly and so slowly and been so loaded with events that they seem like a dream. I'm reminded that "this is India". There's something about this country that makes everything seem to elongate and simultaneously be brief and fleeting.
Today I woke up at 4.30am, freezing my ass off on a wooden camp bed in a tent. Who'd have thought that it would get so cold here at night? Of course it makes perfect sense - we're at the foothills of the Himalayas - but being a dumb Westerner with little connection to nature this didn't occur to me! SO I shivered under my single sheet, and proceeded to don every article of clothing I had! At 6am we all got up, packed rapidly, and set off for Rishikesh by Tuk Tuk. Upon arrival I raced to my Tai Chi class. I enjoyed Tony's teaching, and the break we took half way through where we all sat around sharing fruit, and Tony told us one of his stories.
After Tai Chi I collected Raj and had lunch with Tony and some of the classmates. A few hours culminated in us all telling really bad jokes and laughing our asses off. Good old Tony.

Then back to Hariwar where we did a recce of the Kumbha Mela with Dipesh. Unexpectedly, the style you find at the Mela is something else. Some of these holy men and women really go all out! Is there a connection between the length of their dreds, and how spiritual they are?

DAY 04

Me and Raj needed a day to get over our jet lag, so today was one of those lovely lazy days in India where events just unfold and amaze you at every twist.

After my Tai Chi class at 8.30am, a group of us went for fruit salad and muesli with Tony. The others gradually left until it was just me and Tony left. We had a great conversation for about two hours. He's a really inspiring man, and I feel really lucky that he is teaching me Tai Chi, and also going to be a character in the film.

Tony is always raving about the "I Ching". The "I Ching" is the oldest book in the world. It originated in China, and is used as an Oracle to help make decisions in life. Tony swears by it, and a lot of the stories he tells are about incredible situations that evolved as a result of taking its advice. These stories were enough for me and Raj to consider buying it. As a joke we decided to use "The Lonely Planet" as an oracle, so I closed my eyes, flicked the book open, and put my finger down. It landed on the sentence "it is worth popping into it". We laughed at the aptness of the statement, but went to the shop.

Within seconds of walking in we were talking to a Caribbean business man who invests in the ashram where I am doing Tai Chi. Within five minutes we had been invited to his 50th birthday party where he promised to introduce me to an Indian friend of his who is high up in the Indian media industry!! Coincidence? We'll see what happens.

Day 05

India is hard on the body. Only five days here and already I'm coming down with a throat infection. Last year I was sick for three of the nine weeks that I spent here... I hope my immunity can handle this country a bit better this time!

Today me and Raj filmed a public audience of the Dalai Lama, which was quite amazing. The crowd were so tranquil, which contrasts heavily to the atmosphere at the Kumbha Mela.

Afterwards we went to Mickey's birthday party. It was a really beautiful experience, and felt like an authentic Indian experience. It was held in a temple adorned with balloons and streamers. The attendees were holy men, a few Indian people in normal clothes, and a bunch of kids. First a spiritual ritual was performed. Mickey was adorned with a marigold garland (traditional to Rishikesh), then a Holy man said prayers, and afterwards Mickey anointed everyone with red dye that is iconic to Hinduism. Then he was presented with a beautiful birthday cake (egg-free: egg is considered a non-vegetarian food in India), and after he blew out the candles the kids cheered and burst all the balloons. Me and Raj felt so privileged to honoured to have been part of something so intimate and traditional. And we never would have experienced it if we hadn't used a random book as an Oracle ;)

Speaking of which, Mickey introduced me to his friend who is a big wheel in Indian media. I'm still not entirely sure what they guy does (this is why I'm a director, not a producer!) but he seemed to genuinely love the idea for out film. He gave me his number and told me to call him when I get to Delhi. Again, we'll see what happens!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Yolanda's Production Diary from India - A Brief Intro

I've been in India for a day and all I can say is... wow.

But before I elaborate on those three letters, I suppose I should tell you how I've gotten to this point.

It takes a long time to make a film. 'Prisms of Light' began in May 2008 the way all creative works begin - as a seed of an idea that carries the feeling of wanting to be born*

Like all seeds, an idea has to be nurtured before anything can happen. I spent nearly a year researching spirituality in India (my resarch of spirituality itself goes back a lot further), trying to understand what I actually wanted to make - and then trying to convey this in words!*

In March 2009 the film started to become a reality. Myself and three crew mates / friends went to India to research, to develop the idea, and to shoot what we could. We didn't have money or a strict plan - just an idea and a world of passion. India proved to be more wonderful and fascinating than any of us had anticipated, and the little seed began to sprout.

It's over a year since that trip to India, and the film has taken on a life of it's own. That's the great thing about filmmaking, but especially documentary. A good documentary director recognises that they are facilitating the film, not the other way around. (As Alfred Hitchcock put it: "In fiction, the director is God; in documentary, God is the director"). We were hoping to get back to India at the start of March but things have not unfolded as we planned.

Life is dependent on sustainance, and a film's sustainance comes in the form of the energy of the people working on it, and... in form of money. In the latter form, we've had some successes and disappointments. Our crowd funding venture has gone incredibly well, which gave us the initial cash injection we needed to kcik start our production. Unfortunately however, the formal funding we were hoping for still hasn't some through. It's hard, and we're still trying, but because we needed to get to India to shoot the Kumbha Mela, we couldn't wait for this funding to come through any longer. We had to go. To do so, we had to cut our crew in half.

So it's just me and Raja, the director of photography who are out here. I'm doubling up as a producer, and Raj is doing sound. And luckily we have Dipesh, our man in India. This, is what they call "a skeleton crew"!! But... as disappointed as I was about not getting the funding in time, and the reprocussions that it had... I have a feeling that maybe things are working out... the way they're supposed to? Something about this shoot feels right. It feels like things are falling into place. BUT, it all remains to be seen. I will keep you posted ;)


*according to Neil Jordan this is the most difficult challenge for reasonably new directors!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Crowd Funding

For those of you in the film industry, you're probably already well aware of a method of film funding that is becoming ever more popular within the independent film sector called crowd-funding.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, let us explain: The premise of crowd-funding for independent film stems from the charity sector – it involves aggregating donations, investments and memberships from supporters of a cause, or now, a “creative cause”. The advent of the web has made reaching out to various communities easier and the continued advancement in technology via social networking sites and online communities means that filmmakers like us can spread the word about our film that we believe so passionately in.

Prisms of Light is our creative cause. We're striving to make a documentary that will promote religious tolerance and celebrate all spiritual diversity. We've worked for nearly a year to get the film into pre-production, without any financial support. But our unshakable belief in our project coupled with the emotional support and positive reaction to our promo from film industry professionals and individuals from various religious backgrounds has helped sustain us to this point.

But unfortunately, films don't get made from this alone. Films need money. Films need financial backing.

After suffering a series of knock-backs from commissioners, we are still determined to see this project come into fruition. It's such a worthy cause that could (and will!) touch a massive audience and its messages can resonate with individuals from all corners of the globe.

So, that's when we thought, "Hey! Let's see if we can get supporters in our cause to help us finance the film!"

What better way to get this documentary made than getting the very people we know will be interested in seeing it and asking them to help us make it?

And we know this method works and that it's possible to fund this film through crowd-funding and through believers in our cause. An astounding example of this in the recent cinematic world is UK documentary filmmaker Franny Armstrong’s The Age Of Stupid. The 2008 film, which stars Pete Postlethwaite and addresses the climate change issue, raised more than £450,000 ($815,000) over four years by selling ‘shares’ to 209 individuals and groups. The film was released in the UK in 2009 and generated a massive buzz in the film world and national press and went on to win a slew of awards.

Even politicians are no strangers to this method and have used it to their advantage too –Barack Obama raised a staggering $233 million for his presidential campaign through small donations of $200 or less.

So far, we have raised over £6,000 of the £30,000 we need for production in a matter of weeks. And for this we are incredibly grateful. It will help get our crew out to India (they're getting ready for the trip now!) and it means we're there to shoot in time for Kumbha Mela. But, this isn't enough to last forever so we'll continue gaining alliances and forging relationships with organizations and individuals who support our cause.

If you're interested in supporting us, you can donate on this page. Even spreading the word about our film is a big help.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, 15 March 2010

POL on Documentary Connection

This week (March 15-19) Prisms of Light is the featured film on the Documentary Connection on Facebook.

Yolanda will be available to answer questions throughout the week about the documentary on the page's discussion board.

If you have any questions you'd like to ask our director, feel free to join in the discussions here.

We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Kumbha Mela 2010

As some of you may already know, time is pressing for the Prisms of Light team right now. This is because we're aiming to secure funding so we can get to India and shoot for the film during one of the most epic spiritual gatherings in the world - the Kumbha Mela.

The Kumbha Mela is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, "the greatest recorded number of human beings assembled with a common purpose". The mass Hindu pilgrimage sees millions of devotees, gurus, spiritual leaders and sadhus gather at sangam in Prayag, Allahabad, which is the point where the three sacred rivers - the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati - converge. A ritual bath is one of the main events of the festival.

The Kumbha Mela has been held for more than 2,000 years and, according to Indian astrology, is held when the planet Brhaspati (Jupiter) moves into the zodiac sign of Kumbha (Aquarius). The Purna (complete) Kumbha Mela occurs every 12 years while Ardh Kumba Mela is celebrated every six years.

This year the Purna Kumbha Mela takes place in India from January 14 - April 28. Millions of pilgrims will bathe in the river, participate in religious discussions, devotional singing and the mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor.

The history of the festival dates back to the Vedic period and is based on a story in Indian mythology where the gods and demons made a temporary agreement to unite in obtaining amrita (the nectar of immortality) from the Milky Ocean and share it equally. But, when the Kumbha (pot) with the amrita appeared, the demons stole it and ran away, while the gods chased after them. For 12 days and 12 nights (the equivalent of 12 human years) the gods and the demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is said that the pot fell onto four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. These are the four locations where Kumbha Mela is observed.

The historical significance coupled with the sheer enormity of the festival makes it an ideal backdrop for the Prisms of Light crew to document its mission of finding out what spirituality in India truly means to natives and Westerners alike. It's important that we can shoot during one of the greatest acts of faith in the world so when we say time is running out, we mean it.

You can help us get out there to capture this incredible experience! Please help us in any way you can by donating on the PayPal button on this blog or spreading the word about our project!

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A Q&A With Yolanda Barker, Director Of Prisms Of Light

We're chatting with Yolanda Barker, the director and brainchild behind Prisms of Light . As the documentary is now in the early stages, we thought we'd give our readers a chance to get to know Yolanda's thoughts and visions behind POL before she heads off to India to shoot. Enjoy!

Q: Why did you decide to become a documentary filmmaker?

Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to do something with my life that allowed me to touch and connect with other people. When I was nine my dad bought a camcorder and without really thinking, I started making films! With film you can connect with people in a very powerful way, because it combines so many different creative disciplines. (Admittedly I didn't think about it that logically when I was nine! But on some level it really appealed to me).

My interest in documentary began in media college, where I realised people were making amazing works of art shaped from pure reality. I think fiction films can definitely touch people, and make a difference in the world, but for me documentaries are more hard-hitting. You can't brush your feelings under the carpet and say: "Oh - it's just a film". I want to make films that encourage people to walk in each others' shoes, and I think I can achieve this more effectively through documenting real people in real situations.

Q: What inspired you to make a film about India and spirituality?

Well, some films are born out of fascination, and others are born out of experience. This film is very personal to me, because I was an atheist for most of my life, but in in my mid-twenties this changed. I had a series of experiences that convinced me that there was more around us than what we perceive through our five senses. I became extremely spiritual for about 2 years, and I experimented with lots of different spiritual traditions, and met many, many people.

Over that time-frame I kept hearing India being talked about. I began to feel a very strong desire to go there, but I didn't, because I had a perception that people who went were running away from something. Gradually I began to integrate spirituality into my life, instead of it being the main focus. I had a more detached viewpoint, and became deeply interested in conveying through film the things that I had observed and experienced during my spiritual honeymoon. And at the same time my desire to go to India hadn't abated. And then it clicked with me - What better place to make a film about spirituality than a place where people specifically go to connect with that part of themselves?

Q: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

This is an interesting question, because definitions of what is "spiritual" vary wildly depending on culture and belief systems. In some cultures animal sacrifice is a spiritual practice, in others abstaining from sex suggests spiritual purity. I believe that being human is a multi-faceted experience : we're physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual creatures, but some people don't believe that they have spirits in the same way that others deny that they have emotions, or physical desires.

For me, spirituality isn't associated with a specific religion or philosophy or god. It's an understanding that life expands from a certain inwardness. "As within, so without". It's an ongoing journey where every experience has meaning. Life becomes a learning experience from the inside out. So yes, in this sense I do consider myself a spiritual person, because I try to approach life honestly, and with awareness. But it doesn't matter to me how interested or disinterested in spirituality a person is - they're still spiritual because I believe everything and everyone comes from a spiritual energy.

Q: Funding for independent films is becoming more and more difficult and recent economic conditions seem to have left a lot of financiers in a stagnant mode. What approach are you taking to see your project come to fruition?

The Age of Stupid really inspired me, because they raised their entire budget through what is called 'crowd-funding'. (This is basically raising money by asking hundreds or even thousands of people to contribute sums of money). Their approach and attitude was cutting-edge, and it proved that the days of being dependent on studios and funding bodies really are over. With Prisms we are applying for funding from established bodies, but we're also approaching individuals and sponsors and asking them to contribute. We're not putting all our eggs in one basket.

Q: What are some of your favourite documentaries?

At the moment, my three favourite docs are: Capturing the Fredmans and The Cove, which are both amazingly crafted stories by very intelligent directors, and Waltz With Bashir which is a visually stunning, beautifully scored, very original approach to documentary filmmaking.

Q: What advice do you have to offer aspiring filmmakers?

Learn a skill and develop a network of inspiring, supportive people around you. Those two things will keep you going financially and emotionally when you get disillusioned and feel like quitting! It happens to us all, but personally I am so so glad that I stuck with filmmaking. When it works for you, there's nothing like it. You get the opportunity to explore a topic that really interests you, and to share it with other people using pictures and sounds. You get to work with like-minded people and develop really meaningful friendships. You flit between different cultures, subcultures, and fictional worlds. I'm totally honoured to be able to say that I passionately love what I do, and I am so grateful because it feels like I'm living my life every day.

Welcome To Our Blog!

Welcome to our blog!

If you're reading this, you're lucky enough to be starting an incredible journey with us here at Prisms of Light - we hope you enjoy the ride.

Spirituality is a topic that most people have an opinion on. Sometimes these opinions coincide with others and sometimes these opinions create divisions. Sometimes these searches for answers to life's unending questions - Who are we? Why are we here? - can bring joyous unions and other times they create catastrophic wars and divisions.

Whether it means subscribing to a particular religion or god or, indeed, believing that there is no god, or even just developing a personal philosophy by which one guides their life, one thing is clear - we have lots of questions and few answers.

India is, and has been for centuries, a melting pot of religion and piety - a formidable "spiritual stew". Some two million Westerners travel to India every year in search of spiritual enlightenment and personal meaning, often without the support of their loved ones or community.

Prisms of Light explores this steadily growing phenomenon by focusing on the lives of people who are traveling throughout the subcontinent with the shared hope of reaching enlightenment. Interwoven between them are a plethora of spiritual traditions, colourful characters and chance encounters.

You can check out the promo reel here: