ADVENTURE: Shooting Eyes of a Beginner became a wild adventure for globetrotting filmmakers

Published: November 30, 2012

Chilliwack’s Mike Bemister (left) and Rob Beare (right) along with a sherpa in the Himalayas. Submitted photo


While making their award-winning independent film, Mike Bemister and Rob Beare ran from killer hailstones in Nepal, dodged attacking wild dogs in India and endured rogue waves in Indonesia.

And that was in between takes. Bemister, a Mt. Slesse middle and Sardis secondary grad, went to India, Nepal, Japan and Indonesia with Beare to film Eyes of a Beginner.

The movie has the look and feel of a studio picture, but was filmed entirely with Bemister behind the camera and Beare writing, directing and starring.

“It was a guerilla production and that’s something I definitely credit to Rob,” Bemister told the Times.

“He had enough foresight to write a script that was bendable so that any sort of amazing adventure could fit into the story.”

Eyes of a Beginner tells the tale of a blind young man who has his eyesight restored with a groundbreaking surgery.

The first thing his new eyes see is a photo of the Himalayas so he sets out on a journey to see the mountains first hand.

Other than Vancouver actress Maryam Mehrtash, who plays Beare’s character’s love interest, the film features mostly just Beare along with “extras” in the form of people they met along the way.

Naturally, they had to get permissions from some of those people, but given the ubiquity of cameras and tourists, Bemister said they never had any major problems making a film in any of the countries and locations they shot in.
“Everywhere we went were embraced,” he said. “It was very amazing the people that we met and the people that we got to see. The adventures that we had shines through in the film.”

Planning for the film began in 2009 with Beare’s script. They then began to prepare for their film journey.

“We did a lot of hiking around Chilliwack to get ready because we knew we had to go through the Himalayas,” Bemister said.

Along the way there was no shortage of wild adventures. In Nepal, they were trekking when a massive hail storm hit – hail that leaves welts on your body. They ran for cover and found it inside a hut. Then the steel chimney on the fireplace was struck by lightning.

“We saw the electricity crawl across the ceiling,” he said. “We were huddling in this corner hoping our camera gear didn’t get fried.”

In India they were in a very dangerous city trying to catch a taxi to a train. The area was so dangerous the hotel manager was reluctant to let them leave. They finally were let out to catch a ride, ran at full sprint and dove into the car.

“As soon as the car started to back away a pack of wild dogs attacked,” Bemister said. “They were hunting us.”

In Indonesia as the two were filming a scene in the shallow ocean water, a wave “came out of nowhere” and soaked them both from head to toe.

It damaged the camera, which they couldn’t dry out because of the humid weather, so they called Chilliwack in the middle of the night. The film’s editor, Adam Besse, also of Chilliwack, ran a new camera to Vancouver and it was put on the plane with Mehrtash who was en route the next day.

“We only lost one day of filming,” he said.

After two months of filming they returned and Besse had the massive task of editing the huge volume of footage.

There is another Chilliwack connection to the film as well: These Kids Wear Crowns band members Alexander Johnson and Alan Poettcker did a couple of songs that are in the movie.

Once it was ready, the film hit the festival circuit and had some success, including “Best Feature Film” at the Spirit Quest Film Festival, “Best Canadian Feature” at the Okanagan Film Festival International, and “Judge’s Honourable Mention” at the International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Beare and Bemister are now shopping for distribution. The two run an aerial film and photography company in Langley called Mountain Shadow Productions.

Bemister is set to move back to Chilliwack – and is getting married in March – where he has set up Allwest Film and Media, an online marketing company.

The 25-year-old says he was always creative but was initially nervous about going to school for film. Then he realized he had to just do it.

“If you have a dream, regardless of what it is, you have to give it a shot,” he said.

“Because even if you don’t make it, at least you know you tried.”

You can see a trailer for Eyes of a Beginner at The film premieres Dec. 8 at 7: 30 p.m. in Vancouver at the Rio Theatre.

For more Chilliwack news, visit the Chilliwack Times.


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