Wow, what a trip! We’re back after an intense, whirlwind three weeks shooting the pilot of UPLIFT in Myanmar. It surpassed our expectations, challenged us, and we’ve come back with amazing footage (shout out to our talented cinematographer, Greg Francis)!
Up until a few years ago, Myanmar (formerly Burma) was diplomatically isolated due to the rampant human rights violations of the military dictatorship. Popular uprisings were brutally put down, but eventually the junta took steps toward democratic reforms, including the release of political prisoners and freedom of the press. The international community lifted economic sanctions, and today things are changing at breakneck speed. The traffic in Yangon, its largest city, felt worse than in Los Angeles, yet there were hardly any cars there only a few years ago. Yangon is bustling with activity and is modernizing, but when you dig a little, you find out that the water supply is patchy throughout the city, the sewers serve only a tiny portion of the city’s population, and electricity is unreliable. Throughout our journey we were confronted by this tension between supposed progress and entrenched problems.
In the midst of it all, what stood out most were Myanmar’s amazing people. They were incredibly warm and gentle, and very rarely put off by the presence of our camera and mics. This was astounding considering that a short while ago there were few cameras in the country and filming in the streets would have earned you the scrutiny of the state security apparatus. Back then, people feared imprisonment, torture or worse, and would not have been able to talk to us about anything political.
We filmed every single day and covered a lot of ground, traveling by plane, train, buses, cars, rickshaws and motorbikes. We wanted to understand the transformation the country is undergoing by meeting people from different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. We spent time with changemakers working to address some of the country’s most pressing problems. They included former political prisoners, environmentalists, community organizers and design thinkers, all building up a civil society that can serve people, tackle social and environmental challenges, and act as a counterweight to the power and influence of the government—no easy task in a country like Myanmar!
We also explored mind-blowing spiritual sites like the Golden Rock, and stunning natural wonders, from deep caves to mountaintops. We see UPLIFT as a travel show with purpose, and want it to be entertaining and filled with wonder even if the challenges we look at are serious and at times daunting. To that end, this episode won’t disappoint; the sites were breathtaking!
The trip was not without its challenges. We fought food poisoning, ranging from mild to severe, as a regular part of our trip. The smoke from smoldering plastic garbage often burned our eyes and throats. Another challenge was restricted movement in parts of the country where fighting is ongoing. Finally, language often posed a barrier (there are a hundred languages spoken in Myanmar!), so getting lost was always an adventure.
We’ll be in post-production for the next couple months, with our editor working on the project full time. This is where a lot of the magic happens, as we weave an entertaining and meaningful story out of all the experiences and people we interviewed. We can't wait to share the final cut with you!
We’re sending out some of the rewards now, and those of you who get USB keys will get your rewards after the episode is complete. We’ll keep you posted on the Changemaker Mixer event taking place this summer. In the meantime, we’ll occasionally post updates and video clips on our Facebook page.
As soon as the episode is complete, we’ll share it with you and promote it online. We’ll then cut a sizzle reel and start pitching to producers in full force. Our unwavering goal continues to be to turn this project into an amazing television series that we’ll co-create with the right production company.
We wouldn’t be here without you and we feel truly blessed and honoured. Thank you for your incredible support.
See you soon!
Barnabe & Nisha