A day I’ve been waiting for. I’ve completed the elephant film that brought me to Northern Thailand ten years ago.

Why so long? The answer: the journey has been fraught with sharp, thorny path empediments—navigating in and around local politics, other art projects, funding; all the usual suspects.

Yesterday I was sitting with my most capable webmaster and site designer, Tim Davies  who has been encouraging me to better nurture my blog site. “Let it blossom,” he says and so within this context, I do invite readers who have questions, ideas, opinions—even donations— to sally forth; The PANOM PROJECT is never ending and it is only one project, one form of the creative spirit that shapes my life.


The other day I was asked by a new friend what brought me to the land of the elephant and why. Why film, after having made a career as a painter? We’ve all had epiphanic moments that suddenly throttle us into a new space, a different direction or a completely new suit of ideas. It was the autumn of 1998. I had been reading a recent issue of Scientific American while basking in the late sun in front of my Port Townsend studio, a strong chilly wind racing across the straits of Juan de Fuca. I began reading an article on the fate of the captive elephant. By the time I had finished it, I had literally decided to sell my studio, give away most of my possessions and purchase a video camera and ticket to Thailand. Even though I had little experience in that arena, I felt it was way I could use my creative energies to shape something that might make a difference. I completed the task of preparations in six months.

The first contact I made was with Soraida Salwala, Director General and founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital  She is a constant and vital force in the protection of the Asian elephant, both captive and wild elephants. The elephant hospital is between Chiangmai and Lampang, Thailand.

When I first began visualizing the project, I was convinced the music of Jami Sieber  would have to be the music for the film. I invited her over to experience the elephants and she’s been coming back yearly, on her own, writing and giving tours to those who want to learn more about the captive elephant. Jami has donated the profits of her CD Hidden Sky to the elephants. She continuously enriches her experience while traveling in the land of the elephants and thereby enriching us with the gift of her music.

Between beginning the elephant film and its ending, I have created five other films, all relatively short documentaries on artists, two of which have received First Place Awards for Best Short Documentary in various film festivals– Cadmium Red Light and Ed and Ed. You can just click on the links to find trailers for these films on my web site in other projects and also on Youtube.

In my next blog, I’ll explain the word ‘Panom’, its meaning for me and the project, I’ll share own personal feelings about the current state of the captive Asian elephant, as well as those diminishing few in the wild left to us. I’ll offer my thoughts on captive animals in general, such as those in circuses and zoos and other entertainment industries. I’d also like to share and exchange ideas about how we can and must better educate the minds of young people on the importance of protecting and sustaining the myriad of species of which we are so dependent.

I do hope you enjoy the trailer. The film itself will hopefully soon enter the world of film festivals and I’ll keep everyone informed of its journey.

If you’d like to help support the project, any small (or large) donation will go toward helping the film reach its post-production state and packaging of DVDs.
Profits from the DVDs are dedicated to the FAE elephant hospital.

Please do let me know if you’re interested in purchasing a DVD of Panom, Cousin to the Clouds. You’re name will be added to the list and notice will be sent as soon as the CD is available. It will be available on my web site

Galen Garwood

More anon,
Galen Garwood