Students blend adventure, filmmaking

By Shardae Smith

Five Columbia students decided to take the risks, face the odds and travel 8,000 miles on a road trip across the Americas in 40 days. What started as a plan to buy a car and drive it to Costa Rica as a Christmas gift turned into an idea to create a feature-length movie for junior film and video major Braulio Fonseca.

The plans are to produce a documentary and scripted narrative along with a Web series with the trip’s captured footage, according to Fonseca.

Fonseca said he decided to write a coming-of-age film in which two fictional male characters travel on a road trip as part of a spiritual endeavor to discover themselves.

He and a crew of four will begin production in Boulder, Colo., and shoot scenes at the Grand Canyon before heading to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and end in Costa Rica.

The film is titled “In Search of Dirt Roads,” in which Fonseca said the landscapes the crew plans to visit will play a major part in the film. Of the two characters, one has never met his father and believes he may be residing in Costa Rica.

“[The crew is] going from the frozen concrete jungle of Chicago to the literal jungle of Costa Rica,” Fonseca said. “[The characters] shed false perceptions they had before the trip and get down to who they really are.”

Fonseca’s team includes senior film and video majors Anthony Polito and Jon Farley, junior Max Gould-Meisel and senior marketing communication major Mike Zima. Junior film and video major Kevin Pohl had to pull out of the trip but will write the script in an effort to be part of the project

It’s highly discouraged to drive at night in Mexico because of crime and violence in the country, but Fonseca said he has planned a safe travel route to ensure the security of the crew while filming.

“I really don’t see the difference in driving to another country and fearing for my life,” Fonseca said. “Violence is all around us.”

Polito said escape routes by airport and safe-havens, such as hostels based on security levels, have been planned if they happen to stumble into danger, because there have been warnings in the last months from the U.S. Department of State with regard to traveling to Mexico.

Farley said decisions that may seem simple in the U.S. aren’t as easy out of the country, such as buying a car.

“We have to be really smart about the vehicles which are preferred [for] hi-jacking in Mexico,” Farley said. “So being careful and not being too flashy is another strategy in tackling this project.”

Drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border and kidnapping are also concerns of traveling to Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of State’s website.

To gather supplies and equipment for the trip, the men raised $10,000. Half of the total came from fundraising in Fonseca’s hometown in North Carolina, in which

a couple he is close to, Michele and Tim Hubbs, donated $5,000 for the project.

The Hubbs signed on as the executive producers for the film and said the pitch given to them by Fonseca, Polito and Gould- Meisel was presented so professionally they couldn’t say no.

“We want them to get encouragement and recognition from the industry,” Michele Hubbs said. “They’re hungry to succeed and people will sit up, and see the talent and potential they have.”

As far as six men traveling together for 40 days in a van, Fonseca said he plans to purchase $200 of canned and non-perishable food to eat during the trip. On the road, they plan to sleep in their van or camp outdoors to save money.

“We put all of our money into the quality of the film and not into the quality of life for us while we are filming,” Fonseca said.

He said the adventure will be grimy and scary, but those aspects of the project will make it successful.

“It’s not going to be six best friends going to Cancun and drinking Coronas,” Fonseca said. “It’s going to be six filmmakers working very hard to create a film.”

Zima said he’s working on Internet connections, social media websites and phone accessibility so they can stay in contact with those in the U.S. He said he wants people to be able follow their journey’s progress.

Gould-Meisel said he is looking forward to the trip and believes it will be a learning process.

“I’m looking for all of us to growing as people,” Gould-Meisel said. “[And to realize] how to get through trials and tribulations and learning [what] our strengths and weaknesses are.”

The crew plans to visit the ruins in Costa Rica and end the movie on top of a volcano.

“We’re making [this movie] in motion,” Gould-Meisel said. “We have all the motion and movement to cross boundaries and boarders to spread our message.”

The men made plans to return to Chicago on Jan. 26, 2011, two days after the spring semester begins.

“There is nothing negative that can come from this trip,” Fonseca said. “Even if we do get our heads cut off, as long as we get it in slow motion, it’s fine. We know it’s going to be hard, miserable and we’re going to hate each other at times. But we are going to come back changed.”

The student filmmakers’ journey can be followed at