Meet the SlamJam brothers – Trevor, Kyle and Dustin Chee-A-Tow. Digital Film Makers from Canada who free dive and stay true to the simple life.
So guys, tell me what kind of things you film at the moment?
TC: We are actually spreading our wings and doing different stuff like working with 3V to do their fitness, sport and motivational videos and recently we’ve just started getting into the fashion, behind the scenes kind of things.
How long have you guys been in this industry?
TC: Not very long at all. We’re all self-taught and it started out as just a hobby of ours. When we were travelling around we always have a camera. Even before we started travelling, as kids, we were always filming everything that we were doing. When we started to travel out here we wanted to capture the experiences that we were having, mainly to show our friends and motivate them to get off your butt and take a risk and come out here. Get out of your comfort zone and experience another place.
What’s your heritage?
KC: Caribbean, but we’re born and raised in Canada, just north of Toronto. Our father’s side is Guyanese Chinese and they grew up in Surinam, Our mother’s side is Caribbean Indian.
Very cool. So tell me, why Bali?
TC: We were actually doing teaching jobs in Korea and one of our colleagues was a teacher here in Bali and told us we should come check it out. So we came and travelled around many island of Indonesia including Flores, Lombok, the Bandas, and I ended up taking a teaching job here. My brothers went back home but were always visiting and we decided this is the place to do the brothers thing together.
And how has it been starting your own business? Was it difficult?
TC: It actually wasn’t, that’s the surprising thing. What happened was Stevie Wonder’s band was travelling around Java for the Java Jazz Festival and his entourage came here and with them was a Grammy Award Winner, a trumpeter and hip hop artist called Maurice Brown. We ended up hanging out with these guys and Maurice was producing his first single and I told him that we would like to shoot his first music video and he agreed. So we shot this video for him, which came out really well and it gave us the confidence to believe we can really do this.
Where did you film his video?
DC: All around Bali. That’s what’s so nice about Bali, there are just so many locations to shoot and venues to choose from which makes it easier on our job.
What’s the shoot that’s caused you the most grief lately?
DC: It was probably the last one that we did for 3V, which was about cycling around Bali. They wanted to do it in one day, which we thought would be fun. They’ll be on their bicycles, we’ll be on our motorbikes, we’ll be able to see the whole of Bali. We even brought our bathing suits and hammocks to chill out and stuff, but it was not like that at all! We never knew how fast these guys cycle! There was no relaxing and we were playing catch up the whole time!
KC: It was amazing. They went around the whole island of Bali on bicycles.
TC: We really couldn’t complain even though we were tired and had no sleep, because we were on motorbikes, but these guys were on bicycles.
So how did it go from Maurice Brown’s video to what you are now?
After we saw that the music video went so well, we wanted to train ourselves up for a year. Do different projects that we want to pick, not really searching for money, just to get better at shooting, directing and editing. There are a lot of cool people in Bali who have interesting stories to tell. Slowly we did little things and organically it just rolled after that.
DC: Word of mouth. It’s nice that we can afford to choose the projects. It’s nice not having to hunt out work.
Can you explain what roles the three of you play?
TC: For shooting and editing, the goal is that all three of us can do all the shooting and editing ourselves so as we expand we can have three units and if someone wants to take a holiday they can. Roles-wise, I’m the sales person, Dustin is the numbers and organizer and Kyle is the more tech-savvy guy. But all three of us together are the creative force, not one particular person.
What would be your dream project?
TC: It’s funny because when we do interviews with artists and DJs that’s usually one of the questions we ask, but I’ve never thought about that for myself.
KC: For me I like the challenges of adventure videos and exploring different sports. There’s a new slue of adrenaline documentary makers where you have to use different rigs and because I’m a tech guy I like that aspect of it.
TC: I think our dream would be do work around the world. We did an interview with DJ Erok for the RedBull Formula 1 Racing Team, and he said if we make it to Chile that we could work with RedBull and do some crazy projects like getting in fighter jets or sky diving and filming the free falls.
Have you guys found it hard to adjust to life on Bali?
DC: Well before Bali I was teaching free diving on a tiny island in Thailand so for me it was adjusting to how big Bali is, even though it’s not big. Everything felt so far!
Wow, so you’re a free diver?
TC: We all are actually. We’re all certified to free dive, and that’s one of the reasons why we love being here so much.
How long can you guys hold your breath?
DC: Well, when I’m trained I can hold mine for around three minutes. I’m a certified instructor for free diving and my depth record is 50 metres. That’s actually why I came to Bali, to open a free diving school. It might still be in the plans, but we’ll see.
It’s actually all in the mind. There is technique. It’s overcoming the fact that you don’t actually have to breathe. When you go in the water there are a lot of physiological things that happen to the body that make you adapt to the water. It’s a very relaxing experience because there’s no sound, you’re by yourself – I almost compare it to meditation.
TC: That’s how you can get down to those depths because you’re really in a trance state. We love the water and enjoy spear fishing so we’ve really enjoyed travelling around Indonesia. We love living in Bali but I think Bali is so different to the rest of Indonesia where in some places it feels like you’re going back in time. It’s a good reminder of what joys a simple life can bring.
So when you guys take off are you going to stay true to who you are?
TC: It’s an important character trait to be very flexible with the environment and what’s going on around you. Whenever we travel, our style is to travel on a local level, sleeping wherever, hanging out with local people and really experiencing the culture.
It’s good to know you guys are grounded. Sometimes people in the entertainment industry are eaten up by their egos. Do you think it’s because you guys are islanders?
DC: I think so and also because there are three of us to keep each other in check. We’ll tell each other if one of us is acting out of line. We’re very open and honest with each other.
Check out their work at www.slamjam.me