Tell us about your role at place and Thomson Reuters Foundation
My role is a mix of researching and developing stories and the more administrative elements of film production.
I pitch stories to my editor, develop storylines and research and shoot films. When working with text journalists, I listen to their pitches and guide them on how the story can work visually and what elements we can produce to best tell the story. The challenge is getting them to think in a visual way, as they are used to writing text.
What’s unique about working at the Foundation?
What fascinates me is the focus on under-reported stories, which is what you strive to do at other publications but often you’re bound to finding sexy storylines or fit what’s trending.
But whilst here you are freed from the click-bait dynamics, you do face different challenges. Stories are under-reported for a reason. Most of the time you can’t find extensive research on a topic or it’s hard to build a network. Then there’s added difficulty with language barriers, and conveying the story to an audience who might struggle to find any connection to it at all. It has its strengths and challenges, but the pros outweigh the cons.
What’s been your
The Politics of Death was exciting because there were so many different layers of multimedia working at the same time [on our microsite]. It was cool to see how we could approach different things with HTML and general design and was a real group effort.
We would be in touch on a daily basis, discussing ideas and possibilities. The Place editorial team, multimedia, graphic designers, everyone worked together with an open mind, and I think that this is what ultimately helped us to get the best out of each other. In the month we put it together, it was exciting to have a constant spinning of different platforms.
It came with challenges. Each story had a mini film with its own complexities. In Bangladesh it was hard to get any footage and in Kenya we had a very strong interview but almost no visuals. Despite this, it was very rewarding because we ended up delivering everything we had planned, which isn’t always the case.
How satisfying do you find your work?
There are two levels of satisfaction: how happy you feel about what you do and when you see change.
On a personal level, I’m happy when I produce something I would watch, read, share and be gripped by quickly.
On a professional level, when you see change - not necessarily always on a global scale - but even on a smaller scale, and topics that weren’t talked about at all are now being discussed, that’s what it’s all about.
When we did Slumscapes, it was good to see that the package ended up being used by a niche audience that we hadn’t targeted at all – geography and history teachers. Whilst you might not have an impact on the slums and their design, you are making people understand that slum-like living is not a remote and small phenomenon. The scale is huge and we need to start thinking about slums as something that is affecting millions, not just a remote concept. I think by seeing a new generation tune in to these topics, we are not just challenging thinking about slums, but about racism, representation of topics and de-mystifying the assumptions people have.
Describe your typical day
My friends ask me all the time and I don’t have an answer yet! Regular days here work in cycles. There’s the production cycle: lots of research, trying to organise logistics, thinking about a story and how to find the elements.
Then there’s the filming and editing cycle: you are on location and editing the content, as well as keeping a track of everything else. At the end of the cycle you work around the delivery and distribution. And the cycle starts again.
Every day changes to some degree, which makes the work varied and interesting.
Any tips for others wanting to change careers and work in film production?
If you approach this profession, you should do it because you like taking pictures and enjoy filming. Is not about the money and it’s something that you would do in your time off anyway.
- Start with small projects: try to produce very small films. If you don’t produce you don’t make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn.
- Read a lot: go to university websites or go talk to film students and figure out which books they use. Find as much information you can on the internet. Join the conversation. Try to apply what you learn in every new project.
- Watch films critically: Look at how great directors have told a story visually rather than through text, how they chose their shots and why. Learn as much as you can in terms of storytelling, how great directors explored an issue through characters or events, how they pieced it all together.
- Keep up with technology: try new cameras, software, ideas. To some degree, not going to film school might give you more freedom as you’re not bound to terms and exams.The internet provides an incredible access to information and people. Most of the time people in this industry are very happy to provide help and insight.
- Nothing is out of reach: The difference between a professional and anyone else is the time necessary to develop a project. A pro might wrap up a marvellous short in 3 months. Someone new to this might require more time. The point is nothing is out of reach; it’s all about how much time and commitment you have.