Kess Bohan has been making his mark on the world through the use of his camera. He speaks with us about his unbelievable life journey so far.
Why did you choose the film industry?
I have always stood on the outside of life. At first it led me to be introspective, but in time it has led me to be an observer of people. I love to watch how people interact both with their environment and the people around them. I suppose photography and documentary making has been a natural progression of that. Truth be told, I don’t think I could do anything else. Some people are born with knowing what they will do. I took thirty years to find my passion, and I certainly won’t stop now.
> How long have you been working in film and TV?
In the early 1990s Australia for me did not hold much interest. I had spent seven years in the RAAF as a mechanic, a regimented way of life that seemed to revolve purely around sport or alcohol. On returning home to Port Macquarie, where I had spent my formative years, I realised I was without identity, direction, or even opinion. The decision to leave Australia probably was one of the easiest I have ever had to make.
My mother had long instilled in me that the world was a diverse place. Stories of travel through Europe, the crazy excesses of the 60s, artists like Gusatav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, the photography of David Bailey, music of Van Morrison.
It all added up for me; I wanted something and somewhere to become for me a conduit of information, experience, and enjoyment. And that for me was not in Australia, but in London. It took a few years of knocking on doors, but once you get a foot in the door you can work your way up quite fast. The UK TV industry is huge, and there is a wealth of production companies and broadcasters.
> What type of work do you attract?
This year I filmed three documentaries. One for HBO on the male sex industry, shot in Warsaw, Berlin and Poland. Then a film on the Fazeka Choir, which came from an impoverished South African township that came on a tour of the UK. And last a profile for Martini on the town of Pessione, Italy. A wonderful community that has been growing herbs for thousand of years. A marvellous place, which was untouched by the rapid homogenisation of Europe.
But in between these films I make my bread and butter from music television, property programs, and high end sports programming. For example, last year I followed Lewis Hamilton (the F1 World Champion) for the year while working for Vodaphone, his chief sponsor.
> One of your most challenging jobs ever?
In 2005 Channel 4 approached me about filming a prime time feature length special on religious fundamentalists. Co-directed with Mark Dowd, we travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Israel, and the US, speaking to all forms of extremists. We had been trained about filming in hazardous conditions, given a checklist of what not to do and sent out as a small two man team.
Everything had gone well until we started filming in Gaza, Palestine. A meeting had been set up by our fixer with some potential suicide bombers from the militant faction Islamic Jihad, in Rafah down near the Egyptian border. Two Hamas nurses had been killed by Israeli sniper fire earlier that week, and there was stepped up shelling into the city, which had driven the local population into a very suspicious mood. So putting two Western journalists onto the street was probably not the best idea. Oh … and having Israeli gun ships buzzing around while trying to do an interview with Islamic Jihad didn’t help at all.
> Do you travel through work a lot then?
Last year I filmed in over twenty one countries alone. I have been very lucky to find a position that fulfills my lust for travel and life experience. I have filmed modern day cannibals in Russia, HIV sufferers in Ghana, the band Audioslave on tour in Cuba and followed rock bands on tour through Europe.
> How important is Port Macquarie to you?
Port Macquarie for me has always been about my family. One of my biggest regrets in life has been how far I was away from them and for how long. My mother had always been a strong influence on me, and to move away from her was very difficult. But she had instilled a belief in me that the world was a place in which you should make your own life.
When I first left home at the age of sixteen, my sister was eight years old. She grew through high school, first love, marriage, and divorce without me being a constant in her life. My father Glenn, while we had our differences when I was young, has turned into a loving husband and earnest individual. So when I do come home I tend to spend as much time as possible with my family.
> Your favourite place in town?
The beach walk from Lighthouse Beach to Lake Cathie. I always do it at least once while I’m back. It clears the mind and soul.
> Thanks Kess