If you’ve been channel surfing in Australia lately, you may have noticed the first 4k UHD broadcast network in the nation, Foxtel 4k. One of the most anticipated programs launched on this network called Visiting, is a visually stunning cinematic treat for all. Yet little is known about what the filmmakers went through to achieve this episodic spectacle. Filmmakers Kevin Keator, Fred D’Amelia and Nik Halik, not only risked their freedom but their very lives!
“When we started this project, I would have never have believed what the next couple years would be like. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be ascending into a volcano, sleeping next to an erupting lava lake, or being detained by Egyptian authorities as a suspected Israeli operative, let alone accidentally exposing myself to toxic radiation in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, lamented Kevin Keator in a recent interview.
All though a number of adventurers and filmmakers have visited Ambrym Volcano, located in the island nation of Vanuatu, the crew of Visiting were the first ever to sleep inside the hellish environment.
Moving from basecamp on the top ridge of the Volcano to the interior involved a treacherous 2 hour rope decent nearly the height of the Empire State Building, but as Kevin Keator explains, it was crucial to creating their vision. “It was imperative that we got good shots in the morning, we wanted to get the lighting just right, so we thought the best way to achieve this was staying the night at the very bottom of the caldera.” Kevin went on to say, “Sure we knew the risks it wasn’t our first time being at the bottom of a volcano as we did it a year prior for scouting, but it was something we felt we had to do. On top of that, when you try to tell Nik he can’t do something, you can be sure he’s not going to listen”.
As a testament to the inherent dangers of Volcanoes, the Marum cone of Ambrym Volcano, the same volcanic cone they descended into, suddenly collapsed near the end of 2018 after 10 years of continuously erupting. The resulting disappearance of this natural marvel making the footage captured by the documentary show Visiting even more important of a treasure. When asked about the sudden collapse of the volcano team slept in, Fred D’Amelia had this to say.“I was relieved to find out that no one was hurt during its collapse”. Continuing he said, “We made good friends with the natives and the other adventurers such as Geoff Mackley who guided us into the volcano. I was really not shocked that a collapse didn’t happen when we were there, I could feel the ground breathing with occasional micro tremors and landslides. Even on our short visit of only 8 days, I got the sense we were on borrowed time.”
Because of the vast subjects covered by Visiting, such as “War” and “Civilization”, the production team continued to find themselves in unique places around the globe. During their year-long production, the crew visited over 9 countries, each filled with its own trials and tribulations.
Fred D’Amelia recalled, “of all the countries I visited during this production, the most surreal was Ukraine, most specifically the Chernobyl Exclusion zone. Instead of making a movie, I felt like I was living in one.”
While filming in Chernobyl there was an unexpected turn of events, as one of the crew members, Kevin Keator, had legitimate concerns for his health. While flying the drone he accidentally inhaled potentially radioactive dust and organic debris! “Before going into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, we are given a list of do’s and don’ts. Unfortunately, for our health, we have never been very good at following rules”, `said Keator. For the most part the exclusion zone, is relatively harmless in short exposure, however the moss that grows on the ground is highly radioactive, due to it absorbing the fallout and radioactive dust that once spewed from the reactor during it’s meltdown in 1986. Kevin recalled, “This is something I forgot as I was flying the drone. Needless to say, at one point I flew too close to myself and a massive cloud of debris and radioactive moss engulfed me. We will see what happens long terms and If the shot was truly worth it.” Kevin humorously commented during the interview.
The Documentary show Visiting is a show of unique portions, not just on the range of subjects they cover, but to the extent they went to capture the stunning imagery of the Visitor exploring our world. As for now, Visiting is only airing on Foxtel 4k in Australia, but according to the Producers you can expect to see it worldwide in the coming months!