Writer and director Brook Silva-Braga left his job as an Emmy award-winning producer with HBO’s Inside the NFL to do what many of us dream of, and a few actually go through with: he moved all of his belongings into his parents house and set out on a year long round-the-world trip. With less than five pounds of clothing, and over 30 pounds of video equipment stuffed into a backpack, Brook traveled around the globe, chronicling the entire solo adventure in an outstanding documentary called A MAP FOR SATURDAY (read my review of it here).
We got a chance to sit down with Brook and Talk Travel. What made him quit his cushy job at HBO to travel the world for a year? Does the movie appeal more to those of us who have already traveled a great deal, or those who have yet to catch the “bug”? Find out!
We’ve got three copies of the DVD to give away, so stay tuned after the interview to find out how you can get your hands on one! The contest has ended! Find out where you can purchase a copy of the movie at the end of the interview.
How much traveling had you done before you decided to take the leap and travel solo for a year?
I had traveled throughout the U.S. for work and vacationed in Europe, South America and the Caribbean but I’d never done the budget thing or traveled alone. I remember going to Peru with my family on a package tour — perish the thought — and one guy in the group was traveling by himself. We all looked at him like there was something a bit wrong with that.
What finally pushed you over the edge… that moment that made you decide to commit to spending a year on the road?
It’s kind of ironic how it came about. I was working for HBO and they sent me to the Philippines to produce a story. I figured while I was in Asia I’d head over to the Thai beaches for a few days. So naturally one night in Ko Samui I ended up Jell-o wrestling and that led me to meet Bill and Paul, who had quit their lives in Northern Ireland for an around-the-world year. I was blown away by what they were doing and tagged along for as long as I could. But after a couple weeks work beckoned and I headed back to the New York winter knowing I wanted more of that amazing thing I had felt in Thailand. I quit my job seven months later.
My boss took me to lunch just before I left and asked if I had gotten the idea for the trip during my time in Asia. When I told him “Yes,” he said, “From now on we’re only sending married producers overseas.”
How long had you been working for HBO before you left?
I started interning there when I was 19 and had been there full time for three years, so it wasn’t easy to leave but I knew it was the right decision.
Did you leave on the trip with any sort of agreement with them regarding a job when you returned?
I asked for a one-year leave and they couldn’t give me that. My boss suggested I could just take a few weeks each year and it would add up to the same thing. My co-workers were mostly supportive and a bit envious.
Was your job waiting for you when you got back?
I’m really lucky they didn’t give me the one-year leave because I needed another four months to finish the documentary when I got back. Afterwards I gave a copy of it to my old boss and he very generously offered me a better position than I had when I left. But I’m in a different place now professionally and personally and an office job just isn’t for me.
Did you plan on traveling with the intent of making the documentary from the beginning… or did you come up with the idea of documenting it when you started planning the details of the trip?
The idea to travel came first, but I was a little concerned about throwing away my career, so making a documentary was a way of lessening that concern. I had a million ideas for what kind of documentary to make but none of them were that good so I just started shooting my own preparations and by the time I left I knew it would be about the experience of traveling alone for a long time.
Some hardcore travelers scoff at the thought of bringing large amounts of technology along. What sort of reactions did you have from the travelers you met along the way when they saw you traveling with all of the video equipment?
The bag full of electronics made me a bit of a curiosity I think but it almost never drew a negative reaction. In a way I was an even more hardcore traveler because with all the electronic requirements for making the film my personal possessions were less than 10 pounds.
What about the people in the documentary? Were they excited about the project — or do you think they thought this footage wouldn’t actually see the light of day outside of your family and friends?
I learned that the word “documentary” is thrown around quite liberally these days. Anyone with a camera but without a script is “making a documentary.” So I think most people lumped me into that group. Also, because I didn’t have a crew with me and was mainly shooting people who I had become good friends with I was able to capture moments that a normal production crew wouldn’t.
Now that they’ve had the chance to see the final product, what are they saying?
The biggest rush from this project was watching it premiere in front of 500 people in Cleveland, but the second best moment was watching it in a Berlin hotel room with my friend Jens. I met him in Australia and he’s one of the main characters in the film. After his section played he got a little emotional and grabbed the DVD case. I was videoing his reaction so I know just what he said: “I will have this for the rest of my life…Like my children I tell them, ‘Here, this is a movie about what I have done,’ and they can see me.”
For some reason I was really, really happy to do that for him. I worked 18 months on the movie and it really has very little personal meaning to me because I’ve seen it so many hundreds of times but for him to have a record of his trip like that is really cool.
Do you think the documentary appeals more to people who have traveled in the past or people who plan to travel in the future?
The response from both groups has been really nice. At first I was concerned that hardcore travelers would have a ‘been there, done that,’ attitude but they haven’t. Travelers love travel I think. That’s something we all learn when we get home and the only people who want to hear our travel stories are other travelers.
Where has it shown so far?
So far it’s played festivals in Cleveland, Memphis, Paris and Wales. It will play at the Ischia Film Festival in Italy at the end of June and the Globians Film Festival in Potsdam, Germany this August where it will be the opening film.
Can you tell us anything about the MTV premiere?
A U.S. TV date will be announced soon and international TV details are being finalized as well. I feel very corporate saying all that.
What’s in store for the future? Any more traveling?
I’m hoping to visit some friends in Europe this summer and finally make it to Iceland. I’ve started drawing lines through a map of Africa with hopes for this winter. There will be more documentaries from far-flung places but I think ‘A Map for Saturday’ says what I have to say about the experience of travel. Now I’ll just enjoy it.
A Map For Saturday can be purchased online at AMapForSaturday.com.