Walk not for the faint-hearted

CAMINO WALKERS: Terry Wilson (left), his son-in-law Mark Thomson (right) and Camino Skies co-director Fergus Grady spoke to an audience last Sunday at the Odeon Multiplex about the experience of making the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and the documentary that told the story of the journey. Picture by Paul Rickard

Faint-hearted? The Camino de Santiago is not for you . . . unless you want to change.

Camino Skies tells the story of six people from New Zealand and Australia walking 800 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago.

Two of them, along with film co-director Fergus Grady, were at Gisborne’s Odeon Multiplex last Sunday to talk about their experience in the making of the documentary.

The Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) is a network of pilgrims’ routes leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried there.

Terry Wilson, of Palmerston North, and his son-in-law Mark Thomson, of Pahiatua, walked a route that started eight kilometres inside France and proceeded into Spain and across to the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula.

Wilson has done three Camino pilgrimages, and got back from the most recent only six weeks ago. The journey depicted on film was his second. He did his first two years ago, originally for his own mental and spiritual wellbeing. Three months after he had decided to do the walk, his granddaughter Maddie (Thomson’s stepdaughter) died of complications from cystic fibrosis, so he walked it in memory of her, as well.

“We had a Givealittle page for her, so the media were involved,” he said.

“It meant that about a month after I got back, Fergus was able to track me down and suggest something that I was silly enough to take up, and Mark thought he would like to give this Camino a crack, too.”

Grady’s suggestion was that Wilson — at his own expense — do the Camino again as one of a group observed by a film crew. That crew comprised Grady as sound recordist, his co-director Noel Smyth as cinematographer and 18-year-old Phoebe Curran as production manager. Curran got the job when her mother, London-based film sales agent Natalie Brenner, told Grady her daughter wanted work experience in the film industry. Curran’s Spanish was a bonus.

Thomson was welcomed into the project. He had found it hard to get over Maddie’s death, and was impressed with the changes in his father-in-law after his first Camino walk.

“It’s hard to grieve in New Zealand as a Kiwi bloke,” Thomson said.

“Over there it’s a great release mechanism. You talk to people from around the world. Some of them are doing it for grief as well, and you exchange stories, have a hug and walk on.

“We’ve been back 15 months and I’m not carrying the grief any more.”

It is still there, he says, but no longer a burden.

“Our sign for Maddie is a rainbow, and whenever things are not going well, a rainbow pops up and we say it’s Maddie looking down on us.”

Thomson trained for the Camino for three months, losing 25 kilograms in the process.

Wilson said doing the pilgrimage as a member of a group was “totally different” from walking it alone.

“You had to have respect for everybody and get on with it,” he said.

“If you had hiccups along the way, you were a family and had to keep going as a family group.”

Wilson’s third Camino walk came about because his 45-year-old eldest daughter Rebecca wanted to do it.

“I made her walk on her own and caught up with her at the end of the day,” Wilson said.

Wilson was inspired to do his first Camino by the Emilio Estevez film The Way. It starred Estevez’s father Martin Sheen, whose character did the pilgrimage to honour his son, who had died while attempting it.

For Grady, Camino Skies is his first feature film. His filmmaking experience included “a couple of shorts” in his university days and — with Smyth — a television pilot that came to nothing. Between them, Grady and Smyth backed their film to the tune of nearly $50,000 (which they’ve since recouped), and got a New Zealand Film Commission “finishing film grant” to pay for the essentials that their own money couldn’t cover.

Smyth, an Australian whose “regular” work is as a director and cinematographer, and Grady have worked together on projects for eight years. Both are based in Melbourne.

“A lot of documentaries are filmed over five, sometimes 10 years,” Grady said.

“We didn’t have the patience or money to do something like that.”

Filming meant they did the walk themselves by default. It was a punishing schedule. Often up at 5 or 6am, they would do eight to 10 hours of filming followed by an hour of processing. After 42 days of this routine, they had to edit 150 hours of film down to an 80-minute documentary.

“Any spiritual revelation maybe will come later, once I reflect on everything,” Grady said.

The Camino came to his notice through his job as a film distributor. He helped distribute The Way and became connected to Australian and New Zealand members of the “Camino fraternity”. That was how he met the film’s Perth-based Sue and Brisbane-based Claude.

“Being a Kiwi, I wanted to cast Kiwi characters in the film, and was in Wellington when I came across Terry and Mark’s story,” Grady said.

“I reached out through the Manawatu Standard (newspaper) and Terry drove down to Wellington to meet me. Mark had seen the change the Camino had made on Terry, and he wanted to take part, too.”

The Givealittle page set up by Wilson at the time of his first pilgrimage raised $5000; one set up by Thomson when he undertook the Camino also raised $5000. The total of $10,000 was split between Cystic Fibrosis New Zealand and Cure Kids. A sum of $500 raised by a charity screening of the film in Pahiatua went to Cystic Fibrosis Manawatu.

Faint-hearted? The Camino de Santiago is not for you . . . unless you want to change.

Camino Skies tells the story of six people from New Zealand and Australia walking 800 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago.

Two of them, along with film co-director Fergus Grady, were at Gisborne’s Odeon Multiplex last Sunday to talk about their experience in the making of the documentary.

The Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) is a network of pilgrims’ routes leading to the shrine of the apostle James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried there.

Terry Wilson, of Palmerston North, and his son-in-law Mark Thomson, of Pahiatua, walked a route that started eight kilometres inside France and proceeded into Spain and across to the northwestern corner of the Iberian Peninsula.

Wilson has done three Camino pilgrimages, and got back from the most recent only six weeks ago. The journey depicted on film was his second. He did his first two years ago, originally for his own mental and spiritual wellbeing. Three months after he had decided to do the walk, his granddaughter Maddie (Thomson’s stepdaughter) died of complications from cystic fibrosis, so he walked it in memory of her, as well.

“We had a Givealittle page for her, so the media were involved,” he said.

“It meant that about a month after I got back, Fergus was able to track me down and suggest something that I was silly enough to take up, and Mark thought he would like to give this Camino a crack, too.”

Grady’s suggestion was that Wilson — at his own expense — do the Camino again as one of a group observed by a film crew. That crew comprised Grady as sound recordist, his co-director Noel Smyth as cinematographer and 18-year-old Phoebe Curran as production manager. Curran got the job when her mother, London-based film sales agent Natalie Brenner, told Grady her daughter wanted work experience in the film industry. Curran’s Spanish was a bonus.

Thomson was welcomed into the project. He had found it hard to get over Maddie’s death, and was impressed with the changes in his father-in-law after his first Camino walk.

“It’s hard to grieve in New Zealand as a Kiwi bloke,” Thomson said.

“Over there it’s a great release mechanism. You talk to people from around the world. Some of them are doing it for grief as well, and you exchange stories, have a hug and walk on.

“We’ve been back 15 months and I’m not carrying the grief any more.”

It is still there, he says, but no longer a burden.

“Our sign for Maddie is a rainbow, and whenever things are not going well, a rainbow pops up and we say it’s Maddie looking down on us.”

Thomson trained for the Camino for three months, losing 25 kilograms in the process.

Wilson said doing the pilgrimage as a member of a group was “totally different” from walking it alone.

“You had to have respect for everybody and get on with it,” he said.

“If you had hiccups along the way, you were a family and had to keep going as a family group.”

Wilson’s third Camino walk came about because his 45-year-old eldest daughter Rebecca wanted to do it.

“I made her walk on her own and caught up with her at the end of the day,” Wilson said.

Wilson was inspired to do his first Camino by the Emilio Estevez film The Way. It starred Estevez’s father Martin Sheen, whose character did the pilgrimage to honour his son, who had died while attempting it.

For Grady, Camino Skies is his first feature film. His filmmaking experience included “a couple of shorts” in his university days and — with Smyth — a television pilot that came to nothing. Between them, Grady and Smyth backed their film to the tune of nearly $50,000 (which they’ve since recouped), and got a New Zealand Film Commission “finishing film grant” to pay for the essentials that their own money couldn’t cover.

Smyth, an Australian whose “regular” work is as a director and cinematographer, and Grady have worked together on projects for eight years. Both are based in Melbourne.

“A lot of documentaries are filmed over five, sometimes 10 years,” Grady said.

“We didn’t have the patience or money to do something like that.”

Filming meant they did the walk themselves by default. It was a punishing schedule. Often up at 5 or 6am, they would do eight to 10 hours of filming followed by an hour of processing. After 42 days of this routine, they had to edit 150 hours of film down to an 80-minute documentary.

“Any spiritual revelation maybe will come later, once I reflect on everything,” Grady said.

The Camino came to his notice through his job as a film distributor. He helped distribute The Way and became connected to Australian and New Zealand members of the “Camino fraternity”. That was how he met the film’s Perth-based Sue and Brisbane-based Claude.

“Being a Kiwi, I wanted to cast Kiwi characters in the film, and was in Wellington when I came across Terry and Mark’s story,” Grady said.

“I reached out through the Manawatu Standard (newspaper) and Terry drove down to Wellington to meet me. Mark had seen the change the Camino had made on Terry, and he wanted to take part, too.”

The Givealittle page set up by Wilson at the time of his first pilgrimage raised $5000; one set up by Thomson when he undertook the Camino also raised $5000. The total of $10,000 was split between Cystic Fibrosis New Zealand and Cure Kids. A sum of $500 raised by a charity screening of the film in Pahiatua went to Cystic Fibrosis Manawatu.

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