David Tindale and Darmin Cameron with their Spirit of Woodford Video Award.
David Tindale and Darmin Cameron with their Spirit of Woodford Video Award.

So long and thanks for all the chai

Love it or hate it, it seems everyone has an opinion about the chai tent at Woodford Folk Festival. And that makes for good television as Darmin Cameron and David Tindale discovered last week when they won the Spirit of Woodford Video Award for their 15-minute film, Chai Tent at the End of the Universe.

The pair won $4500 and, much to their relief, the approval of the chai tent organisers.

“I was sitting next to them at the awards screening and I was really sweating on it – for me it was the moment of truth because the comments in the film aren’t all flattering,” Darmin said. “I wanted it to be truthful but at the same time I wanted it to honour the organisers’ work. But thankfully they loved it.”

Darmin shot the footage in 2008 to mark the chai tent’s 21st birthday, and said he only stumbled upon the idea when he overheard the organisers talking about the milestone. The film is basically a series of interviews with people about their impressions of the renowned café/music space, and as Darmin soon discovered, people had plenty to say.

“It was so polarising, there was no middle ground, and that’s what made it funny,” Darmin said. “You’d have these juxtaposed viewpoints – from one guy waxing lyrical about how amazing the drummers are and how it was like heaven to another guy saying how much he hated the ‘bloody drongo bummers’.

“Someone else said the secret ingredient that made the chai so good was love while another person described it as an ‘encapsulated piece of darkness’ in the festival and said that quite frankly he couldn’t stand the taste of chai. It was a real warts and all look at what people thought.”

David Tindale had the time-consuming task of finding the gems amongst the many interviews. It took him two months to edit the four hours of raw footage down to 15 minutes.

“I’d never been to Woodford so I had a very different take on how to present it. Darmin was much more emotionally attached to the footage – he had a commitment to the chai tent organisers whereas I had a commitment to honour the story, and ultimately having those two approaches worked,” David said. “I was just happy that it got to screening – for me that was a win, just to get it in front of an audience. I think the fact we actually won the award is fantastic and testament to a good creative relationship. Although it was occasionally fraught,” David laughed.

“Yes, definitely challenging,” Darmin agreed. “We were ready to throw our Apple computers at each other a few times. It was quite funny because I was out at Billen Cliffs and I was getting the compressed footage the size of a postage stamp. So I’d be peering at this tiny footage and emailing David in Lismore with my editing instructions and then he’d work with the footage and email me back, and I’d email back more comments, and on it would go. It was a very 21st century process.”

Darmin and David said they entered the film with absolutely no expectation of winning.

“I was shocked and amazed and surprised… I really was. I viewed all the other films and thought ‘oh well, that’s it, I haven’t won but it’s been fun’,” Darmin said. “It didn’t look as slick as some of the other films but it has a very strong narrative. Getting people to talk and trust you and share their little stories was wonderful and I think it reflects the spirit of Woodford, that diversity there is.”

Darmin said at the presentation he felt every bit the famous filmmaker.

“I got lots of acknowledgement, and I had to make a speech and do a bit of hob-nobbing,” Darmin said. “I even got a congratulations from Kerry O’Brien!”


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