October 18, 2007

So... why Amsterdam?

Lots of different reasons, but there's one reason that is more important than just liking the bikes and the attitude of the city.

I have plans to make a documentary about the rebuilding of Sarajevo (and possibly other cities in Bosnia and Serbia) - not just the physical rebuilding, but rebuilding the spirit. This topic is something I've been thinking about ever since I was lucky to spend about 3 weeks traveling around Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia in August 2006. Ever since I graduated from college, all I've wanted to do is make documentaries. Other than travel, this is my passion. For as idealistic as it may sound, I want to do something that will help change the world - I will always hold on to the belief that things can get better with enough communication, education, and information. Once I was done with formal education, I realized that the way I was keeping informed and the way I was still learning was by watching documentaries. I took film classes in college and I had big plans to make all kinds of movies... and I did make a few, just for fun, with friends. I was fortunate enough to work at a great non-profit, independent cinema from age 22-25 and was a big part of the Philadelphia independent film community. My boss was an amazing woman - in addition to running a huge film program, she was an activist and did camera work for Big Tea Party on the side. I learned so much from her over the years, and even got to be involved in some Big Tea Party productions.

I have two bosses at my current job, and both of them are brilliant executive producers. They're both British and both women - and I mention that because those are two things that don't make it any easier to be successful in the United States. Film and TV Production is still a male-dominated world, and an accent still isn't always looked upon favorably here. I consider myself very lucky and very fortunate to have worked under such brilliant women in my short career. My bosses are also Emmy-nominated documentary filmmakers. Two of the documentaries that they produced were released on HBO this year to all types of critical acclaim. Over the past year, I have learned so much from them that it almost makes the low salary and lack of health coverage worth it (only in the US can someone work on salary for more than 40 hours a week and still have no health insurance at all).

And now I'm finally going to make my own film. The timing is right, the idea is there, and now I just have to make it happen. In order to do this right, I'm going to need to go to Bosnia and Serbia at least twice a year for 3-4 weeks at a time, if not more. A lot of the inspiration for the film comes from my friend Lada, a young Bosnian woman who currently lives in Paris (we met and became friends on an organic farm in the north of France in May 2005). Amsterdam is only 4 hours away from Paris by train, and although I adore Paris, it's just not where I want to live. Maybe I will again one day, but it won't happen anytime soon. So when I started thinking about other European cities that I could call home, the first thing I thought about was Amsterdam. It has everything I need - close proximity to Paris, a thriving arts community, the amazing bike culture, and it's a huge transportation hub to the rest of Europe.

That brings me to all the other reasons I want to live in Amsterdam. I simply want to be back in Europe. I miss traveling, I miss the feeling of waking up on a train and not knowing what country I'm in, I miss being surrounded by a society that values travel and languages. While I was living in Paris, I visited at least 20 different countries. Having the freedom to travel and expose myself to different cultures simply by taking a short train ride is very important to me.

And of course, anyone who is into biking would fall in love with the bike culture in Amsterdam, and I'm no different. It almost seems like a fantasy land at first, and I admit, I haven't quite gotten over that.

So now there's all these practical questions to answer, like "but how will you make money?" and "what about the language?" and "but you just barely know two people in that entire city, are you sure you want to leave your family, friends, and job behind?"

The answer to the last question is Yes, I am sure. And the answers to all the other questions will come in the next blog post. Now it's time for me to get back to my Dutch immigration research...

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