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“Going through the flood (in 2010) cemented our life here in Sayulita. We lived in Tamarindo at the time and lost everything; I was only able to grab our passports and a boxed set of Dr. Seuss books. It’s the relationships with people. I’ll never forget the fishermen in my house, digging out the mud and muck; it was pretty disgusting. Or the Moms who came by, sometimes on a golf cart wearing rubber rain boots and asking: What do you need? I only had about $500 pesos and thought about the question for a moment and realized the answer was a meal for my family.”
Darrin Polischuk of The Mango Tree Project is from Vancouver, British Columbia, has lived in Sayulita and San Pancho since the winter of 2007-08 and is a self-described visual storyteller. Starting his career as a high school teacher in the humanities, Darrin’s off-time pursuits have usually fallen into the realm of individual (and sometimes extreme) sports such as mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, snow boarding, and now surfing. Not long a teacher, Darrin’s storied resume includes broadcast TV, short films, video, photography (fashion work mostly), editing and writing.
Working both in Canada and southern California, Darrin has been involved with writing and pitching ideas for sports adventure TV shows and segments, sports magazines, mountain biking magazines, has had a handful of published articles and self-published a mountain biking guide book. “My mantra at the time was: Go do rad stuff and then write about it. I coordinated my own media tour and sold a whole lot of books. I was in my mid-thirties when I picked up a broadcast camera for the first time. I was shooting in 8 and 16 mm film, which added depth and color."
Expounding on how he came to Sayulita: “I already knew all about Sayulita from surfer friends in Vancouver before I ever visited. I surfed for the first time in Hawaii. Mountain climbing injuries ended mountain biking for me, but I could surf for a lifetime. I knew I would live here from the first day. I was already in Mexico full-time and married to a Mexican. I was decimated by the financial crash of 2008. I lost my three biggest clients and had to reinvent myself. I had a son by then and I very purposefully deconstructed my life to be a surf dad. I sold the fancy car and read books about deconstructing. We lived on $100 pesos a day, camping at Camaron and screen-printing tee-shirts in an Airstream trailer.”
“Then I became my own one-man band. I got back into shooting and purposefully kept it small because it was just me. I had experience with creating (visual) event packaging and was able to bring in another cinematographer to work on the 2nd Annual Punta Sayulita SUP event, on a bit of a shoestring budget. Photographer Anne Menke saw the video footage and our sons are of similar ages; we created a professional relationship. Anne refers to me as her Director of Photography and most of our collaborative work is in fashion.
I didn’t advertise at that time; it was all word-of-mouth. I have two kids now and happily spent 10 years of my life raising them. I have a need to make a little more money and realized that I could do better. There is a much larger talent pool available in Sayulita with the appropriate skill set and I am prepared now to make an investment in people who share my vision. I will always be the creative director and give final approval. Visual storytelling requires experience and maturity. I think a background in social studies helps interpret live action. There are so many digital-capturing tools accessible today, but if there is no story behind the image it lacks artistic perspective and is hollow, lacking soul. When shooting a wedding, for instance, my litmus test in photography is to capture what happens two seconds after an emotional moment.” Darrin often likes to be the second photographer. “The first photographer captures the wedding kiss, but I wait and show the Dad’s reaction, face full of emotion.”
“I’ve been a super keen observer all of my life and I’d like to think that I come at my work with an anthropological perspective. I’m only ever as good as my last project, whether it be for $5,000 pesos or $5,000 dollars; everything has to be excellent.”
Advertising his business, The Mango Tree Project, with SayulitaLife.com has definitely brought good projects his way and that he is busier than he might have imagined.
He has made a significant investment in state-of-the-art equipment and has a cinema-quality set-up. “I have the best equipment in, I would say, Nayarit; you would have to go to Guadalajara to find someone (on par).” Darrin is working toward a partnership with Riviera Nayarit and it is his immediate long-term goal to collaborate to create a visual story depicting the natural history of Nayarit, dating back to the Aztec migration, the local tribes and beyond. Looking to create an immediate sense of place for visitors upon arrival, Darrin hopes to create video footage that would be shown at the Puerto Vallarta airport, as well as in some of the high-end hotel lobbies, in-house movie theaters and guest rooms.