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UNDER fooddrink DEVELOPMENT

For filmmaker Bryan Harvey, conveying different cultures is an ongoing process

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“I didn’t plan on making documentaries. It just sort of happened. By osmosis.” What better way to describe a medium that joins two worlds by the thinnest of membranes? Except osmosis is a process of diffusion. And Bryan Harvey’s films are a passion of concentration.

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“The first half of my career I was basically a one-man band,” says the 44-year-old Nags Head resident. “I’d come up with the ideas. Go shoot. Then come back and lock myself in the editing room.” The son of renowned still-shooter David Harvey, Bryan grew up traveling the globe with National Geographic’s best lensmen, then decided to learn to fly airplanes. In 1993, a friend and wildlife photographer invited Bryan to pilot his “ultralight” into the African Congo. He not only accepted — he brought a movie camera. When the resulting episode of National Geographic Explorer earned “Best Newcomer” at the Jackson Hole Film Festival, Bryan grounded his aviation dreams to pursue filmmaking full-time.

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Since then Harvey’s seen the Himalayas. Chased rodeo clowns. Ridden Harleys across Vietnam with American vets. Now, for the first time since transplanting in 2003, he’s begun focusing on his adopted home. In May, he scored the cover photo of Kiteboarder Magazine. This fall he begins a surfing/ environmental short for Patagonia. But his next project will require even more commitment, as he seeks to document and reveal the hidden elements that make living here so magnetic.

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“There’s something intangible about this place that gets under your skin,” he explains. “Almost like ions in the air. And that’s what I like about filmmaking and photography: capturing those in-between moments most people never see.”

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MILEPOST: What’s your most memorable moviemaking experience? BRYAN HARVEY: Probably still that first film, Ndoke. We were in the deepest, darkest jungle to get images of wildlife. We filmed these chimpanzees that had never seen people before — they’re called “naïve chimps” — so they had no fear. And when they rushed in it was like a close encounter. Like two alien species. They were looking at us. We were looking at them. It was amazing. And that experience doesn’t exist anymore because now all those chimps are habituated.

Something about living here is very fragile. That’s what I hope to get across.

How about more recent projects? Living here, I do a lot of “gun for hire” stuff for cable. I was just with the Texas Rangers documenting the border war for the Discovery Channel. I’ve also been in Mississippi working on a personal film about delta blues and the “juke joint” tradition. There are these hole-in-the wall shacks in the middle of the fields where all the people come and jam and listen to the blues. Only a handful of those old-time blues musicians are left — less than 10 — so I’m running around chasing interviews. But I love shooting down there. Everything’s kind of rundown, decrepit and empty. It’s beautiful. Almost sounds like parts of the Outer Banks at times. I do think we have our own exotic ways. It’s a little bit redneck, which I like a lot. Kind of like being in the country and at the beach at the same time. We’ve got great characters. We’ve got bankers and real estate agents living right next door to commercial fishermen. And the geography is so cool. When you’re going over that bridge to Hatteras Island, it’s like being on the edge of the earth. And everyone is focused on the weather. You kind of get back to the basics of life. You’re out in the elements. There’s something about living here that’s very… fragile. That’s what I hope to get across. A lot of your projects seem to share a theme of capturing something before it disappears. Is that what you hope to do with this next film? I can’t say that’s the sole purpose of the project. I just know I’ve been coming here since the ‘70s and — as much as it’s changed — this place has always held the same allure for me. And I hope that never goes away. So, maybe if I put a magnifying glass on those cooler aspects people will want to preserve it. Fight for it. But then films aren’t very permanent either. A photograph, you put it on the wall and it takes on a life of its own; it can even become more famous over time. Video and film get gobbled up. Many times I’ve put weeks or months into a film for TV. And you have your friends and family tune in. A half-hour later, everyone’s like “Oh, that was nice.” And you’re onto the next. — Harold N. Modd

How’s this for an “in-between moment”? Dimitri Maramenides; frozen by the sun. PHOTO: BryanHarveyFilms.com

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