Field Notes: Wheaton Filmmaker in Bhutan

Each summer, Wheaton College offers several Filmmaker in Residence Fellowships that fund students to travel the world and produce films about the experiences. Wheaton partnered with the 2023 Fab Lab Conference in Bhutan to offer a media internship fellowship, which was award to Sato Murphy ’26. He recently recently spoke with Patrick Johnson, Associate Professor of Filmmaking, about the experience.

Please tell me a bit about the film/project you filmed in Bhutan?

The main project was a 50-minute long documentary about the International Fabrication conference that took place in Thimphu, going over both the event itself, as well as the community-driven challenges across the country. The vast majority of my time was spent working on this and is set to air on National Television soon.

On the side, I also made a 60-second advertisement for the event, played at the kick-off, a 90-second introduction to the preparations for the event, and I was also the event photographer toward the very end of the event. 

What was an important lesson that you learned from the experience?

An important lesson I learned during the experience was to be self-directed. In this position, I had a very involved job but it wouldn’t be with much guidance along the way. You should plan ahead, set due dates, have contingencies, and most importantly get stuff done.

What were some of the challenges of filmmaking in Bhutan?

Honestly, the final week was the most challenging part for me. I had to capture speakers and moments during the event and had to buzz around constantly to get a good shot. Toward the end, I was also recruited as the official event photographer and had to step up even when I wasn’t fully ready at the moment. 

What was a standout moment that you were able to capture?

During the week of the challenges this guy Nirpa took me around the country with some other really cool people, and a lot of those moments in between the challenges were some of the most relaxed and fun times for me. Of course, my camera was always on, and the views especially on the road from Thimphu to the south next to India were surreal. 

What is the next step for the project and in your journey as a filmmaker?

Actually, on the last day I was in Bhutan, I shot a music video for some local hip-hop artists, so I’m editing that as of now, as well as a few other music video projects I shot once I came back. A lot on my plate going forward but I’m more than ready.

What is something that you would love people to know about the experience?

99% of the food there is very spicy and delicious. Google “Kewa Datshi” if you have a moment. Really tasty. Also, this condiment Ezzay became my go-to for anything since going to Bhutan. It’s a mixed chili sauce.