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PRE-PRODUCTION: Design & Communication
PRODUCTION: Engagement & Improvisation
POST-PRODUCTION: Marathon Jogging
I bring forward one of the quotes I had applied to bearing witness:
It still rings true to me.
Every one has the innate desire to communicate our experiences and by doing so, with words or whatever medium of expression, we validate our histories and thus, our identities.
[It is also interesting to note how this desire to express ourselves may be driven by our hope to go, sane (Adam Phillips, 2006). But I digress.]
Taking Focault’s words into account, my colleagues and I approached Barat’s story with much respect. Communicating his photos and stories not only serve as a salvation for him from his trauma but also for the millions of people displaced on this earth, right now. His work speaks of a much larger, current issue which requires all of our attention and compassion.
“Figures at a Glance”. 2018. UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency. Available at http://www.unhcr.org/en-au/figures-at-a-glance.html [19 June 2018]
Being on board this project has taught me about being an active witness. It’s more than just bearing or receiving a story. Upon being aware that we have a piece of something vital, which illustrates the bigger part of our (his/hers)tory like the refugee crisis, we have the choice to encourage a call to action within ourselves and the community.
Listening to Barat, my colleagues and I have become second-hand witnesses to the tragedy and by retelling his story, we weave ourselves into this world-wide tapestry of experience, expression and salvation. May those who watch our video do the same.
I am so grateful to Kim, my colleagues and Barat for having me on board, for this opportunity to receive and give. It has been one of, if not the most, fulfilling project I had ever been a part of. It gave me insight about refugees in my birth country, Indonesia. [Never had I heard it on the local news.] Besides the news value of the story, what made this collaboration so exiting were the people.
I was used to being the stern team-player – which made collaborations a chore for everyone. Participating in this studio has encouraged me to be more playful with my colleagues. The right buttons were pushed and working together felt easy, for the most part, due to penguin/turkey videos and screaming, “call your mother!” to each other’s faces. Or, as Jen highlighted, it was the shared absence of a nose bridge. Although I was shaking in class and could not wait to step out the door, this lightheartedness and infectious humour had me looking forward to our meetings and progress.
We all wanted the same things: to be professional; we wanted to practise using the equipment, apply “on-set vocabulary”, and deliver Barat’s story: we shared an an esprit de corps. Being objective and organised from the beginning was also crucial to pacing ourselves; our asking, “what’s the agenda for today and this week,” accompanied with the natural aptitude to laugh with (and at) each other, helped us to complete this storytelling marathon.
Undeniably, there were many times we had different opinions or when each of us prioritised/valued different things, during which we would either 1) democratically cast a vote and/or 2) trust the designated leader of that department [being organised from the beginning, we played our respective roles]. We initiated and compromised; provided ideas and let them go. We move on.
Compromise and letting go are probably the heaviest chisels shaping our final cut. The downside of our respect was our holding onto the details too preciously. I think it possibly stems from insecurity, the fear of not doing enough or serving the story justice. Initially, our approach was to 1) organise his story 2) identify crucial elements 3) include as much important details as possible. With about an hour of footage, compressing them to 3-5mins seemed impossible. For weeks, we shaved and shaved and shaved. We decided to cut time by incorporating texts to contextualise and “mark” his journey.
Then we showed our rough cut and everything changed. Ok, it sounds more dramatic than it is. Kim suggested 1) there was too much text throughout yet not enough to contextualise the plight of Hazaras and 2) we should go back to / question our topic sentence.
So we changed direction, or maybe we became more specific about what to convey. I suggested that, instead of focusing on Barat as an individual asylum seeker, we focus on the danger and arduousness of an asylum seeker’s journey. And it became less about him and more about the people and situation: the objective truth (Michael P. Lynch, 2004).
Perhaps this little shift in perception was what relieved us from our insecurities; maybe we now felt more in control of our story making, it became more about our voice and salvation, through his.
So we got rid of all the texts. Well, almost. Lo and behold! It worked! Turns out, we were underestimating our audience – maybe ourselves. In retrospect, we have allowed the audience to do some work and follow the story, rather than being fed it. I need to remember that it’s the chase which makes learning a story fun. I hope that with my future projects, I can be more purposeful about identifying and placing the bait.
We continued to cut down details by questioning what we identified as important or reflective of our statement, making the work as concise as possible before refining it with details like sound, colour, and pinter pauses.
Searching and editing the sounds made me panic. For a while, I regretted pitching for soundscape. “Have I overestimated myself and the public library?” The sounds made the video comical and I was afraid of diminishing the value of the story. Then I experimented with the timing, fading in and out, and layering different audio details to create a more realistic environment sound.
Compared to our fellow creative peers, our documentary is more straightforward. After everyone’s group pitch, I anxiously suggested our team take a more experimental approach but I’m glad that, with this story, we kept grounded and served it instead. Compromise and let go.