Bennett Stevens - Writer / Photographer / Filmmaker
As a travel photographer I rank myself an un-rank amateur---seasoned well through such disparate adventures as meditating with a Catholic priest in the Himalayas, making love to an excruciatingly exotic Thai woman in a Burmese opium den, and escaping gun wielding guerillas in El Salvador by sailing into a 60-knot gale. I also have the dubious distinction of being escorted out of the '98 Hardwar Mela by police for repeatedly slipping their lines to shoot those wacky, sometimes violent, nudist Nagas. And I tell my Mom not to worry.
As for the filmmaker aspect, well---a hundred plus hours of unedited footage from around the world, no matter how good it may be, do not a filmmaker make. But this is changing. I am young in the arena and vitally interested in a future of next level documentary filmmaking. The Kumbh Mela 2001 Project is an opportunity to work with like minded people for the first time in my life, and on a subject/event I have long been fascinated with. I could not be looking forward to it more.
I'm currently working as synergy consultant for an Internet software company in Los Angeles. For anyone interested, posted below is the prologue to the book I'm writing---the book that will include, and may well conclude, with this project.
From: (Working title):
Better Brothels and Ashrams
"We need not still our passions, but only cultivate our understandings..."
These novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies--captivating books, if only a man knew how to choose among what he calls his experiences that which is really his experience, and how to record truth truly.
Sheer desperation. Let it be known that the adventures chronicled herein began from the heart of it. I was living in a small but plush five hundred square foot cabin my brother had helped me build in the middle of a beautiful manzanita forest near Santa Cruz, California. It was quiet, secluded, and very comfortable. That in fact, was the problem: it was a comfortable torture. I had lulled myself into a sloth and torpor so deep that I could scarcely be bothered to leave the house, doing so only a few nights a week to work as the surliest bartender west of the Pecos.
I knew far too much for my own good, and not enough to do me any. My writing had been reduced to titling chapters in books I would never write; my spiritual life had been reduced to bemoaning titles of books by philosophers, saints and seekers whose lives, once so inspiring, now only depressed me; and my once prolific sex life had been reduced to a pitiful succession of creative masturbation exercises. I'd say that at least it was sex with someone I loved, but by then I had come to hate myself rather passionately.
This went on for two and half years. I became so depressed and frustrated by my complete and utter inability to live out what I believed in, that I really felt that if it were to continue much longer that I would slip into madness.
It was at this point, peering over the edge and into the pit, that with unaccustomed effort I reached into my gut and pulled my testicles down and into a position resembling manhood. I was 37 years old.
I would now have to put a fire under my ass, a veritable inferno under the circumstances, in order to put into motion the idea that had come down along with my testicles---to shoot a bifocal documentary film on the living saints and sages of India. One level would focus on their lives and teachings and views to the emerging new future of consciousness, the other on the filmmaker's own experiences and epiphanies, if any, along the way to documenting these often elusive, guru-enigmas. Never mind that I didn't have any money or real filmmaking experience. This was a way to force myself to action by setting up compelling circumstances, circumstances that would combine my quest for truth with my need for personal and professional expression. Life and work in the same arena, each in support of the other. Or so I'd hoped.
And so I set about making earnest pleas for dubious plans, dubious because I knew how unlikely it would be to pull them off successfully. But I had to try. I managed some donations, my grandfather being most generous, and recruited a camera/sound man. The expenses however, kept adding up and what we had left a month before departure wasn't enough. Demonstrating sound thinking, my partner bailed, urging me to do the same. But there was no turning back for me. Back to what? I deluded myself into believing I could pull off a one-man filmmaking miracle through the vast and beguiling heart of India's mystic mad-lands.
But of course this was about much more than a film project; which to some extent was just an excuse. In fact, it was to prove a wildly unpredictable and serpentine means to what I always believed would be the loftiest of spiritual ends---to which this book, as irreverent and X-rated and maniacal as it is in places, points most directly, and hopefully, most profoundly.
Visit Bennett's Website at: www.bennettstevens.com