Behind the scenes
By Darius King Kabafunzaki (Published 29th September 2017)
Many a time, we subconsciously come to conclusions about certain things that we do not actually know very well. For example as a young boy while growing up, I used to think to myself that driving a car was as easy as pushing my toy car all over the floor. My ultimate love at that time though was riding a motorbike and I still felt I could ride a motorbike just as easily as I thought I could drive a car.
Quite often when my dad left his motorbike at home, I would sit on it and pretend I was riding it. I did not see anything extraordinary he did that I thought I could not do. A day I will never forget is when I had the motorbike keys to myself; it was a totally different story as I ended up crashing in our compound, luckily into a sand heap. I was very lucky to escape with minor injuries, but I was terrified. That was when I realized that there is much more work “behind the scenes” other than just sitting on the bike and pretending to be riding.
As I grew up, my love for driving and riding gradually disappeared as I found a new love in filmmaking. So I spent most of my free time watching films, music videos and wondering when I would be able to make my own film or video. Even though I enjoyed watching them, I did not know the amount of work involved in making a film whether short or long.
Once again, my subconscious mind convinced me that it was very easy work. Besides I used to see my current colleagues in the Media For Social Change programme here at Refugee Law Project carrying camera bags, tripods and other equipment going to the field to collect footage and, only weeks later, a new film would be uploaded on our website. I was so naïve about what goes on in the filmmaking process.
To avoid curiosity killing me like it did to the cat, I enrolled for a six-month video production course in Nairobi in 2014. On completion of the course, I returned to RLP and was given a volunteer video advocacy assistant position. It was at that point that my previous assumptions about videography being easy changed.
Videography is actually one of the most rigorous activities. This point could not be driven home any better than when I went on my first assignment to cover a court process at the Constitutional Court. Being a novice, I was unaware of what would befall me. I arrived at the court in time but did not know that moments later I would be scrambling for space with more experienced media videographers. At that moment I realized that to be able to get a clear shot you had to be very pushy. This was followed by long hours of filming up-country and around Kampala during our information sessions, testimony taking, community dialogues, meetings, workshops and trainings.
At Refugee Law Project we use video advocacy and what makes it rigorous is the overall work involved. Video advocacy is the use of video as a tool to push for a given cause in order to create change of mindsets, policies especially for human right violations.
First of all, you have to come up with a concept for the film. This will give you guidance on the script, the mapping process to identify the advocacy issues, the target audience, and the expected impact of the film.
Secondly, putting together a script should follow the concept and this is where you put the story in a way that can be powerful, identifying the protagonist that has a powerful story, consent issues as to whether the person is willing to be shown visually on the different media platforms.
Thirdly, carrying the bulky equipment to the field, the filming process of proper lighting, sound and picture quality issues, the capturing process of transferring the footage from the camera tape to the computer or digital storage device. Each tape can take an hour to capture.
Finally the editing process of listening to long hours of interviews to tease out the most powerful parts, selecting the cutaways to match the interviews, cutting micro seconds of footage to remove hesitations or shaky bits, organizing the interviews in a clear and powerful story, color correction, rendering several times in order to play back, selecting appropriate soundtracks, subtitling, correcting the grammar on texts for typing errors, back and forth previewing by several stakeholders to give their input and comments.
To get a good and impactful film out of all this work can take several weeks or even months but many of us have a tendency of imagining that the work is simple.
Many a time, a staff from one of the thematic programmes will come to any member of our team and say, for example “we want a short video to accompany a report being launched in a week’s time” and yet they do not even have a concept developed for the video. Others have said things like “but the video is only two minutes, can’t we have it by tomorrow?” Just like I thought back then, they too are unaware of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to have a film, however short it might be.
In video work, working under pressure can lead to mistakes such as forgetting equipment during the filming process, producing poor image and sound, many typing errors on titles and subtitles. This automatically affects the final product.
As a team we have found a solution to counter this mindset by having members of the other programmes working alongside us right from the beginning of the film project to the end.
Even though some staff still send their concepts last minute, there is a general improvement in the understanding of what video work entails. Patience has also grown among staff in regard to video work because they are better informed of what goes on “behind the scenes” other than the final product that we see. It is evident also that the quality of videos is steadily improving and we have successfully completed many films that can be found at http://refugeelawproject.org/resources/video-advocacy
Darius King Kabafunzaki works at Refugee Law Project as a Video Advocacy Assistant under the Media for Social Change Programme