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How This Filmmaker Blurs The Line Between Documentary & Vlog

New Zealand-based filmmaker Elina Osborne’s YouTube Channel is one we’ve subscribed to for quite a while. We even interviewed her about how she used the Sony Alpha 7S III and the rest of the gear she carried with her to film her journey when she thru-hiked the 2,650 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail. So, when she released a new film, "Hafu Way Home | Hiking in Japan with my Brothers," we got turned off the distractaions and got dialied in for an immediate viewing, then we connected with her to learn more. Keep reading to hear more from Osborne and how her film blurs the line between documentary and vlog.

See how filmmaker Elina Osborne made, “Hafu Way Home | Hiking in Japan with my Brothers” and how she's blurring the line between vlogs and documentaries.

Hafu Way Home


At the start of 2023, Elina released the film, “Hafu Way Home | Hiking in Japan with my Brothers.” It’s a 23-minute film documenting Elina and her two younger brothers as they hiked the ancient Kumano Kodō Pilgrimage in Japan. These pilgrimage routes were developed as a way for people to move between the sacred areas on the Kii Peninsula. They are the only pilgrimage routes besides the Camino de Santiago to be designated a World Heritage site. 

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/125-sec., f/1.4, ISO 1000

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/125-sec., f/1.4, ISO 1000

Elina and her brothers had lost their mom a year earlier. Elina explains that they are half Japanese, on her mom’s side and that she was really their family's bridge to their heritage. After their mother’s passing, they were longing to reconnect with their heritage. Hiking in Japan has long since been on Elina’s bucket list and going on this journey with her brothers made it even more special. 

The pilgrimage takes roughly five days. The film shows what the adventure was like for the three siblings. It is also narrated by Elina, who talks about feeling a connection to her mom and Japan. It’s a beautiful blend of a fun adventure film and a deeper, emotional journey as they confront what they’ve lost through the loss of their mom.

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/800-sec., f/1.4, ISO 250

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/800-sec., f/1.4, ISO 250

Filming Style: Blending Documentary & Vlogging


Elina is no stranger to creating films around long hikes. These types of films pose a number of challenges, one of which is the lack of film crew. This means Elina’s films blend traditional documentary filmmaking and vlog-style filmmaking. Elina explains it by stating, “I think because I have this underlying burning passion to move into the documentary space, that's always going to be the basis of what I’m thinking about. But I also recognize that seeing somebody's face is just why we connect so much to creators online and in that space. Because it's the sense of being let into their world without it feeling so staged.”

There is also quite a balancing act in films like this. Elina describes, “I think there's always a sense of trying to find that balance between I'm here to actually experience this because whatever experience I have is the thing that will translate versus capturing and filming that.” She also explains that in the post-production, she walked a fine line between showing what the hike and physical adventure was like but also diving into the emotional journey the siblings were going on.

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/200-sec., f/1.4, ISO 1250

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/200-sec., f/1.4, ISO 1250

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/160-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1000

Photo by Elina Osborne. Sony Alpha 7S III. Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. 1/160-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1000

A Lightweight Kit For Adventure


While this was one of Elina’s brother’s first multi-day hike, Elina herself has done many intense adventures like this one. She was able to set forth on this journey without much physical preparation. However, she did want to keep her kit pretty lightweight.

To shoot the film, Elina brought her Sony Alpha 7S III and her Sony 24mm f/1.4 G Master. That’s what she shot the entire film on, in addition to a small tripod and a shotgun microphone. She states that the flip out screen was invaluable because she utilized so many low angle shots. She also mostly used autofocus, so she could set up a shot and then include herself in the frame, and she mentioned how fantastic the Sony autofocusing system is and how helpful it was.

Elina Osborne

Elina Osborne filming in Japan

Moving forward, Elina is continuing to plan hikes and adventures that she can document and share with her audience. You can see all her work on her YouTube channel (@ElinaOsborne) and Instagram account (@elinasborne). 

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