Filmmaker Arthur Wei traveled Morocco for little over a month and wasn’t originally planning on making a travel video. That changed when he arrived and took a road trip that changed how he viewed travel. We talked with him about his editing process, why he called his video a “visual memoir,” and his preferred way of traveling.
What brought you to Morocco?
It was a pretty spontaneous trip. I had just finished a few months in Southeast Asia and decided travel Europe; but then found out I only had 90 days in my Schengen Visa. Since it was pretty cold back in April, I decided to postpone Europe for somewhere warmer, like Morocco. I’ve also never been to Africa, so I was pretty excited about it.
Did you go knowing you were going to make some kind of video about your time there? Or did you decide once you were there?
I decided when I was there.
What was it that caused you to make the video?
All the videos I create are usually spontaneous. Whenever I come upon an interesting story, I decide to make a video. I bumped into these two girls — Anna and Caitlyn — in my hostel and a day later we made a short film at sunrise called “Bird Chaser.” It was just for fun. They left that day, but we made plans to meet again in Fez the following week for a roadtrip. The road trip was seven days, so we all knew there was going to be some kind of video.
When you started putting it together after the fact, how did you decide what it was going to look and feel like?
This video wasn’t planned out at all. In the beginning, we had decided we were going to make a parody of the cheesy travel videos online. It would’ve included all the typical shots, but would’ve also had bloopers and behind the scenes footage.
But a lot of the moments on the road trip were a bit too precious to be parodied. After the road trip when I was piecing things together, I realized we had a lot of really quality footage and should actually make a video that was more meaningful.
How did you decide on the pacing and music?
At first I chose a typical travel video song, and then I realized it wasn’t going to be a parody so I picked a local Berber song, but couldn’t find one that was good enough to match the HD quality of the video. So I decided to go more of a cinematic route. I think the music fits pretty well because all the shots were cinematic, so it has a bit of a movie feel to it.
A lot of the structure follows the pacing of the song and some basic visual storytelling techniques. In the beginning, there is a lot of scene setting with beautiful landscape shots. Then the music picks up, so I followed the music and made faster and faster cuts with more action. But I didn’t want it to just be another cinematic travel video, I wanted to include something that had more emotion to it. After I established the setting, I wanted to create more of a scene. So after the first montage, there’s a scene — where this Berber woman tried an avocado for the first time — and then another when Anna holds baby goats. Those were two of the most precious moments, so I wanted them to be the body. Then in the end the music picks up and there’s another montage — more geared toward people. And that ultimately leads to the ending.
How did you decide on calling it a “visual memoir?” Why do you think that fits this particular video?
At its core, it is a memoir. It’s not necessarily a travel video because it doesn’t feature the highlights of Morocco; it’s not commercial; it’s not for anybody else besides myself and the people I was with. It was personal, kind of like a visual diary.
When you see this video now, what do you feel?
It makes me really happy because it brings me back to all the experiences I had in that week, which was one of the best weeks of my life. It brings back a lot of memories.
And I feel a great sense of accomplishment because I worked really hard on it afterward and took the time to learn new editing techniques. I really took my time with it, so I’m happy with the way it came out. It’s helped me in the past months, too, when it comes to my career.
What do you think that this video captures about Morocco?
I think it captures the people and the overall feeling of what it’s like to road trip through Morocco. It’s not commercial. I really just wanted to capture the essence of the road trip, and one of the things that really made the road trip what it was was the people we met. When we set out, we had no plans at all. We only knew we wanted to see the Sahara Desert and that it was going to last seven days. There was a lot of time in between when we didn’t know the plans and relied on spontaneous serendipity. And a lot of that serendipity came from the people we met.
What are you hoping that people take away from watching this video?
Two things. The first is: I want to support the kind of travel we were doing, the spontaneous road trip. A lot of people travel and their experiences are very planned and it’s touristy. Road-tripping and traveling without plans and just seeing where it goes … there’s a lot of joy to be found there. You never know what’s going to come up. So trusting in that unplanned serendipity is something I want to share with others. It’s how this road trip began in the first place.
The other thing is that a lot of people view Morocco as a very foreign place that’s maybe a bit scary or dangerous, and I wanted to show that the people of Morocco are awesome and that interacting with them can bring lots of joy and adventure.
How has making this video changed the way that you interact with the places you travel?
I have been traveling almost nonstop for the last 21 months. Most of the time, I don’t know where I will be the next day or the next week. This kind of travel is not new for me. I’ve always said that traveling in the U.S. has been my favorite experience. I now realize it was because I spent four months driving freely there and that is also why I enjoyed my experience in Morocco so much.
Road-tripping goes hand-in-hand with the kind of spontaneous, unplanned travel that can take you beyond tourist destinations. There is a lot more freedom and opportunities to interact with local culture — to attend a local wedding, to hang out with nomads, or to take part in their traditions, authentically.