Film-making for development and ethnographic films

Film-making for development and ethnographic films

Starting on Monday 3rd April, I will be partaking in a short course in film-making for development. This is just a little update which I wanted to share with you, as I am more than excited to be taking part.

The course is held by Postcode Films, which consists of a small team of experienced film-makers, editors, directors and producers. Although taking place at UEA, from which they have worked with a number of students for a number of years, the brief is to produce and edit a short film located somewhere within Norwich, about a particular person doing a particular action.

From my understanding, the course will equip participants with skills in film-making, from using audio and visual equipment, producing a treatment and location recce, an overview of the ethics and moral codes behind film-making, and editing, all of which can be applied within a development context later – if you wish, and of course, I do.

As I may have mentioned earlier in this blog, my interests lie with journalism and documentary films within a development context, hence why I am super excited to be taking part. I do, however, still need to refine an idea – I know, I know, I have left it a little late, however, what I am aiming to concentrate most on with this project, is the ability to tell a compelling story through the eyes of the protagonist, through a ‘bottom-up’ style, so to speak. Therefore, creating the right narrative is highly important.

Alongside generating and researching ideas, you can prepare for the course in another key way, which I have probably found to be the most helpful part of the process so far: watching other short documentary films produced by the directors from Postcode Films, and other students who have previously taken part in the course in previous years.

Having watched The Way of the BellsCrabs Gather Here and Seeds of Happiness, it has occurred to me just how important it is to have a strong protagonist who can tell their story confidently and well. It is clear that the students also paid particular attention to the audio used in their short documentary films, so as to enhance their film and accentuate their visuals. The editing, too, appears professional and well-thought through, which does demonstrate the standards that Postcode Films are looking for. So no pressure, hey?

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Source: Aeon

I also came across another short docu/ethnographic film called ‘Unravel’ which illustrates the journey undertaken by the clothes which we, in the West, recycle.

The film has factual representations of workers sorting through and ‘slacking’ the clothes, and placing them back into vessels to re-weave them, all of which takes place in several towns in India. Most importantly, the film includes personality. The female workers who are given a voice (albeit we are not provided with any names) bring their work to life by commenting on the lifestyles of those in the West – an exotic place which the majority of them wish to explore, yet have never left the borders of India. They are entertained by the sizes of the jeans they find and the fact that most of the pieces they handle appear to be new and hardly even worn, much to their intrigue.

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Female garment workers expressing their curiosities of Western behaviours. Source: YouTube

I did find this particular image of the West to be equally as interesting, particularly given the fact that they are talking through word of mouth and rather ‘eticly’ – commenting on the behaviours of a social group from without, i.e. the perspective of the outsider (Skinner, 1938, in Morris et al., 1999). They claim that ‘rich’ Westeners are running out of water, yet water is just as expensive as the clothes they buy, wear and recycle, and so come to the conclusion that their money never seems to run out. This is far from the truth for many. Yet, from an anthropological stance, it is rather fascinating to witness this insight from a so-called ‘outsider’; the conclusions that one comes to about people within other culture groups, which they haven’t met in person, appears to be somewhat part of human logic and reasoning, and a process of understanding cultural differences.

You can watch the whole film here, which can take you directly to YouTube.

For more of the films made by UEA students in partnership with Postcode Films, check out the film library.

Lastly, I am also due to be taking part on two other film-making masterclasses in the next coming months, one for documentary film-making and the other for journalism for film. They are hosted by Roundhouse Studios, within their Young Creatives programme. I have never attended a class up until present, but have always tried to keep updated with the projects they are offering, some of which include apprenticeships for young people who do not have a desire to attend university, but would rather pursue their creative endeavours through an alternative route. This is why I perceive the Roundhouse to be a valuable resource for ‘Young Creatives’. Check out the masterclasses and other sessions provided within the programme here.

So I will try to provide updates as soon as I can on what we have been getting up to in the film-making course, but for now, do enjoy watching these documentary films I have mentioned above, and if there are other titles that have interested you, do let me know!

 

Reference:

Ames, D., Leung, K., Lickel, B. and Morris, M.W, (1999). VIEWS FROM INSIDE AND OUTSIDE: INTEGRATING EMIC AND ETIC INSIGHTS ABOUT CULTURE AND JUSTICE JUDGEMENT in Academy old Management Review 1999, Vol. 24. No. 1781-796. Accessed 29 March 2017.

 

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Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

Student Media: A ‘race’ to the bottom

We are almost two decades into the 21st century and still we find that minority groups continue to be marginalised within mainstream media, often being misrepresented or unrepresented altogether. Which is worse?  Surely what is covered within the media is worth discussing (usually), but what about the stories of the voices which are left unexposed? Should they not bear an equal weight of importance, too? Why chose not to cover the struggles faced by black women and girls within Sub-Saharan Africa, but have expansive airtime of an anti-immigration, anti-global aid assistance and misogynistic (for good measure) president? These are complex questions which require much thought and discussion into the ways in which this normative ignorance within media reportage can possibly be improved.

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Hazel Healey from New Internationalist talks about community share

On Saturday 4 March, the ‘War of Words: Progressive Media Conference’ took place at my very own university, the University of East Anglia. The aim of the conference was to bring together like-minded groups and individuals who share the same passion for highlighting the more progressive side of journalism, exploring the benefits that alternative media, such as The Norwich Radical, who largely organised the day-long event, can bring to our societies.

Panel discussions, interactive workshops and talks were given on this very topic, from exploring the representations of such groups and identities within mainstream media, including: Roma and Traveller groups, women, and race, to the powers of a ‘music as a force for change’, which I sadly could not attend – although I have been told that this was an excellent discussion and enjoyed by those who could attend. I attended many of the panel discussions on representations within the media – one of which I will talk more at length about – as well as print media in a digital age and New Internationalist’s community share talk by their very own editor, Hazel Healey. I found the day to be extremely enlightening for 3 very key reasons:

  1. There still is, and there always will be, room for print media in the digital age

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    Print Media in a Digital Age panel discussion shared by (left-right) Jenny Nelson, Red Pepper; Hazel Healey, New Internationalist; Ben Chacko, The Morning Star

I was particularly eager to attend the panel discussion on ‘print media in a digital age’ purely because I have always been interested in print journalism, wanting to have stories covered in print. In my opinion, there is nothing more worthwhile to hold –  to physically hold – a printed publication; you just don’t get the same sensation when reading news content online. It is less intimate, less permanent, and indeed, discourages you from reading a piece in depth, but rather to scan over a screen of two to three-line-long paragraphs. So when Jenny Nelson from Red Pepper, another alternative media publication, shared with us her views on the advantages of print media, even within a digitally-dominant world, I felt more invigorated and altogether aligned with her views.

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Jenny Nelson’s (Red Pepper) presentation on the advantage of print media

Within her presentation she discussed five main reasons for print:

  1. Accessibility: – digital media can often exclude you if you are not in a particular location, income or age range whereas you can access print regardless of demographic, and often regions will have a local paper, which enables you to be consistently informed about your local area.
  2. Quality control: – although digital media has the advantage of being able to edit a piece more instantly than print, print goes through a much longer production process, meaning that editors and proof-readers will check and check again to ensure that each and every piece printed in their newspaper or publication is of high quality journalistic standards and in agreement with codes and conventions. The internet may allow you to voice your opinions freely, but often too much freedom is detrimental to a society and individual alone.
  3. Critical reflection: – as mentioned earlier, news content online is often much shorter, allowing the average reader to quickly scan an article – sometimes even just the headline – to get the gist of the main argument. Numerous neuro-scientific studies have shown that readers will often scan the screen, spending less than a minute on reading the news online in their day. This is usually not the case with print. Readers who still buy or consume print journalism will often take a much longer time immersing themselves into the core meanings and perspectives within an article, allowing for deeper reading and understanding of the subject, allowing you to have an in-depth understanding of the world around you.
  4. Beauty: – the majority of publications take pride in the aesthetics of their print projects, making pieces come to life with creative graphics and images, making the consumer proud to be in possession of their publication.
  5. Community: – the production of a print publication also creates somewhat of a journey with its audience and the society in which they find themselves a political actor in. Through building a certain report with their readers, print journalists often share and represent the opinions of their readers.

These 5 key points were definitely something to bear in mind when addressing print journalism in a digital age. I spoke with Jenny afterwards where we agreed on our shared preference in print journalism to digital content overall, and I confided with her of my banishment of an Amazon Kindle, as I too prefer to read from physical, beautiful-smelling books, rather than off of a screen.

2. Alternative Media

Another thing brought to light from the conference was the variety of alternative forms of media that are out there. As aforementioned, New Internationalist were present, Red Pepper, whom I hadn’t heard of until the conference, The Norwich Radical, The Morning Star, and many more publications are out there for you to widen your scope and understandings of issues occurring within the world, rather than relying on mainstream media giants, such as BBC News or The Guardians – which I do admit to falling victim of.

3. Lack of Representation in Student Media

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Race in the media with Aadum Muuse, NUS; Dolly Ogunrinde, UEA Alumni; Yinbo Yu, UCL

The third, most enlightening idea shared that day was by Yinbo Yu, a student from UCL, who has also been active in student campaigns including UEA’s Student Union. Within the ‘race in the media’ panel discussion,  Yinbo was co-chaired by Aadum Muuse from NUS and Dolly Ogunrinde, who is a UEA alumni.

Yinbo boldly suggested that the UEA media office lacked BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) representations. He brought attention to the fact that, having participated in student media himself, it is largely all white, lacking in diversity of other ethnic origins. This was something I had not considered in the slightest, since getting more involved in student media, but upon reflection, Yinbo’s suggestion holds a lot of truth in it.

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Soundbites from Yinbo’s speech on Twitter

Below is the designated area within the Media Office especially for Concrete, UEA’s student newspaper. The paper is printed fortnightly, although they frequently publish articles on their website in between publications. As Yinbo explores: “If you walk into the media offices of student newspapers, it’s all white. If you look at the writers, it’s all white.” If you dare, click here to scroll through the list of editors and main contributors who put the student newspaper together, and Yinbo might just be on to something…

“If you walk into the media offices of student newspapers, it’s all white. If you look at the writers, it’s all white.”

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Concrete’s desk in the UEA media office, where the editors, who are proportionately white, work

Indeed, having reflected upon this concept, I questioned Yinbo to find out why he thinks this is. He highlighted the existence of institutional racism within spaces, not only within student media, but the student movement as a whole, such as the National Union of Students (NUS), which is still failing black and brown students. He went on to explore that what we, as students, as consumers of student media and societal values, need to be reflecting upon is the internal structures within such environments.

This sense of targeted media, of ‘white’ content produced by ‘white’ contributors is failing to represent other ethnic, minority cultures, due to the lack of BME participants in student media who have the potential to represent the voices of such ethnic groups more appropriately. It is therefore the responsibility of the media collective to encourage students of all nationalities and races to get more involved, in order to deconstruct the embedded, normative and structural factors, which are preventing the representations of such minorities from being given a voice within student media and society as a whole.

Related to this issue is an interview published in the New York Times between George Yancy and Judith Butler, both authors and university professors specialising on the subject of race, who discuss in depth the structural issues embedded within our social systems, which continue to harness the repression experienced by many BME groups.

Representations within the media are very much constructions, and can never fully capture an event or individual’s story from its exact nature, due to certain political agendas, bias and opinion. Yet, what should be agreed on is that every single group should have a moral right to have some sort of representation, and this racial, gendered (the list goes on) hierarchy within our media, which spans over decades within print, and with the explosion of media within the digital age, must be challenged.

Clearly the discussions brought forth during the day were of a fruitful, thought-provoking nature, which certainly had me reflecting upon my own experiences with mainstream, alternative and student media. I aim to be reading more alternative forms of media so as to inhibit distortion from certain constructions of our world. Please do let me know of any publications you would suggest reading, as I am eager to find out about more.

Is social media the new media in Africa?

Is social media the new media in Africa?

It’s been less than a month since I posted about how radio is the go-to medium within developing countries, for its benefits of quick set-up, mobilisation, and the ability to communicate and disperse information to wider audiences. Yet, last week, I came across this one article, by Quartz Media, stating how social media is now the new media in Africa. Is this so? Very possibly. Follow this link to read the article I am referring to.

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Downloading WhatsApp | Source: Inquisitr

This is by far the best aspect of the field I am interested in working in: the fast-paced nature of changes in media and communications affecting society and the way in which individuals communicate with one another. Last month, my perspective was very much with radio being the main source of media used within developing countries, and now new findings come to light to shift this discourse.

It would seem almost natural for social media to have a trajectory of users in Africa, and other developing countries, for similar reasons to that of radio, with TV remaining very similar and somewhat stagnant, given the ratio of the entire population (close to 1 billion), compared with the amount of households who actually own a television set, being less than 1% of the entire population, as the article states. Apps, such as WhatsApp, which they are awarding the most used form of social media in this part of the world, not only is a major source for news, but also entertainment, and reaches wider audiences, particularly that of a younger generation.

Quartz Media also included a graph, which illustrates Africa’s adjustment of the use of smartphones since 2010, with an estimation of a further 50% adjustment into 2019. See pattern below:

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Source: GSMA Intelligence, Quartz Media

Other social media sites, including FaceBook, are frequently used, again, with the user’s ability to create a free account, which allows one to communicate with users from all over the nation, let alone the world, sharing relevant news within their areas and worldwide, as well as funny videos – as most of us can probably admit.

 

Disclaimer: I intentionally decided to wait to upload a piece on this so as to digest the news coming to light, and so I deem this as more of a commentary piece and brief analysis on an investigation, to be able to do further research into this topic.

Please do share with me your thoughts on the way in which social media is transcending the communications scene within Africa and other developing countries.