It's day two of our week-long documentary film making workshop at the British Council in Tripoli; drawing inspiration from the previous day’s sessions with the professional film makers from the Scottish Documentary Institute, we were tasked with creating our own short documentary films.
The subjects had been selected from the previous afternoon's brain storming session and we were divided into teams with a director, director of photography (DOP), sound recordist, and editor. Our editors were whisked away to learn the basics of Final Cut Pro editing software while the rest of the team prepared to set off to research our three respective subjects: Tripoli museum, local fishermen and revolutionary flag makers.
Having been assigned the job of sound man on the flag project I was given a crash course in operating the sound equipment and radio mics, introduced to the concept of 'sound design', and tasked with collecting sounds. What we hear in film is just as important as what we see on screen the clinking of a tea cup, the rustling of a flag, the sound of the environment or 'atmo' sound such as passing traffic or the dull buzz of a fridge (which is often only noticed in its absence) must all be recorded and used to create a natural ambiance.
Following in the footsteps of Dhaka Stories and Rabat Stories, the Scottish Documentary Institute went onto another mission with the British Council. The latest workshop took place in Libya.
Our arrival in Tripoli was an anti-climax, all the clocks had stopped. There was no life at the airport, even the duty-free shop was closed, the shelves empty. A driver from the British Council had patiently been waiting for our delayed flight. We would soon learn that time is of no consequence in Libya... But this whole workshop was going to be a race against time: delivering basic film skills, engaging our 13 participants with creative documentary, showing them clips of doc gems so they open up to a new form of storytelling – beyond their Aljazeera experience – and produce a short film suitable for international festivals. Yes, I agree, we were asking for the impossible – but hey, we are filmmakers!
Once again we were asked by the British Council to run a documentary workshop, this time, destination: Rabat (Morocco).
The deal is to teach creative documentary skills to 16 young filmmakers in 7 days and get them to make 4x3' films for international distribution. The stakes are high as the last set of films Dhaka Stories is doing extremely well, having been premiered in Sheffield in November 2010.
We always start with the screening of examples of docs exploring what do we mean by creative documentary, how do we prioritise emotions over information? How do we construct, dramatise those emotions keeping to the truth of the character? What do we mean by reconstruction when we are talking about metaphoric images?
SDI has been running very successful workshops in creative documentary storytelling from Edinburgh for the last seven years, however when we were invited by the British Council and the Bangladesh Documentary Council to train 16 inexperienced filmmakers and make four films in six days – that was definitely a challenge not to be turned down!
Many of us still go on assuming that creative documentary means “sleek aesthetics attached to an interesting topic.” The type of workshops we run focus on the effective and creative structuring of a story in order to engage an audience.
We arrived in Dhaka via Dubai and after a shower we met our group (14 men and two women) as well as few local documentary filmmakers that same afternoon. We started the workshop by screening the Oscar nominated film Burma VJ. It was very moving to see our new audience glued to the film. Burma shares a border with Bangladesh.