Wednesday December 17th, 2014

Raise Your Voice With Optimal Sound

BANGKOK, Thailand, 14 December 2014 – As I say frequently during my Backpack Documentary classes at American University as well as the Video Workshops that I conduct around the world, sound is the heartbeat of documentary. It is so important that viewers often will forgive images that are slightly out of focus or improperly composed, but they won’t forgive bad sound.

I had the occasion to work in the field with some of the students in my Bangkok Video Workshop, and one of those occasions illustrated how to effectively use basic equipment to gather optimal sound in the field.

One of the students was doing his story on craftsmen who make the metal pots in which Buddhist monks accept offerings of support from the general public. It’s a craft that rapidly is being outpaced by technology, the hand-made metal pots being replaced by cheaper, plastic substitutes.

The student interviewed two of the craftsmen who make the pots. Located between a busy street on one side and a quiet canal on the other, he positioned himself with his back toward the busy street and his directional microphone toward the canal. Just to be sure, he had another student hold a small recorder to his subjects, just out of site of his camera frame.

The results were impressive. He was just close enough to capture good sound and didn’t need the sound from the small recorder. You can hear the result in the first clip of this short video. In the second clip, I move to the side, with my iPhone microphone pointed toward the street – and the sound practically overwhelms the interview. In the last clip of the film I am behind the subject being interviewed, and the ambient sound almost completely wipes out the interview.

To view my video, click HERE.

To view my student’s video, click HERE.

So the next time you head out to the field, pay attention to the source of the sound. And point your directional microphone away from that sound. Be sure you are close enough to our subject so that the ambient sound doesn’t overwhelm the interview. And please, please, use earphones, so you can actually hear what you are recording.

This last workshop was a deeply gratifying experience. Students learned a new language. The visual storytelling language is universal. They learned how to make powerful, compelling videos. They learned how to Raise Their Voices with those videos. And they learned how to be heard, to have an impact, and to promote change.

They learned how to establish their presence on the Internet, using the videos they produced during our event.

And they learned how to create community, to connect with other communities, to cultivate these communities, and to join the international dialogue about issues that are important to them, their families, their communities and the countries where they live.

This is what I teach in my ONLINE Video Journalism Workshops (see http://videojournalismworkshops.com) and in my LIVE workshops (see http://videojournalismworkshops.com/live).

 

Monday December 15th, 2014

Raising My Voice With Translation in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand, 14 December 2014 — On the second day of our four-day workshop, I shot this scene of Ying Panyapon, translating my English into the Thai language. It’s a process that adds a critical element to my workshops, as people in many of the countries where I conduct the events don’t always speak English.

You can see the video HERE.

Because I’m fluent in Spanish I can deliver the workshops anywhere in Latin America without a translator, but Thailand is another story. Although the process can be time-consuming, translation is worth the extra effort to be able to reach this audience of students in this part of the world.

There is something at work here deeper than simply putting on a video workshop. It’s more than just teaching a skill. Or a craft.

These events have become part of my mission and my purpose. In addition to the skill or the craft, I’m teaching people how to find and to cultivate community, how to have greater voice, how to RAISE their voices to have an impact. To make a difference.

I don’t know that I could put in the long, hard hours if there were no altruistic motive in play. Click HERE to see more.

 

Saturday December 13th, 2014

Raising My Voice in Thailand: So What?

BANGKOK, Thailand, 13 December 2014 — Translator Ying Panyapon, changes my words into the Thai language during Video Workshop #2, while I ask the “So What?” question.

So what? So what if you’re doing a video about a man who makes his living selling trinkets on the street? So what if you’re doing a story about a tree – the last of its kind in Bangkok – that is being protected and cultivated by a team of concerned citizens? So what? What does it mean? Why is this important? Why should anybody watch your video?

I learned the importance of asking these questions (and answering them) when I did a couple of pieces for ABC’s Nightline With Ted Koppel. If you can’t answer these questions you probably are not going to get an assignment.

Tell me about the significance of your story. What does it mean to real people? Does your story embody a larger, broader issue that should concern other members of your community? If not, perhaps you are just wasting your time producing meaningless entertainment.

There is something at work here deeper than simply putting on a video workshop. It’s more than just teaching a skill. Or a craft.

These events have become part of my mission and my purpose. In addition to the skill or the craft, I’m teaching people how to find and to cultivate community, how to have greater voice, how to RAISE their voices to have an impact. To make a difference.

I don’t know that I could put in the long, hard hours if there were no altruistic motive in play. And that’s the answer to my “So What?” question.

And this is what I teach in my ONLINE Video Workshop. Click HERE to learn more.

 

 

Saturday December 13th, 2014

Raising My Voice in Thailand: The Pan

BANGKOK, Thailand, 13 December 2014 — During the first day of our workshop I demonstrate how to make a smooth pan without using a tripod. Start by facing the position you desire to be in at the end of the pan, then twist back to the point where you want to begin it. Now just relax your muscles and let your body return to its natural, unwound position where you end the pan.

Doing the shot this way delivers a smoother pan because you are not forcing your body into the pan. On the contrary, you are simply relaxing it.

To see the video, click HERE.

This is just one of the tricks of the craft that I’ve learned along the way. It’s part of what I teach during my ONLINE Video Workshops. See http://videojournalismworkshops.com

Learn how to raise your voice with video.

There is something at work here deeper than simply putting on a video workshop. It’s more than just teaching a skill. Or a craft. These events have become part of my mission and my purpose. I feel that, in addition to the skill or the craft, I’m also teaching people how to find and to cultivate community, how to have greater voice, how to RAISE their voices to have an impact. To make a difference. Take a stand. Be heard.

I don’t know that I could put in the long, hard hours if there were no altruistic motive in play.

 

Friday December 12th, 2014

Raising My Voice at Workshop in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand, 12 December 2014 — This is the scene in front of my hotel when I first arrive at 1 am. What’s the lesson? There’s a story on every block, in every city of the world. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open. That’s what I’ll be telling the students at my workshop, which starts tomorrow, Saturday 13 December.

Click HERE to see the video.

This is the second workshop I’m conducting in Bangkok. The first was earlier this year. The underlying message of these events is, “Raise Your Voice.” For the first time in the history of mankind, and because of the advances in technology, we can raise our voices to tell visual stories about issues that concern us. Anyone with a cell phone and access to the Internet now can communicate instantly, globally, and in the visual language that is understood by all.

The key, of course, is the ability to speak that visual storytelling language. And that’s why I’m here. To teach the visual storytelling language. This is the same language that I teach in my ONLINE Video Workshops, http://videojournalismworkshops.com, as well as my LIVE Video Workshops, http://videojournalismworkshops.com/live.

Wednesday December 10th, 2014

Off to Thailand to “Raise Your Voice!”

WASHINGTON, DC, 10 December 2014 — Heading out this morning for Video Workshop #2 with the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) in Bangkok, where I’ll teach journalists how to “raise their voices” with the latest in technology and technique.
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)

Monday December 8th, 2014

Interpreting “Juan de los Muertos”

WASHINGTON, DC, 6 December 2014 — I was honored to moderate a discussion of the film, “Juan de los Muertos,” or “Juan of the Dead,” shown at GALA Hispanic Theatre in the nation’s capital.

The screening was part of the “La Nueva Ola: Films from Mexico, Cuba & Spain” festival that ran from 3-7 December. A Spanish/Cuban co-production, “Juan de los Muertos” is the first zombie film ever made in Cuba.

The New York Times called it “a daringly irreverent satire” which suggested that, “52 years of socialist rule have turned Cuba into a zombie state.” The fact that the film was included in an officially sanctioned festival to which Cubans flocked to see it, also suggests that the film “has become an improbable landmark in the gradual opening of Cuban culture,” the Times said.

Whether you agree with the Times’ assessment or not, “Juan de los Muertos” is a funny, entertaining film that should not be missed.

The production was a powerful visual story that used intelligent editing and subtle dialogue to explore and to critique. Unfortunately, viewers unfamiliar with Cuba might find those subtleties difficult to understand.

(Photo by Esther Gentile.)

Monday November 10th, 2014

Talking With the Amazon at American University

WASHINGTON, DC, 7 November 2014 — Professor Tod Swanson of Arizona State University addresses participants of a workshop organized by the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University. The workshop was titled, “Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America: Rights and Justice Claims around the Environment and Gender/Sexuality.”

Dr. Swanson spoke to the group about how his work on Amazonian religion seeks to understand how heightened empathy with plant and animal species is believed to mediate emotional relations to family and community.

I hope to work again with the CLALS on the current round of research. My first collaboration with the Center included a trip to Guatemala where I produced three videos on God and gangs in that Central American nation. You can see them:

HERE, HERE, and HERE.

(Photo by Bill Gentile.)

 

 

 

Thursday October 30th, 2014

Veteran Backpack Journalist Visits the New

WASHINGTON, DC, 29 October 2014 — Former student Bill Delano took time from his busy freelance schedule to Skype with students in my Backpack Documentary class — 10 years after he, himself, was a member of the same class. Delano has gone on to build an extraordinarily successful career for himself, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level. After his visit, students used these words to describe him: dedicated, search, unique, genuine, captivating, passionate, thoughtful, imaginative. The list goes on.

Take a look at Delano’s production reel and see why my students were so impressed. Click HERE to see it.
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)

Wednesday October 15th, 2014

Decade of Docs in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC, 14 October 2014 — I showed the progression of my work from black and white still photos to high definition documentaries at a function at American University’s School of Communication (SOC). My presentation was part of the panel discussion, “A Decade of Documentary Filmmaking in DC.”

The event was presented by Docs In Progress and Our City Film Festival in collaboration with Women in Film and Video-DC, and the SOC.

The discussion was moderated by Sam Meddis, adjunct professor at American University and George Mason University. In addition to myself, panelists included Erica Ginsberg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Docs in Progress; Kiley Kraskouskas, Co-Founder and President of Thinking Forward Media; and Jeff Krulik, documentary filmmaker in the DC area since the mid-1980s.

(Photo by Esther Gentile.)