Selfie stick optional

Seven ways to do better live reporting from events

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Ready to stream

We’re all using social media, so there’s an assumption that anyone can also live tweet from an event. But I don’t think that’s the case, or at least, not without practice. Often conference updates feel a bit bland (so what?), or irrelevant to those who aren’t in the room, or they simply miss out a lot of opportunities.

So I attended the Nonprofit Tech for Good webinar last week on live online reporting, and learned it takes a fair bit of thought to create useful, accurate updates that add to the conversation in the room, and that are valuable long after the conference has finished. Below are some tips: Continue reading “Selfie stick optional”

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“It’s done and it sucks”: learning from your last creative project

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From Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

Before I get into the next project — and before descending too far down the inevitable path of hopelessness/doubt/boredom as illustrated by Austin Kleon — I’m trying to keep in mind the stuff I learned from the last one.

The last project turned into a 40-minute film, ‘Unladylike’, about women and girls who box. It was the first time I’d made a documentary and the first time I’d worked with my two co-filmmakers.

The real lesson was that doing something like that is possible, if you’re prepared to put the hours in. But there were some more specific things I learned — things that could apply to other types of project, too:  Continue reading ““It’s done and it sucks”: learning from your last creative project”

Truly enterprising

Posters
Just enough budget for posters

The bizarre and wonderful Wakaliwood is making ripples around the world.

The morning we visited the “studio” of Uganda’s homegrown action movie industry, the team was expecting a group of French and German reporters. The story has been picked up by the BBC, VICE magazine, Al Jazeera, and national Irish television. The films have a cult following, with fans in Russia, Guatemala, China. In the rehearsal space – which doubles up as a bedroom for some of the actors and storage space for props and equipment – there’s a wall with foreign names scribbled on it.

“Are these all your visitors?”, we asked.

“No”, we were told, “just the ones we ‘killed’”. Continue reading “Truly enterprising”

The Swahiliwood sceptics

A class with the Ghetto Film Project, Uganda
A class with the Ghetto Film Project, Uganda

Seeing a TV set when boarding a long-distance bus in Tanzania usually made my heart sink. The music videos or the homegrown melodramas – the ones that take 10 minutes to tell you that our main character is upset, or one minute to show someone pulling into a driveway – never seemed to make those twelve-hour journeys pass more quickly.

So I understood Nes’s point, when I sat in on one of his classes in the slums of Uganda (I’ve written about that, here): be more subtle. To illustrate, the Ugandan filmmaker showed two shorts: powerful films with almost no dialogue that told a whole story without spelling it out. Western-made films, of course.

But I wonder now what he’d make of the critique, on Africa is a Country, of how the Western film industry is muscling in on (in this case) Tanzanian culture. Continue reading “The Swahiliwood sceptics”

A poor perspective

Seeing it from their side
Shifting the viewpoint

‘Very happy, very sad, or super determined’ –  the usual spectrum of emotions we assign to poor people, says sociologist Michael Woolcock.

His recent lecture at the Institute of Development Studies – watch it online, below – sets out to change that.

Woolcock begs for a more, well, human way of looking at what it’s like to be poor. How? Through the lens we’ve been using to look at other people’s lives since time began – storytelling, including in its more modern forms. Continue reading “A poor perspective”

Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo

ConcentrationI’d had my doubts: I have no qualifications in youth work, nor do I have years of filmmaking/photography experience. “’If you can’t – teach’… eh??” remarked some guy I met in London, the week before leaving – and I wondered if he was right. Maybe I was being totally irresponsible.

But – with a first full ‘participatory photo/video’ project behind me, with young people in Kazo, Uganda – I’m glad I stuck with my instincts. Of course, the doubts didn’t disappear (for a blow-by-blow account, see here) – but I know a few people learned something. As for me, here’s what I learned. Continue reading “Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo”

The Uganda chapter

Making ofThis month I’m in Kazo, just outside Kampala (Uganda), working with a community organisation called UYWEFA – who I found via idealist.org, a great resource for non-profit opportunities all over the world.

I’m doing film-making and photography projects with young people, schoolkids, and HIV positive women – not to mention a few other unexpected tasks like filming the local football tournament. More details, pictures and videos coming soon – in the meantime, I’m blogging from over here.

 

Like nobody’s watching

Dancers in the darkTwo-and-a-bit afternoons of shooting, many more of editing, and some frustratingly slow file transfers all the way to China ended up with this (see below): a 7-minute clip about using dance for adults with disabilities.

Challenges? Not enough time to shoot, you might say – but there’s never enough (though I would’ve loved to film the dancers at home or around the city). Attempting to interview people with learning difficulties who spoke no English? With a good interpreter – once I’d clarified she had to translate my questions, not answer them herself – it actually worked out ok. The really difficult bit, the thing I hadn’t even really thought of till I was standing there, camera in hand, was pretty basic. How do I film these people? Continue reading “Like nobody’s watching”

Pictures without pity

Which image of Africa would you rather see: skeletal, abandoned child, or healthy-looking working family?

Most people would say the latter; certainly most of those in the aid sector  – some of whom were discussing this at the recent PICS festival – now consider the starving child images not only unethical, but also unhelpful. They’re “not effective”, is the general view.

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Provocative without the pity

But effective for what? Fundraising appeals today still deploy the same imagery, and the same language, as they did in the 1980s, when “poverty porn” made it to the mainstream with the Ethiopian famine hitting our headlines. That’s not only an indication that we’re seeing the same problems as we did three decades ago; it means we’re also stubbornly looking at them in the same way.

Continue reading “Pictures without pity”