Learn first-hand in the field
from Bill Gentile how to make powerful documentaries in Nicaragua, the land of lakes and volcanoes in the heart of Central America.
The "Backpack Documentary Expedition: Nicaragua" is the first of its kind. Bill Gentile takes three students only on a 12-day immersion in the process of documentary filmmaking. Participants follow American volunteers working in the region of Nindiri to learn the essence of documentary -- using media to transform the world. Drawing on Gentile’s 30+ years of experience in the field, students acquire knowledge and skills that otherwise might take months or even years to attain.
The region of Nindiri is located between the capital city of Managua and the city of Masaya. The principal town of Nindiri was one of the first towns founded in Nicaragua and is home to an impressive four-hundred-year-old temple that is now a national monument. While Nindiri town has preserved much of its colonial flare, many of the surrounding rural communities lack even basic infrastructure. Many of the people there are farmers. More recently, many have become workers in the “Free Trade Zone” textile factories. Neither alternative provides more than a very limited income, and the communities have few options to improve their own housing, education, or healthcare. Bridges to Community started work in Nindiri in 2006.
A pioneer in the field of backpack documentary, Gentile has worked in Nicaragua since covering the 1979 Sandinista Revolution for United Press International (UPI). He lived there in the 1980s covering the Contra War for Newsweek Magazine.
Now he has linked up with Bridges to Community, a leading U.S. non-profit organization, to offer you a unique opportunity to travel to Nicaragua and document one of the group’s missions. Based in Ossining, New York, Bridges to Community is a non-profit community development organization aiming “to create a world where basic needs are treated as human rights: shelter, nutrition, education, healthcare, and employment. We work to meet this goal by bringing groups of volunteers to live in materially poor communities where they work on our ongoing community development projects.”
Nicaragua is a land of extraordinary beauty. It is rich in history. Its people are spontaneous, welcoming and friendly. Sadly, it also is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. It is destination for thousands of U.S. volunteers who seek to engage, embrace and empower.
You can, too.
The Backpack Documentary Expeditions With Bill Gentile are intensive, 12-day immersions in creating character-driven television/web productions with hand-held digital cameras by a single practitioner. They cover the gamut of this storytelling craft from the genesis and shaping of story ideas, to shooting powerful images that drive the story, to the capture and use of sound, to script writing, narration, and editing with Macintosh computers and Final Cut Pro. The expeditions are appropriate for beginners with some experience as well as existing practitioners who desire to sharpen their skills or acquire new ones. We welcome photojournalists, print and video journalists, aspiring documentarians, filmmakers and independent storytellers. They are perfect for practitioners who want to work in the rapidly growing field of non-profit and non-governmental organizations.
The Backpack Documentary Expeditions are for beginners with some experience as well as more seasoned practitioners who want to sharpen their skills and acquire new ones. We welcome photojournalists making the transition to film and video. Print journalists seeking to expand their skills will find the workshops particularly useful. Broadcast journalists accustomed to the technology and techniques preceding today's hand-held digital cameras will find that the newer equipment delivers a more immediate, intimate version of visual communication than their predecessors. Video journalists, documentarians, filmmakers and independent storytellers who want to expand their skill set and learn from one of the pioneers in the field also will benefit from the Workshops. You must be at least 18 years old to attend. You must be willing and able to cope with the challenges inherent in a developing country.
You will learn how to use the power of visual information. You will learn to use hand-held digital cameras to document and to change the world you live in. You will learn a new visual language and you will learn to participate in the international dialogue that is visual communication. You will learn how to make powerful television and web productions, to tailor your work for greatest impact, to package your presentation and to mold your message for major broadcasters and Internet outlets. You will learn how to construct meaningful stories about important issues.
The expedition leader, instructor and guide is Bill Gentile, an independent filmmaker teaching at American University in Washington, DC. He is a pioneer in the craft of backpack journalism and character-driven documentary, and is one of the first to use the hand-held digital cameras that have revolutionized visual communication for television and the Web. He worked for Video News International (VNI), precursor of The New York Times Television Company, and has completed assignments for The Learning Channel, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Television, ABC's Nightline With Ted Koppel, NOW With Bill Moyers, NOW on PBS, Court TV and Lion TV. He shared the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights Reporting, Honorable Mention, for a story on rape during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. He shared two National Emmy Awards and was nominated for two others.
One of his most recent projects is "Afghanistan: The Forgotten War." In May-June of 2008, Gentile was embedded as Correspondent/Producer for nearly three weeks with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province along the border with Pakistan. Broadcast by NOW on PBS, his piece, "Afghanistan: The Forgotten War," was nominated for a national Emmy Award. The film won the Best of Competition Award in the Broadcast Educators Association (BEA) Short Form Faculty Documentary Competition.
Gentile brings over 30 years of field experience to these expeditions. He began in 1977 as reporter for the Mexico City News and correspondent for United Press International (UPI) based in Mexico City. He spent two years as editor on UPI's Foreign Desk in New York, then moved to Nicaragua and became Newsweek Magazine’s Contract Photographer for Latin America and the Caribbean. His book of photographs, "Nicaragua," won the Overseas Press Club Award for Excellence. Gentile is featured in two award-winning documentaries about international journalism in Nicaragua, "The World Is Watching," and "The World Stopped Watching." See his bio, examples of his work (film, photo) and his blog.
Photo by Scott Wallace.
No. Participants will follow and document English-speaking American volunteers working with Bridges to Community. Bill Gentile will provide any translation necessary when dealing with Nicaraguan locals.
Participants are required to bring their own digital camera, laptop computer with Final Cut Pro, external hard drive and tape. We strongly suggest mini-DV cameras with manual capability to allow practitioners to control aperture, shutter speed and focus.
Fee for the expedition is $4,445.00 per participant. Hotel, in-country transportation, guide, translator, instruction, mentoring, handouts and meals are included. Gentile and his staff also provide:
No. The feed does not include travel to Nicaragua. Each participant must arrange for travel to Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. Bill Gentile and his assistants are responsible for all transportation costs once you arrive. Nor does the fee include insurance or personal expenses.
Register here, or download the online Registration Form. Fill it out and send it, along with a check or Money Order made out to Bill Gentile, to:
Bill Gentile Productions
3243 Quesada St. NW
Washington, DC 20015
Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. SPACE IS LIMITED TO THREE PARTICIPANTS ONLY so don't wait to apply.
You get a 100 percent refund if you notify us 14 days or more prior to the beginning of the course.
You get 50 percent refund if you notify us between seven and 13 days prior to the beginning of the course.
You get 0 percent refund if you advise us fewer than six days prior to the beginning of the course.
3243 Quesada St. NW
Washington, DC 20015
Because the product provided is a service, "delivery" will be determined by the dates of the workshop.
Martha Dodge made this film during the 24 June - 3 July 2011 Backpack Documentary Expedition: Nicaragua. This is Martha's second film about NGOs working overseas, a genre of documentary filmmaking that she intends to pursue as a career.
"Thank you so much Bill!
It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you. You are a really great teacher! Doing your workshop in Nicaragua was one of the best decisions I ever made! It's an honor to learn from such a pioneer and phenomenal journalist. Plus it was a joy to really get to know you. I loved how laughter was a big part of this journey... I feel so inspired and eager to really continue in this process and build upon what I have learned."
"A House for Teresa"
Backpack Documentary Expedition: Nicaragua
24 June - 3 July 2011
Photo by Bill Gentile, 1988