Tag Archives: Chasing the Desert FILM

DakarLOG – Rally Tunisia Libya 2009 invite | Miracle

April 19, 2009 – 9:00am – Marseille, France

Writing this, the time and location, it all seems a little too unreal.  Just one week ago, I had a completely  different week planned for myself.  One of reflection, redirection and a new beginning.  One that would put me on the road to my parent’s cabin in British Columbia’s Kootney Lake for a few weeks.  One that was to turn me and my film career (if you could call it that just yet) from the off-road adventures of “Chasing the Desert” – which had become more like a black comedy of sorts – and back in to the writers seat for a while, to dream of a few new beginnings and hack at a few of the old ones…  Time to start over again, time to start fresh.

That lasted all of 24 hours, as all my grand plans seem to these days, right up till  3pm on Easter Sunday…  Sitting on the beach at Crab Park, Vancouver, just outside my Gastown loft, another call to adventure – actually something larger than that, dropped into my iPhone from France, beckoning me back overseas, back into action, offering me up my one last shot at recovering from an unpredictable and unfortunate turn of events back in January of 2008.

On January 4th, 2008, an event, a story…  a dream I risked far to much on an idea of an experience and that experience ended up becoming far different than I could ever have expected.  Fact is, the event never ended up happening.  The event was the legendary Dakar Rally, a 15 day, 5000KM endurance and navigation rally race through Europe and Northern Africa.  But on January 4th and 12 noon, the rally became more than a legend – it wrote history.  12 hours prior to the start of it’s 30th edition, the race organizers cancelled the entire rally after a series of terrorist actions in Mauritania the week before which culminated with deaths of French tourists over the Christmas holiday.

The famous Paris-Dakar Rally had become the flagship of off-road rallies for professional and amateur racer and everyone stood that day, lost.

I stood there that day lost and broken, and literally broke.  I, like many of the competitors, gave everything to be in the rally even just once in a lifetime, to be a part of this seemingly unstoppable event that many only dream of setting foot inside of.  Like the Titanic, this event sank and not all had access to lifeboats to make it ashore.  A part in all of us died that day.  Not just a childhood dream, but a belief that anything is possible… that if one is strong enough, courageous enough, give enough, one can live a dream.

We all risked more than most would to get there and like in that nightmare poker game, all saw it swiftly disappear when the cards hit the table on the first hand.  I alone was out my day job, roughly $50,000, 8 months of production and no way to get home to Canada.  I’m an independent filmmaker, this was to be my first documentary that I was self funding at that point and my insurance didn’t cover an event cancellation – no one’s did.  I am still one of the lucky ones with only bankruptcy staring at me on the near horizon…

Jump ahead 6 months…

I guess I am a little crazy, or so I thought at Easter, but a competing race organization to the Dakar Rally contacted me to assist them in securing a North American broadcaster to air their daily race summaries and to introduce their 10 day rally in Tunisia and Libya to a North American audience.  Basically what I have been fighting so hard and long to do with the Dakar Rally for 2 and a half years now.  This offer was different.  They turned the tables and instead of the 20,000 Euro entry fees and the 20,000 Euro license and rights fees, this organization had just invited me out AND offered both my footage and their footage for free – no cost.  A bit of a shocker on Easter afternoon (I am starting to like the Easter Bunny for more than the rice-crispy-chocolate treat in bunny form) – and a lot unexpected as I would have to be on a plane in 4 days to France to catch the boat…

So, do I give up everything again?  Risk my own sanity again?  Walkaway from my family who I was going to meet at the lake?  My friends who I had committed to plans with?  Myself and this so called life I keep trying to wrangle up and set on a sane course?  Will things wait for me this time when before they slipped through my fingers?  What will 3 weeks from my life look like this time, especially since I seem to be in a vortex of very odd occurrences as it is?

One thing it did mean – ok, 2 things…

#1: I will have the professional footage I need to complete an amazing documentary on my own personal journey chasing the Dakar Rally  AND have more than enough for an incredible episodic pilot that would lead up to both the Moroccan Rally AND the Dakar 2010 Rally to sell to a North American broadcaster.

#2: Originally, before the documentary was even conceived, I was just writing a feature dramatic film with the rally event as a backdrop to a brother story.  All I initially wanted was to participate in the rally to write the most realistic action sport adventure script possible…

This Easter egg….  this Easter Miracle…  just put me back in the driver’s seat and into the heart of the African desert and into the heart of an endurance and navigation rally.  This means that at the end of the most trying and difficult creative, financial, personal and professional journey I have ever taken to this point in my life…  I am given back more than just my first little dream when I thought it was long lost.  I am given the chance to finish my dramatic feature film script that I started over 2 and a half years ago…  and, I am given the chance to give back.

So, what did I do?  I put everything on the line again.  My day job, friends, family, my health…  my life.  Of course this time I called everyone before hand because this would have to be something I can share and celebrate on my return.  It’s no longer my journey – me, my family and friends have all invested to much to date and this is my last shot at finding an end to a story long over due.

That little dream I watched die away on January 4th, 2008, has come back to life.  It looks a little different, but it feels right.  I think there is something exciting we can do with this.  For me, my project and for the desert.  I may be filing for bankruptcy this week (funny to do from France), but all my work and what I ultimately envisioned, still has a fighting chance…

The boat to Tunisia leaves tomorrow from the Port in Marseille.  I am sitting in my hotel recovering from a fever break at 39 degrees celcius just a day ago in the Frankfurt Airport, but I am recovering, charging my batteries and holding onto the hope that this time – it’s the right time for this little story of mine.




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DakarREEL – CFG LIVE in Morocco | Map Film-bites

Shawna Cox | CFG is…  on Facebook.  “Be my friend – and HANG ON!” for photos of Baja 500, 1000, The Dakar Rally and every ADVENTURE inbetween and behind the scenes… 

Indie and Adventure Filming and Event info?  Join the Canadian Film Girl | CFG Facebook Fan Page

2008 Dakar Rally Race Route, Morocco, October 2008: Making of “Chasing the Desert”…  

Escaping Flash floods, desert nights, Canadian Girls racing hidden trails, deep inside the ‘Medina’ of Marrakech, hot diggity scarabs and a wee-bit-of night dune driving (and running the battery down…)??

–>>  “Where’s Shawna on the map?”

–>>  Shawna’s Video Diary:


Canadian Film Girl | CFG, Shawna Cox

Canadian Film Girl | CFG, Shawna Cox


Who knew I would ever sit in the middle of the desert at night and be filming, editing and uploading daily film-bites.  1 HDV camera, 2 VIO-POV 1 car cams, 1 Mac laptop, 1 Iritrack GPS tracker, 1 crazy group of Canadians, 1 4×4, and 1 satellite way up in the sky (@ 7 euros a megabite, I might add = $200 + per 2 minute video)

where in the world is CFG....

where in the world is CFG....

I am on my last two days on the trail after a whirlwind 2 days in Cannes, France for the MIPCOM film market, then a midnight flight to Marrakech, Morocco.  I am currently on day 6???  …I think, and will be touching ground in Madrid, London, Toronto and finally home to Vancouver by next monday.  
I have been racing around Morocco, chasing Mark Miller’s Dakar Rally past  (Mark ends up in Morocco basically just as I leave…  timing) for the background for the 2009 Dakar Rally Documentary – the old Dakar Rally trail.  
I currently have a live map following our journey (the same iritrack as used on Dakar for the racers) as well as daily 2 minute film bites.  IRC stepped up to the plate to embed media into their live race maps – this is the first test.  
The tracker didn’t get started until 2 days into the trip, but the videos have been going well – uploading via satilite from the middle of the desert…  who knew.  (Rob!  what happened to video # 002 ??? 😉  

Thanks for keeping up with me, hot on the trail of Mark Miller (Team Volkswagen) and the 2009 Dakar Rally…

Good night from afar.


Posted by on October 21, 2008 in DakarLOG, EventLOG, FilmLOG, TravelLOG


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Morocco Transmission #4 – Full Moon

Oct 14, 2008 – Day 4 chasing the desert.

A full moon in Morocco tonight. There’s more to tell. More to this story. There’s more to tell. More to this story. That is in my blackbook. I will publish that when I am home. Funny thing how I set out to capture one story. Not so funny thing how it all unfolds into a story that I am wish I could escape from. Chasing the Dakar Rally seems like a walk in the park over navigating this trip I’m on. I wish I could wake up from this.

10 day trip to Morocco to trace the steps of past Dakar Rally legends – Daily Satellite uploads and Live GPS tracking.

Day 4: Night Desert driving and sleeping on a dune.

sample opening footage for the Dakar Rally Documentary Project

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Posted by on October 14, 2008 in BlackBOOKS, DakarLOG, FilmLOG, TravelLOG


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DakarLOG – Pat’s 2008 Morocco Trek Log 03 | Route

pat trahan Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 10:22 PM
Reply-To: pat trahan
To: shawna cox
Hi Shawna, cool for the room, I think you will like it!! :)Ok here a little bit about our route.. I am still working on the coordinates. But it is very flexible.. We can change it at any moment!! it is a proposed route!
13 – Arrival Patrick – Marrak. Get stuff ready – Riad
14 – Arrival Shawna – night in marrak – Riad
15 – Day in Marrak – Going to Rally rose des sables – Night in Bivouac of organisation
16 – Going to a CP to film continue Liason North – lots of KM – Night in small village
17 – Going on the Dakar route – Night on Bivouac
18 – Sand dunes in Erfoud – Bivouac in the big Dunes – Camel Trek
19 – Going South on the Dakar route – Night in Small Village
20 – Going south to Agadir – Night at my friend Surf Camp
21 – Day at the beach surf lesson, going to Marrak – Night in Marrak
22 – Day in Marrak – bring back 4×4 – transfer to aeroportI will send you more detail on a map once I am done…
Do you need cofee in the morning?
Are you alergic to any food?
Do you like wine, Pastis, hihi. Just checking.
Bring emodium, tylenol, etc

Talk to you soon


shawna cox  Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 10:56 PM
To: pat trahan
are we close to the fossil pit / rock pit Mark Miller mentioned?  🙂  I like fossils….  🙂  Want to go there…. 😦

All looks good – are we camping in the small villages? What’s the accommodation like there – home stays? $$?  desert camping is cool still too.
What’s ‘Pastis’?  Coffee would be good, but not neccessary – NOT TIM HORTONS!  HA!
No allergies – Just not a lot of Dairy or sweet things.  Looking forward to good staples of camping and the desert and Morocco.  Nothing super fancy – simpler is better for me.  Wine is good, but not a lot as I can react to the sulfides – what ever Moroccans drink.
Map will be cool to post on the blog!
pat trahan <> Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 5:59 AM
To: shawna cox
Yes we will go to the fossil pit!  In the small village we either will have to get a cheap hostel, 10 euro per niight or go further. I never camp near villages. But if you like bivouac that is good too. We stop at the village get the food and drink and go out in the desert! I prefer that.
You will have the time of your life, I hope you will like the desert as much as I love it!!
I can’t wait.
It will be very simple for camping because I cant bring much in my luggage and we cannot buy camping equipment there.
Talk to you soonPat
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Posted by on October 13, 2008 in DakarLOG, FilmLOG, TravelLOG


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DakarLOG – Pat’s 2008 Morocco Tour Log 01 | Desert Secrets

I thought that I would share with you this tour in development.  Patrick Trahan was a contact that I made somewhere on Facebook last year and he did say that “at some point our paths would cross”.  Well, he jumped at the opportunity to help guide a 4×4 tour for my filmmaker’s journey into Morocco…

These entries will be brief and more of a dialogue between two people – Me and Pat – as we prepare for Morocco…  To put this in perspective – we just started last week and I leave next wednesday.  Circumstance of timing, $$ and a little story about a certain Dakar racer, Mark Miller.  Damn him – I will only catch him at the start line at the 2009 Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  2 steps behind, but finding cool stories in the dust.

One story is about Fossils in Morocco…  huh?  What does THAT have to do with the Dakar Rally?  Everything…

secrets of the desert

secrets of the desert

hey Pat – great chat this morning – I am beginning to wonder if I will actually get back on the plane once I have  taste of the desert…  oh – no.
my flight is : early AM on the 15th… so if you could arrive on the 14th
Arrival: 12:20 AM +1 day(s)    Marrakech, Morocco –
, terminal 2
Airline:  Royal Air Maroc AT9713
then departure from Madrid is: Oct 24th at noon.
LH4411 Madrid (MAD) Frankfurt (FRA) 321 Executive Confirmed
Fri 24-Oct 2008 Fri 24-Oct 2008
12:45 15:20 – TERMINAL 1
so on the Madrid end – I would like to be into Madrid late on the 22nd or early on the 23rd depending on our itinerary….  😉

HI Shawna,
Yes it was great talking to you! It will be something, I am so sure of that.
I will be working on the itinary but it will be very flexible, but at least we have a Plan.
Here a suggestion list of thing to bring.
– Walking boots
– Sleeping bag with compress bag
– Sleeping mat
– Camel Back
– Hat
– Swimsuit 😉
– Empty little jar to bring back sand from sahara
– Converter 12vlt for charging your equipment
– Power bar for plugging equipment
– Small Tent (if you have, if Not, I will make out a temp. Bivouac)

I am taking car of everything else, like first aid and survival kit, pots and pan, etc. I will make you some nice morrocan tea everyday, like the moroccan do.

I will buy food water for making the food at our Bivouac site. Be prepare to see a million stars!

I suggest that you leave on the 22nd. The easyjet flight is leaving at 19h10.
I think you might want to stay there. I know I will….Maybe we get our mind together and find a way to stay there lollll  Talk to you soon with more details

Ciao Ciao

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Posted by on October 2, 2008 in DakarLOG, FilmLOG, TravelLOG


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DakarREEL – Morocco 2008 | taking the 2008 Dakar Rally Route

Ok – who knew??  Pat Trahan, a desert racer and guide from Montreal, Canada has kept up with me since the start and now, is finally digging in and showing up to help me through the Moroccan towns and deserts.  Funny how things can at some point come together.   

Pat even raced with Mark Miller and in the town of Merzuga was the area where Mark Miller won his first stage ever in a rally raid back in 1998 on a KTM bike !! – the ONLY TWO North Americans in a field of hundreds!

I guess it’s all about timing and at this point – NOT GIVING UP.  I can’t wait for the nuances of broadcast letters and US verses Canadian funding / financing issues – I HAVE TO FILM as it might be the last I will shoot on the project.  I won’t wait for someone to give me the green light – I am doing it again.  Go forth and film.  That is  what I will do – again…  AND Pat is doing everything he can to make sure it will be a trip worthy of one Canadian Film girl and the elusive North American Dakar Documentary.

I want to share the latest email with you…  I am excited.  Especially since I don’t have to tackle Morocco and this pivotal segment on my own.  I need all the support and encouraging friends I can gather at this point…

Hello Aischa (touareg princess),
Ok, I did not have any prices yet and quotes. For the trip, I will not be able to share not much cost if I go qith you.. I donèt mind going to guide you and making sure you have a good trip and a perfect spot for filming… But I wont be able to participate in the 4×4 rental.. I will find you a good deal. 
I can pay for my food and drink, Accomodation will be in the desert, I will cook also and prepare the bivouac..
Other, we will share the room, I sleep on the floor with my slleping bag. You will see I can travel for very cheap.
I would arrive at Marrakesh, on the 14, I would drop you at the boat and bring back the 4×4 in Marrakesh en leave from there to go to Tunisia where I will be guiding there.
I will call you this wednesday, with a lot more details, if you agree with what I mention. 
You will need some credit card info for the 4×4 and maybe a reservation in Marrakesh!
I am working on the route, i am dowloading some GPS point. I bring you sur les pistes du Dakar!!


Thanks Pat.  I can’t wait to be able to return your support and hospitality.  Pat was actually racing with Mark Miller way back in 1998.  They were the only 2 North Americans competing at the time.  When I revealed the routes I wished to take and shared Mark’s email of recommended travel, Pat had this to say:

Both route are going in Erfoud! So yes it is close…

It is funny I was reading what Mark Miller was writting.. I was there in 98 when he won he first stage, It was my first race ever! Mark know you I am becase I spoke to him there beeing the only 2 north american, We wrote each other on email after a bit.. Small world


It is a small world – and I am grateful for it.  I never would have got this far with out the friends and neighbours I have and have found along the way…  Here’s for dropping those borders.  More later.


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Posted by on September 30, 2008 in DakarLOG, WOOT


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DakarREEL – Really want to know about Dakar 2009? | Magic 8 Ball

Filming Dakar 2009 in January?? Magic 8 Ball says: ‘reply hazy, try again’

You REALLY want to know what’s going on for Dakar 2009 right now? One film girl from Vancouver / Calgary and her one last shot… at The Dakar Rally. South America. January 2009.

Here you go – an email to a long time supporter (since this whole Dakar Documentary started way back in the summer of 2007). Geesh – I just wanted to finish my feature dramatic script on the thing – never dreamed I would be in the middle of it, about to jump off a cliff – again!
This is what’s on my mind, in my sights…

Start email here:

I really have no money to spare – I haven’t even looked at if I have enough for a place to stay! ha!

Give me some numbers, I am looking into everything this weekend. I need help for sure – if you know people I can stay with or travel with.
I am in Marrakesh and then hope to travel to a few points that Mark Miller mentioned and where Mitsubishi maybe training.

Most is the 2008 dakar route up till the Mauritanian border. Where we were supposed to go.

I would like to camp in the desert if it is safe. I was thinking of a camel trek? No idea prices. 4×4 would be super cool. I can’t guarantee anything will make broadcast. I have ideas, but without financial support or funding / financing – it’s over my head.

I am currently in negotiations with the ex-field producer for Versus from 2006, 2007 for a potential co-production.

There is a company here in Vancouver as well that I am meeting with next week.

MIPCOM is not far away and $$ need to be in. People (competitors and assistance) are dropping like flies. It’s not a good scene for all from last year’s project.

Morocco could be the end. I will get as far as I can, both with the film and Dakar, but we are all on our last legs.

Thanks for offering help.

Morocco from October 14th (late flight into marrakech) then latest to October 22nd – 23rd.

The rights fees for the show are high – just got them today – must negotiate with ASO or find sponsors or both. $60,000 Euro – ridiculous and higher than last year. What are they thinking? I might try Daniel Ferguson on that one.

End email there…

there you all have it. Right in the middle of it all and no more money to spare. I guess THIS is where it gets REALLY interesting… We are looking into sponsorship and funding and selling my Dakar undies to Japan to fund it. Seriously. Would be sad to stop now and I am not that attached to my cool Canadian Flag Briefs. Seriously – make me an offer… 😉

Ha! I should be careful – I might get a bid. 😉 

I will keep you posted over the next few weeks with the co-production offers and what teams are still in. I have some catching up to do with you all, but I was waiting till I had a different story to tell than… “soon!” Well, ‘soon’ enough, the project fate will be decided. I have no way of getting to Dakar 2009 on my own funds this year, so it is definately a different story at this point.

We are now writing the end of a long journey and time will tell where the grand finale will play out. 

Thanks to everyone for your lasting support. I wouldn’t be this far without it.

…not giving up.
– Shawna

Posted by on September 25, 2008 in DakarLOG, FilmLOG, WOOT


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