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May 31, 2006

An African Contributes Greatly to Chippewa Falls

SandyMoustapha.jpgBY SANDY BOWE, CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN, USA - I have been drawn to experience the journey of Jabbes' Zambia Project BAD TIMING via the internet. My sister called me in early February to ask me to watch Jabbes Digital Story. She told me that he had asked her to produce the first feature film in Zambia with him. I could tell she was going to do it. She told me how talented and determined Jabbes was and how much he wanted to do for his country. Cyndi was inspired and eager to work with him.

Just like my sister, I have been fortunate to meet and work with a wonderful, talented man from Africa. Moustapha, an awesome man from Senegal, joined our teaching staff at Chippewa Falls Senior High School this past school year. He teaches the beautiful French language to students in grades 10–12. His enthusiasm and knowledge has been embraced by our students and staff. What a gift we have received! This wonderful man has been with us just one year and he has definitely become a very popular teacher!

I have shared the Zambia Project articles with Moustapha and he is anxious to meet Jabbes this summer when he comes to Wisconsin. I look forward to seeing these two wonderful men connect and share stories about their lives in Africa, their experiences in the U.S. and their thoughts about the future. I am certain we will all learn a great deal by simply listening to their discussions. On top of that, I'll get to see my sister who is near and dear to my heart always! I'm sure we'll have some interesting discussions as well.

I am so very proud to say that Cyndi is my "slightly older and sometimes wiser sister." Like Jabbes, I have looked to her as my "mum" on occasion. The depth of her drive and determination does not surprise me as she always strives for success. She has always been a source of support, inspiration, and love when I needed it most. I wish Cyndi and Jabbes the very best in this exciting endeavor. I will keep both of them and the students in my prayers.

Until we all meet later this summer, Moustapha, the students at Chippewa Falls Senior High School and I will follow this incredible journey with great enthusiasm and support."

May 30, 2006

Links Bar Added to Blog

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - If you look to the lower right side of this blog, you will see that we have added a links section to make it easier to get to sites and blogs of importance. Email me other links of importance and we'll get them up, too.

May 29, 2006

Capturing Better Skin Tones

hvx200.jpgBY CARLOS ESPINOZA, MESA, USA - Preparing to shoot in Zambia has made very nervous. This project is very different from the ones I have been involved with up until now. Thus far, I have mainly shot people with light skin. Going to Africa; we will be shooting predominantly people with dark skin. One of the challenges we are going to encounter will be lighting these people to look their best. I have been researching and obtaining information to make sure we get the very best images possible. We don’t want poor cinematography to get in the way of Jabbes’ telling a good story. We want the Zambian feature to be very successful.

Surprisingly, one aspect I read is that there is a large range of dark skin tones. Most digital video cameras are made to emphasize the tonal range of light (Caucasian and Asian tones.) Many cameras do not emphasize the range of darker tones by default. They can, however, be used to capture more subtle dark tones. Cyndi, Mike, Lindsey, Alec, Jeanette and Gina had been to Sundance and they were very excited about the Sony HVR-Z1U. Mike Curtis, HDforIndies suggested we look at the Panasonic cameras if we were shooting predominantly darker skin tones. At the end of the test, we all agreed that the Panasonic did a better job. At the school, we have the DVX-100A and it out-performed the Z1U. I can only guess how awesome the Panasonic HVX-200 must be. I hope we're able to get two of those before we go.

Of course, we had always been taught that the specific lighting set up that works well for one person may not may not work as well on another person. Lighting a brunette woman with olive skin tone is not the same as lighting a bald northern European. In the same way, lighting a southern Tongan man may be quite different from a lighter-toned Ngonia warrior in full dress. Our way to approach this is to test, test, test and test before we start shooting, even before we go to Africa.

There are other tips that I found helpful:

Don’t underexpose: In fact, slightly overexposing will help retain some detail; As long as you don’t expose them so that they look Caucasian. Mark Schlicher, a cinematographer from Nashville, TN, states in his experience, “dark tone skins benefit from about 2/3 to a full stop more light than the average Caucasian skin.”

Larger soft lights tend to work better than harder lights. A good example is when lighting a black car; if you point a hard light (point source) at a black car, you get a hot spot where the light is reflected. If you point a large soft light (broad source) at the black car, the surface of the car will reflect the large soft source. Using soft edge lights (kickers) also works well, even if they are not that bright, because you can get a nice reflective glare over the skin.

Typically, there is a large amount of blue in dark skin tones. It's possible to compensate for the blue by adding a warmer light. Jacques Nortier, an Environmental and Wildlife cameraman from South Africa has found great success with a gel called “Bastard Amber” to color the diffuser/light to provide warm tones and have a less milky projections.

Of course, this tips are not set in stone and will not work for everybody, one way we are getting ready is by testing beforehand to see what the camera is capable of doing with different types of lights and gels.

Keep The Camera Rolling

mike.jpgBY MICHAEL MONTESA, MESA, USA - It has been three months now since we started shooting the documentary. I remember how excited I was on the first day of the shoot because I got to use the Sony HVR-Z1U camera (that camera was the rave at Sundance last year and I really wanted one of those) and we got to interview Jabbes for the first time. The first day we spent over three hours capturing his backstory. That footage became the backbone of the documentary.

Now, many months later, we have logged many hours of filming and used up tons of DV tapes. I can't believe that within a month, we will be on a plane to Zambia. This is so exciting. Sometimes I can't sleep when I start thinking about it. When I was younger, I have never thought that I was going to become a filmmaker and let alone be filming a movie in Africa. This is one of those opportunities that you don't want to let go.

Working on the documentary has taught me not just different camera techniques but also to become a good team player. I did not know most of the film crew before but now we are becoming a family. It's always good to get to know the people you're going to work with because we will be in a foreign land with a different customs, laws and culture.

A shot in the arm: Some of us already have taken our travel shots (Hep A, Hep B, Meningitis, Adult Polio, Typhoid and Tetanus/Diphtheria vaccines). I got mine last Monday (Malaria and Cipro pills were also prescribed). My shoulders did not hurt when I was getting the shots but I was really in pain the second day. You are not supposed to get a fever with these shots but I did. Maybe it was from the pain. I was hurting and aching all over my body. But all that pain was worth it. I will endure the pain for the success of the film. In the end, I'm sure it will be worth it.

May 28, 2006

Getting Our Feet Wet


BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA - If I weren't a producer, I think I'd be running some sort of crazy sideshow. Being a producer gives one experience in balancing dozens of competing interests while soliciting the creativity, passion and commitment of each team member. It teaches you how to stretch yourself to reach every conceivable entity that wants to support the project.

As a producer, you're working to satisfy the needs of the creatives (director, actors) and the crew. You have to satisfy the investors and financial people. You've got to figure out how to reach out to the media and provide what they want. In our case, there are the needs of the Zambians (private and government officials) and the needs of the college.

Is it any wonder that sometimes, we producers just have to let off a little steam? Saturday evening, at the PoolParty for Zambia, I was dared to jump into the pool ... how could I resist? I jumped into that with the same passion that I jumped into this Zambian feature film project. Sometimes, you just got to get in and get your feet wet. It can be scary and refreshing ....

Partying with a Purpose


BY ALEC HART, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - Last night, we had a party. It was for all the Supporters of the Zambian film projects, the Arizona "Friends of Zambia." When you're making a documentary film, there's no such thing as just a party. Even a party has a purpose!

If you look at the photo collage, you can see cinematographer Shawn Downs getting footage of the event. For the documentary, we have to capture critical moments in the making of the film. We look for those moments when the crew is working well together (like the party). We also watch for the moments of greatest conflict. Drama is, after all, dependent on conflict. Since we're about a month away from leaving for Zambia, the number of dramatic moments are increasing.

Being the child of the producer, I probably see more dramatic moments than most people. I see the exciting moments when we find out the Zambian Ambassador may be able to visit Phoenix or that the Arizona Governor has been briefed on the project. I was there when it looked like Mesa Community College would be able to start a faculty exchange program with Lusaka U and the Evelyn Hone Technical School.

There are those other times, too. I also see the difficult moments as Cyndi works to get all of the money, supplies and logistics we'll need to make TWO films in Zambia. It's a pretty monumental project so there are many people who really want to go. Even worse, the number of people wanting to go keeps growing. Now that the films have gained a lot of support, more and more people try to "attach" themselves to the project. This is the challenge of producing.

I've been hearing about filmmaking, screenwriting and producing since I was a baby. I had always heard about how difficult it was to "attach" the right people in the beginning of a project (like cinematographer Nancy Schreiber) and how easy it was to attach interest after the project was underway. I see it now. I understand producing in a very different way. I understand why you bring your crew together for an informal gathering ... a chance to get to know each other more informally, to bond with the directors (we have two of them, Jabbes on the feature and Cyndi on the documentary), to try and see where there might be problems in the future. Much better to find them here in Phoenix than when we get to Zambia.

For the producer, everything has a purpose.

(Photographs by Michael Montesa)

I Am Completely At Their Service

partyrobby.jpgBY ROBBY BROWN, TEMPE, USA - Saturday night, Cyndi had a party at her place for the crew and their friends and family. I had to work so I arrived late. The party was a bonding opportunity for the crew. Cyndi also had people capturing the event for the documentary. I was barely in the door when Shawn started interviewing me about the trip. He asked me for my name and my role. My name was easy, the role was harder. I love editing (and Cyndi tells me I'm pretty good at it) so I may be editing some of the press bites while I'm there. I think it's more likely that I'll be doing a million different jobs, whichever job needs to be done in the moment to get BAD TIMING in the can. I'll be carrying lights, holding microphones, running the "B" camera. As I see it, my job is whatever job they put me on.

I remember when Cyndi told our class that she was producing a film in Zambia. She showed Jabbes digital story and brought him to our class. I begged her to be part of the trip. I had no shame. I had only the desire to participate on this film. I love filmmaking and had done a lot of broadcast work in New Mexico. I just had to be there.

I'm not as good with words as some of the crew. I'm a doer, not a talker. And, I will do whatever she tells me to do and I will do it to the absolute best of my ability. She and Jabbes can count on me to give my heart, body and soul to these two films. I've been reasearching constantly since I heard I might be able to go. I'm trying to make myself as skillfully rounded as possible so I can be whatever this film needs whenever this film needs it.

For me, BAD TIMING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION aren't just a couple of independent films and we are not just a passionate, new crew. This opportunity is the right starting point and best path for rest of my life. And we are one big family.
We're all so excited.

May 27, 2006

We're All In This Together, Even If We're Not All In Africa

sff06-gina_puma.jpgBY GINA PUMA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - I am working on this project as Associate Producer through Cyndi Greening’s vision to make a difference in the world. I think most of us are a part of this project because Cyndi asked us to help her make the world a better place, not just for the people of Zambia but for all who will view this project and give their blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. In our many conversations about this endeavor, Cyndi has shared her altruistic intensions of teaching the people of Zambia to make films and teaching her MCC film students about life outside of the classroom. Thank you, Cyndi, for expressing confidence in all who are involved and for having the stamina to run with this. You are going to need to use those broad shoulders of yours to see this through. Your strength will help us all endure.

Then there is Jabbes. What a courageous man. I think there are two things that can happen when you encounter such a tragedy in life as losing your son; you can bury yourself along with your child and never find your way out of that hole -- or -- through his death you can make his life mean something. Thank you, Jabbes, for sharing your story and your precious little boy with us. Jabbes, Jr. has touched the lives of so many already and this is only just the beginning. This little boy has big plans for all of us. Thank you, Jabbes, Jr. We ask that you guide us and guard us. You are our inspiration.

I am not traveling with the crew to Africa, but I am still very much a part of this journey. Let’s just say that my idea of “roughing it” is staying at a Holiday Inn instead of the Ritz. I really can’t picture myself sleeping in a tent, under a mosquito net, in the Bush, just inches away from being some lion’s dinner. The members of the crew, who know me well, don’t want to hear me whine the whole time about not being able to pee in a bathroom, among other things.

Besides, someone needs to stay stateside and keep things running on this end. I am working on the preproduction tasks. There is so much that needs to be done and so little time to do it in. We are looking for more money to increase the quality of the project and to bring more people on board. Setting up the proposals is so important and I think it is what creative people hate to do most. Planning is the key to success so we need to get as much done before the crew even boards the plane to Africa. These next few weeks are going to be extremely busy. Thank you, to my family, John and Eric, for supporting me and not complaining, too much, when I am not available for them. I am looking forward to the propulsion of this mission and to participating in this amazing voyage.

May 26, 2006

It's A Small World, After All

BY MARGARET BEHNKE, CHIPPEWA FALLS, USA - I must confess I have been allowing the geographical distance between Arizona and lil’ ol' Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, (population approximately 13,000) to be a barrier for me. All of the whirlwind activity described on the blogs sounds invigorating but I have been feeling somewhat left out, given I am unable to be a more active part of things in Arizona.

While ferreting out the contacts for equipment donations did allow me to contribute, I have been longing for a more significant connection, a more meaningful way to contribute. Well, late last night I had a phone conversation with Cyndi. She told me that two things that changed everything.

First, she said that she wanted to bring Jabbes here to Chippewa Falls for the documentary. She said they were going to the village where he grew up in Zambia to meet his family, to see his roots. She also wanted him to meet her family and friends and see where she came from. She thought this would be good for the documentary. Then, she said that Jabbes hoped to bring his family back with him for a visit. She hoped that Jabbes daughters, Judith (15) and Thoko (5) could visit Chippewa Falls.

As we discussed the many cross-cultural implications of the film projects, I realized I have an opportunity to make a contribution: my husband and I will open our home, our hearts, our family and small town to Jabbes and his daughters when they visit Cyndi's hometown. Once I had this thought, I felt an instant connection, one that goes to the very heart: family-to-family.


This morning, as I drove my 6-year-old granddaughter, Mykayla (pictured above with Carter, Adrian, Reilly and Jordan) to school, I told her Cyndi, (also called “Grandma” by my grandkids here!) was bringing Jabbes and his daughters to Chippewa Falls, and she immediately said, "Oh good, they can stay at my house! I want to show her my school." What an awesome response: her first reaction was to share her home, and her school, to open her life to the life of another little girl from another continent, just pure and simple caring and sharing. A good lesson for all of us. Aside from all of the details, she went directly to what truly mattered. Human-to-human connection, no barriers of miles, language, custom, color, religion or politics.

So, while I may be across the country from where the action is taking place, I am certainly connected, a part of keeping the initial, personal motivation for these films continuing. Family-to-family, heart-to-heart. This is what matters to me, not the fact that I doggedly remained on the phone this morning bounced from rude person to gatekeeper with a large company. (Although I must admit I am proud that I was not intimidated!) Sometimes ya' gotta really look for that heart connection - but it is always there.

Taking Time to Enjoy My Son

Photo-0079.jpgBY JASON WERNER, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - One week without working on the project and I’m getting that panic feeling in my gut. For me it feels like the calm before the storm, like sitting upon the back of a wild bull when you know any second the horn is going to sound and that gate will swing open. Even if you have ridden this bull before and you have trained to ride it again, you never know what it will do. Whether this bull spins, or kicks, I’m holding on.

Today, I’m taking the time we have to enjoy the finer things in life. Spending time with my son, Tristan, is one of the finer things; today he wants to go swimming. Sounds good to me. Why is it that one person’s loss can cause us to look at our own lives and appreciate what we have? Every time I hear Jabbes’s story about how he lost his son I get a feeling of guilt. Maybe this would be better described as empathy. All the love and hopes I know Jabbes had for his son, I also have for mine.

Another thing I’m doing is reading books about Zambia. What a beautiful place; a land I’ve only seen in magazines and now my dreams. I have looked at image after image of the people and landscape preparing to storyboard with Heath. Maybe it’s the heat here but I keep having a vision of myself standing in Lusaka working on the film and drinking soda from a glass bottle. I know it's weird but I think one of the first things I’m going to want when I get there is a soda. Well my son just told me with the most serious look in his eyes, “I have my shoes on Dad. It's time to go swimming, ok?” What can I say? It's time to go swimming.

May 25, 2006

Education and Cultural Exchange

gingher.jpgBY GINGHER LEYENDECKER, MESA, USA - I am honored to be a part of promoting cultural and educational exchange between America and Zambia. This project offers a wealth of opportunity for students in both corners of the world, to become educated global citizens who will affect positive change for decades to come.

The Filmzambia project has taken on a life of its own, from one student's vision in documenting his story to the inclusion of a global exchange program of film, art and education. We are blessed to have students such as Jabbes, and visionary educators such as Cyndi Greening, who are willing to put forth their time, effort and heart into building something so important and impacting to society.

My part in this will be to promote educational exchange between our countries, and hope to see this happen between students as well as faculty members who will offer their skills and knowledge in their area of expertise. It would be wonderful to have students and teachers from Zambia come to MCC, and we wold love the opportunity to teach and study in Zambia.

To travel to Africa has long been a goal of mine. I have been to 11 other countries, but never to this beautiful continent. To be asked to be a part of this project is a dream come true, and I look forward to building friendships and learning about Zambia, its culture, art, and people.

Working Like a Dog

kayla.jpg BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA - Jabbes once told me that dogs are not allowed in the house in Zambia. In fact, dogs are generally chased away. That wouldn't be too good for Kayla. She travels well but will be staying behind while I'm in Zambia. Jabbes in I will be leaving in little more than a month now. I've been reminded that I need to get my paperwork done. (There are always so many forms to be filled out.)

It's been an exhausting week. One of the reasons I wanted to have a blog for the films is so other people could see what we all are going through to make a film happen -- the good and the not so good. The students have shared their tremendous passion for making the films and creating a cultural exchange with Zambia. They are showing how focused they are on getting these films made. They're ready. A tight crew has formed. As the producer, raising the funds, getting the equipment in place and making sure all the "right" people are getting on board is part of my job. It's a big job. It's an exhausting job. It seems like something "big" happens every 16 hours or so. Sometimes good. Sometimes challenging.

Jabbes told me he's working on a blog post called, "I want to make a film." He said it's such a little line but people have no idea what it takes to make that happen. He and I have been working hard since January. Now, things are opening up more and there is more support. For a long time, it was just the two of us.

Sometimes, I get stressed out and grumpy. I feel the weight of this project on my back. So many dreams, goals and desires. The feature film. The documentary. The training and teaching. The long-term educational exchange. Thus far, people are getting on board and helping to push the dream forward. It helps to lighten the load a bit.

This weekend, we're having a gathering so everyone can relax and celebrate our successes thus far and prepare for the successes off the future. We'll put up some photo so you can share in the down time as well as the prep time.

May 24, 2006

Wants of Life

ngoniWoman.jpgBY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, USA - There are three things everyone wants in life, Happiness, Longevity, and Wealth. I want these things, too. But in this case I will not request them selfishly.

I want happiness to be spread about the Zambian Nation knowing that there are people in the United States who care about lifetime opportunities for third-world countries. I want to bring smiles to their face knowing that we stopped our spoiled lives here in the U.S. to jump start a life changing point in history in their country.

I want Longevity not in life but for this project. I want us, as a team, to put our all into it and live out this project as if we were living out the last days of our lives. I want this project to be a mark in history that Zambian students will learn in their classes that this project changed history by opening more jobs in their country. I want longevity of the impact this country will have on our lives. I don’t want us to come home appreciating everything and then start getting used to it again. I want us to think about what we did for these people and be humble.

victoriaFalls.jpgI want wealth for the Zambian people. I don’t believe wealth is only in the form of money. I think it comes in a form of health and opportunities. This project is an awesome opportunity for Jabbes and the people of his country. I believe the wealth of this country will be more positive recognition and an escape of busy life to the tourism of natural God-made beauty. That beauty isn’t just the landscapes, but the beauty of the people like I see in Jabbes. Their morals are so strong and set and they know how to “stop and take time to smell the roses” unlike us Americans who are always on the run and feel we have slowed our lives down just by not spilling our coffee on the way to work.

I am so excited for the cultural exchange. I believe we are going to learn so many good morals from the Zambians that the United States have lost a long time ago. I can’t wait to talk to some of the people and find out what their expectations of us coming into the country were.

Supporting Zambia from Afar

magway.jpgBY MARGARET BEHNKE, CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN, USA - I live in Wisconsin and I have been supporting the Zambian filmmaking effort from afar. I went to high school and college with Cyndi Greening. I have known her for over thirty years. Cyndi has loved filmmaking and teaching for as long as I have known her. When she takes on a new project and commits herself to it, there is a lot of passion and activity that begins to swirl around her.

A few weeks ago, she asked me to join the effort to find filmmaking equipment to leave behind in Zambia. My task was to search the web and ferret out contact points with these manufacturers. It sounded like an easy task. It turned out to be much harder than I imagined. Companies can have a very public face on the web but these faces are more like a kabuki mask; they look friendly but completely obscure what is behind them. Panasonic, Sony, Sennheiser, Canon, Adobe, the Gates Foundation. None had readily accessbile contact information. Fortunately, I can be pretty determined so I was not easily stopped. I was able to find information from nearly every major manufacturer. I've now passed that on to Cyndi so she can send proposals, press kits and all that sort of thing.

Today, I got the party invitation for the Zambian gathering on Saturday. Needless to say, it would be pretty expensive for me to get to Arizona. I also don't eat meat so the menu isn't appealing, either. It's just torture for me to be so far away. I really wanted to go to Zambia and work with the crew. My husband was very supportive of the idea. Like Cyndi, I thought it would be wonderful to assist Jabbes in his effort to get his film made. I was excited to look for equipment for future Zambian filmmakers. It's just agony to stay behind.

Blue Sky on Lighting Dark Complexions

blacktemp7.jpgBY HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, AZ, USA - In order to prepare for filming in Zambia, we have been researching and studying everything we might encounter. As a cinematographer, I tend to shoot more caucasians in Mesa. I decided to look for information on what I might encounter photographing darker skin tones.

It was much more difficult than I thought to find information on filming darker skin tones. It seems that I found a lot more quesitons out there than there are answers. One of the places that I found that could give me a reasonable answer was Blue Sky, Lighting Darker Complexions by Walter Graff. They have a nice long tutorial going over the many challenges that you may encounter while filming people with with darker complexion as well as their solution to those problems. Here is the summary of tips which they provide for you.

1) Just because someone has a darker complexion does not mean they need to be lit with more light.

2) The same rules used in attempting to create a sense of depth apply to dark skin as it does for lighter skin. It's about what makes the individual look good, not some rule about light skin or dark.

3) It's also always about the relationship of everything in the frame not just the talent. Sometimes a lighter background helps a darker complexion, and sometimes a darker background is more suitable. It's about what works for that particular individual.

4) Lighting a background to compliment the texture and color of your talent makes for a more appealing frame as opposed to lighting a person for who they are and throwing some light up haphazardly on the background just to illuminate it. The relationship of your talent and the environment is just as important as how the talent looks. Sometimes warm backgrounds work, and other times cooler colored backgrounds compliment the talent best.

5) Everything is about how it looks in the moment. There are no rules in life when it comes to lighting, only guidelines.

Give it a look see here, or check out the other instructional how to's that Blue sky has to offer.

May 23, 2006

A Voice From Behind the Page's Boss

lora.jpgBY LORRA GILBERT, QUEEN CREEK, USA - I attended the School of Fine Arts at ASU with aspirations to do great things with my life. Now a mother of three, a Mural Artist, and Web Designer, I am very busy but I continue to strive for that goal each and every day.

From the short time that I have been included in this project, I've noticed that although everyone plays different roles and brings different experience there is something consistent...something unique. It is the enthusiasm, the passion, the desire to accomplish a goal that is bigger than a dream. I was impressed with the amount of people involved in this project and the sacrifices that they are making for the film. I know that when there are this many people that stand together and care to help others across the globe, there will be great results.

I pray that my children will grow up to reach the selflessness and amazing vision that I have heard and read from all of those involved in this project.

A Vision of Zambia

BY HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, AZ, USA - Over the last few days I have been burying myself in the images of Zambia to try to get a better understanding of the culture and the lifestyles we all will be running into. One thing I've loved my entire life is imagery. There is often a memory linked to an image. Photography and Film give us all that opportunity to recall those memories of yester-year, and feel like we did back then. In Zambia (among all other things that I find compelling) wildlife is unchecked. And by that I mean, the natrual beauty of the nation is endless. Nature is pure and constant. In Zambia during the production of BAD TIMING and THE VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, we will all get the chance to see that beauty firsthand and to recognize how much we really do miss by living in the city. Sometimes the most of nature we get to see is a pigeon digging through a trash can. It is my wish that during our stay in Zambia, you will all take the time to open your eyes to all the beauty that we will capture in camera for you.

With permission and as time permits (after all we are making TWO movies), I will take it upon myself to make a photographic diary of all the animals we encounter and post it for everyone to see. I am looking forward to sharing the beauty of Zambia and helping to destroy the myth of destitution.

Pamela Bowman ~~ Ripples of Hope

happyPam.jpgBY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, USA - "To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed." – Bernard Edmonds.   Six months ago I told my friends I wanted to make movies. There is power in verbalizing your dreams.

In February, during our MCC digital film class our instructor, Cyndi Greening, announced that she was producing a film and a documentary that would be shot in Zambia, Africa. She then invited any class members interested in assisting in the project to submit a letter explaining why they should be considered for the project. My son, also a student in this class, encouraged me to try for a spot on the film crew. My supportive husband told me to write the letter. I hesitated. Why would a middle-aged woman (albeit a college graduate 25 years ago!) be considered for such a project? What could I offer? So many self-doubts flooded my mind. “Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.” -Mahatma Gandhi.

I prepared and submitted my letter. We continued to work on our class film projects. I signed up to assist in the MCC spotlight project. I began working with other filmmakers and discovered how beneficial, crucial and liberating teamwork can and should be.

As the semester progressed so did the project. Meetings were held and expectations were expressed. Funding goals achieved. Hopes became reality. This film was going to be made. The documentary of the film began. Roles were discussed. Issues were addressed. Passports were required. Medical procedures were outlined. More meetings were scheduled. The importance of loyalty to the project and each other was emphasized. Research of Zambia began. Project goals were outlined.
Who was going would be determined by the amount of funds raised and if your contribution would warrant the expense incurred. “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving." -Albert Einstein.   I want to be of great value.

Journalists began to investigate and report on the project. MCC began to explore the many educational opportunities for foreign and domestic students. Government officials began to appreciate the positive political ramifications of this project. More meetings, more schedules, more opportunities.

A Zambian named Jabbes had a dream to come to America to learn digital film so he could return to his country and provide more artistic and financial opportunities for the Zambian people. He has a beautiful story to tell, BAD TIMING. So much good from one man's dream. “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” – Robert Kennedy.   Jabbes is sending many ripples of hope.
"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."-Woodrow Wilson.   We will not forget the errand.

Six months ago I quit my job and began pursuing my own dreams. Six months! Anything is possible when you have a dream ... and you have a professor named Cyndi Greening who sends forth ripples of hope everyday.

May 22, 2006

Alec Hart - Editor

sff06-alec_hart.jpgBY ALEC HART, NEW YORK CITY, USA - I tell my friends that I'm going to Zambia to work on a film and no one believes me. It's just like when I told them I was going to move to New York City to go to film school and work as an editor. I didn't realize how far away New York was from Phoenix until the plane was landing at JFK. I don't think I have any idea how far away Zambia is from the United States --geographically or culturally.

Today, we had lunch with Jabbes and he was talking about life in the village. He wanted to get the measurements of the females so his mother could make suitable Zambian clothing for the women. I can't even imagine Cyndi in a Zambian dress. We're going to have to get a million "production stills" of that!

I've been to Sundance for the last four years. I am hoping that we will get the Zambian documentary and dramatic narrative done in time to submit to the festival. It would be a dream come true (and a miracle) to have our film at Sundance. For Jabbes' sake and to honor this historic moment for Zambia, it would be really cool if it could debut at Sundance. If we all commit ourselves to it and do our best work, the gods might smile on us!

Michael Montesa - Cinematographer & Photographer

mike.jpgBY MICHAEL MONTESA, MESA, USA - During the last week of January, Cyndi Greening asked me what will I be doing this summer and I said I planned to go to Europe for a vacation. Then she asked me, "Would you like to go to Africa to shoot a movie?" My answer was "YES, forget Europe I'm going to Africa." It is such a thrill and an honor to be a part of this Zambian film production and to work with MCC's talented and dedicated filmmakers. I could have never imagined that I will be a part of a film production this big and a film being shot outside the US and a film that will be shot in another continent and a film that is history in the making for MCC and Zambia. It seems Africa was so far away, but now, in a month or so, we will be stepping in its soil and breathe its own air and meet new people and share our passion and love for art and filmmaking.

Working with Cyndi during the pre-production of the film is such an awesome experience. Her excitement and dedication are contagious and every time she speaks of the project, you can hear the thrill in her every word. Her dedication to the film makes me even more committed and makes me want to work even harder for this project.

The first time I met Jabbes was during our photo shoot for a publicity photos for Cyndi's website. I found him a very interesting person to talk to. He is very well spoken and you can tell right away that he has this big ambition not only for himself but for his country. I really admire his wisdom and family values. I had a chance to get to know him better when I invited him to my home and introduced him to my family and my culture. It is such a privilege to work with him and to work with his people.

For some time now, I proudly told my family, co-workers and friends about this film project and how excited I am. They are very supportive of me and even my work is willing to give me six weeks of vacation just to go to Africa. I feel so lucky to have all these people around me and all this support. This project is my priority and will always be my priority. I'm even willing to put my other career as a Respiratory Therapist on hold. Now, I even put sleeping on hold.

This experience will open a lot of doors for all of us. We will never forget this experience, and we are thankful for this opportunity. And I can't wait to share my experience through the photos I will be taking to post on this blog.

Shawn Downs - Cinematographer

shawn.jpgBY SHAWN DOWNS, PHOENIX, USA - When I was offered a possible position on this project, it was first described to me as an "opportunity of a lifetime". With my passion being filmmaking, I know that this is a remarkable opportunity to mature as a filmmaker. I have been fortunate in my four years of high school to have a connection with Mesa Community College. That connection has allowed me to be involved in this production. I can only hope that my contributions will exceed the expectations of the producer, director, crew, and myself.

I can't help feeling like the outsider in this project. It appears that everyone involved has been classmates at MCC. Nevertheless, after only a handful of meetings with the crew, I have become familiar with everyone and understand how devoted they are to the project. Days ago I met the director and writer of BAD TIMING, Jabbes. It was comforting to see his passion for his film, Zambia, and his appreciation for everyone involved. I am certain that in my time spent in Zambia, I will not only gain experience in film but develop close friendships with everyone.

M.K. Racine: Marketing & Distribution


In a lifetime, there are only a handful of opportunities to be part of something amazing.

A handful... if any.

One should not let these limited opportunities pass without first considering the impact it may have on his or her life, their community, and the global family. At some point we must choose to give back, or at the very least become a facilitator of growth for others and further, empower and enable them to flourish on their own.

I have the opportunity to facilitate the growth of a nation, to assist in delivering the message of a country, and expose the face of a people.

I met Jabbes Mvula at Mesa Community College, through a mutual instructor, Cyndi Greening. I viewed his digital story, MY JOURNEY FROM ZAMBIA TO ARIZONA AND BACK AGAIN. This reinforced my belief in that it takes just one person: one person to propel change, one person to motivate many.

Jabbes’ motivation is his son, a cherished memory that will forever live. In learning his story, Cyndi developed a relationship with Jabbes, a relationship that has extended to a group of talented Media Arts students at Mesa Community College. This convergence of a group of people, from different walks of life, to share, to create, and to inspire, is an opportunity I cannot let pass. I choose to be a part of something amazing. Though a small part, it is one that will influence the industry of film, embrace the spirit of nations, fulfill the dreams of one man and alter the lives of us all.

With a formal education and professional experience in marketing, along with training in graphic design I look forward to contributing to the film BAD TIMING and documentary THE VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION in both a creative and operational capacity. I look forward to daily interaction in a team that has taught me so much already. Not just about filmmaking, but also about the opportunities that life presents us with. The opportunities that materialize when we choose to be open to ideas and when we choose to be open to others.

A Voice from Behind the Page

Jonathan Gilbert BY JONATHAN GILBERT, QUEEN CREEK, USA - About six years ago, I was looking for a curriculum in a school that would help me excel in my goals – Graphics, Video, Web Design. I began attending a school in Tempe, AZ that boasted of such a program. After five weeks of attending, it became apparent to me that something was not right with this school. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there were red flags that kept manifesting themselves while I was attending. After a Labor Day weekend of camping in the pines of Flagstaff, AZ and reflecting on what I should do about my current schooling, I walked onto the Mesa Community College campus. I visited the Media Arts Department and got my first experience with Cyndi Greening. The semester had already started at MCC, yet after explaining my situation and dreams with Cyndi, she immediately rescued me from the “cookie-cutter” school I was attending, explaining her previous experiences with employers who’ve avoided graduates from the school I was currently attending. Within one day, I dropped out of that school and began attending Cyndi’s Photoshop 101 class. It didn’t take long for me to notice that Cyndi’s curriculum of classes was continually pushing the edge with advanced technologies. She was always on the bleeding edge with her courses that I attended, and I knew I had made the right choice in switching schools.

I’ve since graduated from MCC and am currently enjoying self-employment providing IT services for small businesses. Many projects we get from our clients involve developing for the internet. The experience I gained from attending MCC and specifically Cyndi’s classes, I can attribute to the successes I’m enjoying today. Cyndi not only helped educate me in specific media software applications, she also helped me believe in myself as a developer and entrepreneur.

From that first moment I met Cyndi until now, I’ve always felt her heart-felt, sincere motivations in helping others truly fulfill their dreams. It is no surprise to me that she would be involved in such great a cause in assisting Jabbes with his aspirations. I’ve had the good fortune of being able to stay in contact with Cyndi along the years and if there is one thing I know about her – she is ALWAYS involved in some great work somewhere. I can barely keep up with her. One day she’ll be in Utah covering the Sundance Festival, the next day in Colorado, next back at Mesa, and now she’s heading to Zambia. What an amazing journey. I don’t think Jabbes had this in mind when he was recounting the steps of his own journey thus far. But that’s what one gets when they lean on the support of Cyndi Greening.

This past weekend, we had the privilege of meeting Jabbes and the crew that is involved with helping his filming to become a success. What a great site to see - a group of young, talented individuals, preparing for a true journey of a lifetime. They look young, fresh, and the talents they possess are about to shine from the skills they’ve learned from Cyndi. I’m excited to see the growth these professionals will obtain from such a remarkable experience. I’m also looking forward to seeing the good they will do among our brothers and sisters of a nation across the seas.

So far, our job with this project has been to provide the technical implementations of as well as design and configure the weblogs contained on the site. We hope those who will visit the site will have a pleasurable experience with it and that our contributions, small as they seem, will also be worthy in some way of those who will be working tirelessly in filming, producing, and marketing the enlightenment of this great human race we are all a part of. May the prayers of Jabbes be answered, and may God bless all involved.

The Rattle

nick1.jpgBY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, USA - You know that game Yahtzee? Y'know the one with all the dice in the cup, shake the cup and the dice rattle about and you pour them out, they tumble and stop and you look at what you've rolled out, and voila? Well, the dice in the cup, the vexing rattling, that's my head now. That is the stage of the game I'm on now. There are so many things going on with this project and my life that my head aches sometimes. But even though there is some suffering, I have faith that I will eventually and progressively advance to the next stage in the game. And in Yahtzee, you go through this process many times, the cup, the rattle, the roll and the stop, and then at the end you count up your score. But, no matter what the score on this project, it can be nothing but a success!

But to put all analogies aside, I feel very honored and lucky to be involved in something like this. I know it will be hard, nerve-racking, frustrating, physically exhausting, mentally exhausting, and a million other things, but the list of positive things to experience far overshadows the negative. When I start to think about the positives of being in Zambia and making this film, it is very hard to even see the negatives, hard to contemplate there are negatives, hard to imagine anything going wrong. But I thought we were thinking of the positives?

I will be documenting all my experiences in Zambia on this blog and in a notebook that I will bring along as well. I will try to get it all down and hopefully most onto this blog. I am not on the roll yet, but very soon I think I will get past the rattle and just try to keep up with the momentum.

Jason Werner - Go, go, go.

jasonw.jpgBY JASON WERNER, MESA, USA - I went to the zoo with my son Tristan. As I walked around looking for animals in the hot Arizona sun, I thought, "I might get to see some of these animals in the wild soon!" The thought of living in Africa for a month and working on this project is like a dream. I feel nervous and excited, like a little boy going on his first camping trip. I'm nervous because I want us to be successful. I know we will be, but I feel the pressure just the same. I feel like I'm part of a family, and I'm looking forward to working and living with everyone. I'm a little stressed -- no job, living with my parents, bills, my son's welfare, putting my life on hold for a month and leaving the country. I know it's worth it. This is "The Chance" to change my life and more importantly, the lives of others. To me, this is what life is all about.

Jacob Felix - Grip

jacobf.jpg BY JACOB FELIX, CHANDLER, USA - I first heard about this project a few months ago. Immediately I knew I had to be apart of it. The opportunity to work on a film and in another country is unbelievable. I don’t have much experience working in film, but I’m eager to learn, and this project has a great group of people that I can learn from. Since getting more involved in the project, I realized that in the beginning I had known very little about how big this project really is. We are all involved in something that I can't even put into words.

I had never met Jabbes until a few days ago; I had only heard his story. On Saturday, we all got to hear him talk about what he wants to accomplish in making his film BAD TIMING and in teaching not only the film industry, but also the world about his country and the people of Zambia. His story and words are inspiring; the passion he has is incredible. Cindy’s determination to help Jabbes on his film and create the documentary THE VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION is also very inspiring. It's also amazing to see how many great people want to be apart of this project. Now, after all of us have been meeting and discussing more on what we are going to accomplish in Zambia, any fear I might have had has now been replaced with anticipation and excitement.

May 21, 2006

Robby Brown, You're crazy

BY ROBBY BROWN, TEMPE, USA - I never used to write a blog because I never really had anything to say. But now, I actually have A LOT to say. I'm a generally a happy person. But for the past while, I have been incredibly happy. Excited about life, about anything. And I'm sure some of my friends find it irritating and think I'm a jerk.

But it's ok. The thought of what's going on with the films and Zambia gives me goosebumps. I really cannot describe how I'm feeling exactly. I can dance for ya, I can smile, but my verbal motor's broken. We aren't just making a movie. We might be helping to change peoples' lives. And a country. This is crazy.

I was with my friend earlier in the week, and I was telling her about getting my shots, which ones I need, how much it will cost (a lot) and what they are for. When I listed off a very long list of what all could happen to me she said, "Robby Brown, You're crazy." And I am! Maybe we all have to be a little bit crazy to be doing what we're going to be doing. I'm nervous. But it's a nervous excitement. Like when my friends and I used to strap firecrackers to G.I. Joes. The excitement and hint of danger.

We have to sign Assumption of Risk forms that tell us there is a chance we could get sick and/or hurt. It even says there is a chance we might not make it back at all. Call me crazy but THAT'S PART OF WHAT MAKES IT SO EXCITING. To know that we're making the choice to risk it all to do something, learn something and make a difference.

I am so very grateful for this opportunity. It is no doubt going to change my life. And the whole idea of how freakin' big this is, is crazy. There's those goosebumps.

Heath McKinney - Cinematographer


BY HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, USA - There are no more than three words that I can use to describe the way that I feel about this terrific journey upon which we are all about to embark. Love, Life, Fear. A little weird and random you say, well please, please, give me a moment to elaborate on that. I Love Filmmaking, and Cinematography. And honestly, if there were anything in this world I would want to devote more of my time to, it's these two things. Do what you Love and you can make not only yourself happy but those around you because they will see that you're enjoying life and want to enjoy it as well. As is said, "If you enjoy something so much that you would do it for free and you can find a way to earn money doing it, you have found your career."

This is definitely mine, definitely something that will grab hold of my steering wheel and whip it into a direction I've never seen before. Bringing us to my second word of choice: Life. This will change it. We tend to make many choices in life, some of them we are grateful for, while others we tend to regret. I've chosen to empower myself to do whatever it takes to make a film become successful in its run and help change the standing of an entire nation when it comes to Media Representation. It's a decision I'll never take back, ever. This Life altering moment was brought to me at a very odd time when I had no clue what to do, and now I do. Life is too important to sit around waiting for an opportunity to come your way, so stand up and do something about it.

When I say Fear many of you think of this word in probably as many different ways as whoever will read this. Bluntly, my view of Fear is that it's good. It causes me to do what I can so that I do not become what I fear to be. It drives me into successes in life by steering me around the things I know would be unsuccessful. If someone asked me if I had any Fears concerning this project THE VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, I would tell them that I didn't but that it was Fear that brought me here. I know this project will be successful to its fullest potential because of all of those we have here working 110% to create something incredible. The end result will be something they Love for the rest of their Lives with no Fear of turning back.

Carlos Espinosa :: Cinematographer

carlos.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, USA - When I first heard about this project, I was excited to be a part of it. However, it wasn't until the last few weeks that I realized the magnitude of it. Right around the time I was introduced to the project, I was offered a promotion at my current job. It was very hard for me to speak to my boss about leaving work for a full month. When I finally spoke with her, we talked about how this is such a great opportunity for me. After I was done explaining it to her, she was excited for me, and this was the first time that it actually hit me and I realized how high the stakes are.

I am very thankful to be considered for this project. I am a little afraid of the pressure we have to make something well, but at the same time, I know that I will put the very best of me into this project. I can now grasp the big picture - to know how this project can change people's views of Africans, to know that this project is going to carry the voice of millions of people, and to be a part of the crew that will make the very first feature film in Zambia is just exhilarating.

I think we have a great group of people who are motivated and excited to participate in this project. The stakes are high, but as long as we stay motivated and focused, our goal of making a great film will be accomplished. I cannot wait to start working and to hear that very first “action!".

May 20, 2006

Katie Greisiger - Publicist

katie.jpg BY KATIE GREISIGER, GILBERT, USA - About five months ago I graduated from college and found myself asking a lot of questions about the future and what I thought I pictured myself doing. I knew I was searching for insight and fulfillment in life and wanted to learn about different people and discover new things. Too bad traveling after college is expensive when you're paying back student loans and normally Phoenix isn't the most abundant home of insightful agenda or news.

Until now.

Participating on the Zambia film projects is inspiring, thrilling, a lot of work but well worth the lack of sleep (or a weekend :) I developed a strong interest in indi film a few years back and have volunteered on film festival staff for over three years now. Knowing that media is a strong antidote to our somewhat lack of public education in our country, I understand the importance of giving the citizens of Zambia a voice in our mainstream culture through indi film.

The first indi film produced in Zambia, BAD TIMING, and the documentary recording its journey, THE VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, are building a strong relationship between two cultures: and the catallyst was Mesa Community College. This is what makes my job on the project worthwhile. Helping gain publicity and press for this project will be a new discovery for myself as I am teaching others. I know that everyone on the team has the passion and dedication needed for those great feature news stories and their excitement and interest are reason enough to volunteer. Not to mention, our collaboration and efforts will help strengthen and build a young flim industry in Zambia. We will be teachers in Zambia but we will also be students learning and appreciating the strong connections that we will make along this journey.

My blog, along with the rest of the Zambia team, will detail the path towards the completion of the first documented film in Zambia and the documentary about the making of that film.

Maybe Phoenix just got a little more interesting.

Jeniece Toranzo - Editor


BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, USA - Well I am not exactly a fan of writing, but I will learn to love it. When I first met Jabbes, to be honest, I could not understand a word he said. I have had a couple of classes with him, so I've known him for a while now. As I got to know him and talk to him more, it became much easier to understand him. He is a good friend and fun person to talk to. I am grateful that I was able to work on his digital story, MY JOURNEY FROM ZAMBIA TO ARIZONA AND BACK AGAIN. It is a strong story that touches your heart. I love being apart of the Zambia project. We have an awesome team. We get along really well and help each other when in need. It feels like a "film" family to me. I love it.

I am excited to be able to over seas and into another country. What an honor and privilege. I hope to gain knowledge, learn new experiences, and gain new friendships with the people in Zambia. I can't wait to meet great people who are down to earth and who have a love for their country. I hope to learn from them and appreciate the life I have here in the States. To be honest, I'm not too afraid, maybe just a little, if something were to happen to me. The thought of being able to participate in helping a country grow and have their voices be heard by others around the world, is far more exciting than I can imagine. It's exciting to be a part of a team that will help create a path for a country that is not well known by others. It's a chance to help the country find its own voice and become successful, a journey well worth taking.

Great Expectations

lindsey.jpgBY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, USA - I am thrilled to be a part of this project. Even if I stayed here in the states to work on this film, just knowing I am going to be part of something that will be life changing to the Zambian nation is what it is really about. Just to get to know Jabbes as a person is worth it alone too. I can’t express how grateful I am to say I know Jabbes. He is an awesome guy who is really focused on this project and starting the film industry in the memory of his son, Jabbes Jr.

I do have all sorts of thoughts running through my mind of how it will be over there. You seem to only hear the bad, but I know that there is so much beauty in this country and in the people. I don’t fear something happening with the people … okay, I will be blunt … like sexual attacks ... BUT I do fear creepy bugs that are lugging around, who knows what kind of disease. But that is why I spent a lot of money to have those preventative vaccines taken. Oh and let me tell you, I felt like I was literally shot in the arms. I had to resort to painkillers just so I could lift my arms without wincing. Even more than that, I am trying to figure out how I am going to deal with the long flight! My iPod batteries won’t last that long. I guess I will try to sleep so my energy will be ready to give my all day in and day out for the month of being there.

Welcome to our Documentary!

This is the blog for the Zambian documentary VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. Participants will be blogging about their experiences before, during and after the film!