Thursday February 11, 9.25pm
The Journey of Kijana was an adventure sail expedition that aimed to produce a 13-part television series shot entirely by the crew to help fund the adventure.
The concept was the brainchild of solo sailor Jesse Martin who started planning the Kijana adventure when, at 21, he was the youngest person to sail solo around the world. This time he wanted to do it again with friends and stop off at all the unexplored places he sailed past on his own.
With money raised from the book and documentary of his epic solo journey along with new sponsorship, he bought the 17m yacht ‘Kijana’ ( Swahili for young people) . The trip was an odyssey that Martin thought would take three years. The $2m journey ended after nine months, with only three of the original 5-person crew left and not one television episode had been produced.
The whole project was deemed a failure and Martin’s dream disappeared from the headlines and into obscurity along with all the savings earned from his solo Lionheart voyage. Martin acquired the rights to the video material and several months after returning home, shot post-journey interviews with four of the participants and then spent nearly a year with the journey’s cameraman Josh Schmidt in front of a computer in a friend’s bungalow, piecing together a story in an effort to explain “what happened out there’’.
What was originally pitched as an inspirational “journey of young people’’ soon turned into a more grounded and realistic story of a massive dream gone terribly wrong. The footage shot by Schmidt showed a unique dramatic story on the high seas that would eventually become 5 Lost At Sea.
In late 2003 a 63-minute rough cut was completed and pitched to all Australian free-to-air networks. All passed on the program. Martin and Schmidt then each built up an expanse of interesting production credits until three years after their initial rough cut, the boys re-visited the Kijana work with fresh eyes and discovered a new ending in their material that re-inspired them to apply for the JTV docs3 funding scheme backed by the ABC and Screen Australia. They were successful in early 2008, five years after the journey came to an end.
Screen Australia project manager Karin Altmann introduced the boys to veteran editor Ken Sallows and consultant producer Fiona Cochrane, and with ABC executive producer Debbie Lee and composer Patrick Robertson onboard, postproduction re-commenced in the same bungalow in late 2008.
The project now had momentum and with a broadcaster in place and funding behind them, Martin and Schmidt could for the first time legitimately call themselves filmmakers. For a story that had endured a mix of bad luck as well as good luck, it seemed nothing was going to stop 5 Lost At Sea from airing.
However nearing the end of post production Martin collided with a moving train with the entire project on a hard drive on his car’s passenger seat . He totalled his car, but walked away without a scratch and with the hard drive still intact. Overall it seemed the story had endured more good luck than bad, and seven years after beginning the Journey of Kijana, the true story 5 Lost At Sea finally gets told.