Dominic Gill, a 31-year-old British adventurer and filmmaker, will travel to Maine for “Take a Seat, Bangor: A Night with Dominic Gill,” 6-8 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at the Gracie Theatre.
Known for numerous long-distance bicycle adventures, Gill has pedaled through Egypt and across North and South America, capturing his experiences on film.
It all began in 2006, when he embarked on a trip to ride 20,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina on a tandem bicycle, a two-year journey across two continents, through
blizzards and thunderstorms, across arid deserts and frozen tundra. But what really makes the adventure special are the 270 people that hopped on his tandem bicycle to pedal with him along the way.
The resulting documentary, “Take A Seat,” was awarded at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2008 and has since been shown in more than 400 cities worldwide.
Clips from the film will be shown at “Take a Seat, Bangor,” an event hosted by the Bangor YMCA. Doors of the theater will open at 6 p.m. for a cocktail and social hour with Gill, followed by a multimedia presentation on his various adventures. But that’s not all. After the presentation, the audience is invited to a dessert bar, another opportunity to meet and talk with the man of the evening.
Tickets are $35 per person and are on sale at the Bangor YMCA, 17 Second St. in Bangor, or online at BangorY.org. Tickets at the door will be $40 per person. All proceeds will benefit the Bangor YMCA adventure and youth programs.
To date, Gill has completed three additional “Take a Seat” tours on his tandem bicycle, across Alberta, Egypt and America. These projects have taken him through 15 countries with more than 300 people accompanying him on the back of his tandem bike.
Influenced by his mother, Gill is also an avid mountaineer and rock climber and has journeyed all over the world in pursuit of great mountains, including the Eiger.
Q&A with Dominic Gill
What inspired you to embark on your first ‘Take a Seat’ bicycle adventure from Alaska to Argentina, and during that 20,000-mile trip?
I used to be an environmental scientist working a desk job in Manchester [UK], and I spent most of my time whenever possible to get out rock climbing and take photographs of my adventures. And so being sort of an aspirational individual, I decided one day to try and marry my two passions, which was adventure and, at the time, photography. I entered a little BBC adventure short film competition and ended up winning it. It was a very small competition, but it gave me the confidence I needed to think maybe I could make something of this. So I realized what I wanted was a huge adventure, one that I could document with a camera.
Why bicycling? And in addition, why a tandem bike?
Bike journeys were a good way of storytelling. It takes you through a lot of communities and covers a lot of ground but not so quickly you never see anything. So I put out a proposal to cycle on a single bike from Alaska to Argentina. I thought it would be cool. It’s a large, uninterrupted land mass with only two languages — which made it a bit easier — and it was a very clean line halfway around the world, which is awesome. I put a pitch out to production companies I thought could help me because I had practically zero experience in television, and one of them got back to me and said, “Yeah, that’s kind of a cool idea. We aren’t going to pay you anything, and we’re not going to do anything for you, but we support you in … encouragement.” And they said, “There is one thing: it hasn’t quite got the sort of wow factor, not quite ridiculous enough to stand alone in this world.” And I was a little offended and said, “What the hell do you mean?” So one of these TV executives, off the top of his head said, “Why don’t you go on a tandem and pick up random strangers?” And we both in the end decided this is a ridiculous idea and probably impossible. So I went back to the job I was doing at that time … And two weeks later, I decided, as much as I didn’t like the idea physically, if it were to work, it was a really good idea. So I emailed them back saying, “I’ll do it.” And that was the very beginning.
Did you do all of the photography yourself or did you have help along the way?
That’s one of the things that made it so special — it was all self-filmed. There’s a lot of shaky points in the camerawork, and I think I probably ran somewhere around 150 miles during the journey, literally, running down the street, putting the camera down, running to the bike, cycling past, putting the bicycle down, and running back to the camera, picking it up, and running back to the bike. So it was definitely work intensive, but it also gave it a very special, real feel to it that you don’t get when someone has a film crew.
What is the presentation going to be like in Bangor?
I’m actually going to talk about the life and times of me, without trying to sound too self-obsessed. I’m going to tell the story, probably about 60 percent [the trip from Alaska to Argentina], showing excerpts of it, and then I’ll talk about more recent tours and how I have essentially made my passion my job.
What do you hope people take away from the documentaries of your various international ‘Take a Seat’ bike tours?
In terms of the tandem idea — which is by no means all that we do as a production company these days but is very much at the heart of what we represent — unlike a lot of adventure films, which is incredible sexy and well shot and stylistic, but a lot of the time a bit lacking in human stories, we approach the other way around. While we try and shoot things the best we can, we realize story is the most important thing for humans to connect with. So really, the overarching story is that the vast majority of humans on this planet are really, really good people, and to trust strangers is absolutely worthwhile. That’s at the core of everything. I found out over the years, rubbing shoulders with tens of thousands of people and having a sort of meaningful relationship with hundreds, that perfect strangers took me in and I accepted perfect strangers, and one time in tens of thousands of people I brushed shoulders with, one time did I feel fearful.
Do you have any advice for people who are considering travel, some sort of big trip?
So going on actual journeys as opposed to vacations, for me, a couple of things: I always think, however vague the idea, it’s important to think about what you want to get out of a journey. And it could be something physical. You could say, “I want to write a diary that could some day be a book,” or “I want to record enough video to tell my story on film.” Or it could be, “I want to find out what I want to do for the rest of my life, and I’m going to look earnestly for that.” So whatever it is, I think it’s important to not plan but have a good idea of what you want to get out of it. And the other thing is, if you’re really going on an adventure, make the element of spontaneity as large as possible. Do only as much planning as you need to because, in my experience, if you’re traveling to a foreign land, the most important people you will ever meet are the local people you don’t know; they are the people that know the place you’re traveling in better than anyone else. So if you meet a little Guatemalan farmer on your travels who says, “I want to take you for three days to my banana plantation,” you want time in your schedule to accept that invitation because you’ll learn more in that invitation than you ever would if you had three bus journeys and a visit to a petting zoo scheduled in for the next three days. So accept the spontaneous elements that the journey affords you.
Have you ever been to Maine? Do you have any plans for your visit?
I actually have been to Maine for a wedding — so very, very briefly. I can’t even remember where it was. It was obviously on the coast. But I have a good friend in Maine now and I’m very interested in the Northeast, especially all the way up to Newfoundland, just because I think it will make me fairly nostalgic. One of the things I miss more than anything in the world now that I live in California are sea cliffs for rock climbing. Britain has the most amazing sea cliffs, and I gather Maine has a few of its own. If I have time I’d love to look around. I’m not actually there for very long, but I’m really just looking forward to the slightly more east coast European feeling that I think probably Maine will have.
For information about “Take a Seat, Bangor,” visit bangory.org/takeaseat. To learn more about Gill, visit takeaseat.org or check out his book about the Alaska-Argentina adventure, “Take a Seat,” published in the UK and US in 2010. BDN Maine is a sponsor of “Take a Seat, Bangor.”