Filming You Filming Me: Svaneti

TV time again... GDS channel, which I later learned the meaning of, called me while I was at a TLG training weekend in Tskhaltubo, near Kutaisi. (TLG? Yes, I'm back with my old English teaching job, though just in Becho. Long Story. Later.). Could they come and film me in Svaneti? We negotiated a date for soon after my return home, and I broke the news to my wife.

Before we started, the director had a chance to do some homework and see some of the other footage of me in Georgia which, it seems, has been building up over the years. She was a bit worried that there was nothing new to film. Tony taking his weekly bath in a large cooking tub? Check. Ushguli scenery, school, host family? Check. Mestia? Etseri school? Milking, my cheeses? Interviews with neighbors? Check, check, check! I assured her, though, that there was more to my story, and that we could flesh out some details.

We started at Becho school, with a scene of one of my co-teachers and I reviewing some English material with our enthusiastic grade eight class of six pupils. That was all they wanted there, and I couldn't persuade them to stay. Next, I suggested, as they knew I was a photographer, some shots of me in action. The weather was being kind; Ushba was out in full glory and looking to stay that way. So, a drive a few kilometer further up Becho, to a bit above the new bridge, where the village opens up into fields.

There were some horses grazing near where the cameraman and I went, and these made a beautiful foreground for my wide-angle lens. They included a mare and foal, and two stallions who obligingly fought for the camera (not mine, but for TV), making some astonishing noises of challenge and rearing up against one another. I shot and was shot, and shot the shooter. They also did my main interview for the roughly 8-minute clip with this backdrop.

Back to Etseri: wood chopping, potato storage in the barn. The cameraman went all out for this latter scene, getting into the potato bin and directing my pouring of several buckets of the tubers. Anything for a creative angle, the same principle for stills as it is for video!

Off to visit a neighbor with gifts of some of our own pumpkins and some persimmons which my wife brought back from Kakheti by the sackful; both of these things she loves and I don't, so she and anyone else are welcome to them. The neighbor had some gushing, embarrassingly kind things to say about us.

Home again, for my wife's interview, which she enjoyed ("What do you two usually argue about?" and other questions to that point unasked). We showed them the guest rooms upstairs, and hopefully dispelled the director's stated view that all photos of Ushba must be similar with a big framed enlargement of my best version so far. It was all a rush, as I suppose TV work is; they must return to Tbilisi and have the footage edited down to its required length in two days. Now, the wait, followed by a download, watching, and posting links to the video: It's all in Georgian, but we hope you will still check it out; WE (having watched it now as I write) think they did a nice job on it. Eventually one might become famous enough to find these events an annoyance, but we're not there yet, or seeking to be there either.

Oh yes, and GDS stands for Georgian Dream Studio.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1350 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: trek

Tony Hanmer

10 November 2016 19:47