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July 31, 2006

Storyboarding Dreams

BY HEATH McKINNEY MESA AZ USA - Wow, I really can't believe how much just working on this film has done for me. In so many ways. My first glance at film as a carear was through a class at MCC. It was called Digital Storytelling. Without thinking, I signed up for the class hoping that in some way through that class I would be able to learn how to Storyboard. I'm always drawing and coming up with wild Ideas for cartoons or stories, and I have done a few flash animations in my life but I could never really line them all up in scenes. I knew that I had to learn how to storyboard. The class wasn't anything near what I thought it was going to be, but it ended up being something much much more. My candle of excitement was lit and I started seeing movies and film in a whole different way. I was understanding script, and elements of a story, the story arc and where should it go and why.

heathJabbes.jpgBut, yet, I wasn't getting that lesson in storyboarding that I had hoped for. Then Jabbes came along. He is a wonderful Director, I can say so because I have seen him in action. Not directing actors, but storyboarders. We patiently wait by his side to hear his insight of how one scene or another should be shot. So we can put our pencils down onto paper and try to give him a physical visualization of what he sees in his head. I love this. It seems like Eric, Jacob, Mario, and I have been working without rest and I still want to do more. I got home after what felt like 2 days rolled up into one, and I started drawing.

I would have thought I'd get tired of drawing after a long day but I couldn't help it; being able to see the movie on paper just gave me an energy I didn't know I had. And I can see a change in my abilities to draw, I'm getting better. I always want to give a hundred and ten percent to this project never wanting anything but experience, and a few memories I'd never leave behind. But this really is giving back to me as much as I put into it. It's giving me so much more to give to the project still. STORYBOARDING ROCKS!!!

Somebody pinch me...I think I'm dreaming or better yet don't

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, AZ, USA — Oh my goodness! We are only a week away! Yikes and Yippee all at the same time. I am very excited, but yet very nervous. I can't help it but I keep thinking about Zambia and what it will be like. It's even distracting me at work! I have constant butterflies and anxiety attacks. I can't help but think that this is huge! I wonder what everyone else is thinking? I feel really bad for Cyndi and Jabbes. I can't imagine what they are thinking and going through. I wish that I was able to help them more than what I have, but unfortunately I have a full time and part time job. Sometimes it sucks to be in reality. I can't wait to go to Zambia though because right now it feels like a fantasy dream and I guess I won't believe it until I see it. So if I am dreaming...nobody pinch me til it's over. Ok?

I must be honest though. I keep having visions of Africa and Zambia like the movie GHOST IN THE DARKNESS. That is one of my favorite movies, but in this case when it's close to reality, it's not so great. I know Jabbes told me that it's nothing like that at all, but I can't help but think it's going to be like that. I really hope I'm wrong though. I just have to remember to think happy thoughts. I just need to take a leap of faith and just jump. Why not take a crazy chance? Carpe Diem...

July 29, 2006

The Village of Chieftainess Nyanje

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — A few days ago, Jabbes posted a photograph taken near his mother's village. We've been looking at images from Victoria Falls, Lusaka and numerous villages. It's been a good experience for all of us because it helps us to envision where we're going and what we'll be seeing in the process of making these films. In addition to looking at images, Jabbes has been preparing us for the cultural differences. We've learned that "pants" in Zambia refers to underwear. Never say "Nice pants" to anyone in country. Asking for a "napkin" will get you a diaper. Wearing any clothing that exposes your stomach or midriff is highly offensive (not that I intended to wear any tube tops, anyway).

Chieftainess.jpgWe've also been taught that there's a difference between "city life" and "village life" in Zambia. City life, it seems, will be more familiar for those of us from the U.S. We've seen photos of shopping malls (thanks Dave), traffic turnabouts and statues. The geography makes it resemble a city in the American Southwest. Whenever Jabbes describes an area of Lusaka, he always begins by saying the "density" of the area. The images we've seen have been medium or low density. I think it is the high-density areas that will be most surprising. We do shoot in a high density area for a couple of days. I'm mentally trying to prepare for that.

The third week, we will be going to the Livingtone and, hopefully, Chipata areas. We also hope to visit Jabbes' village and meet his tribal leader, Chieftainess Nyanje (pictured above). He has prepared us for the proper way to meet the tribal elders. I look forward to the opportunity to meet her. The cultural and educational exchanges are as important to me as making the films.

Hurry Up and Get There

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA, USA — Ten days and counting. We will be leaving on the 8th in the evening. That gives us all day to run around and wait. ARGH!

Last minute details.
Getting my girls all ready for school.
Do they have new shoes, notebooks, pens and lip gloss? Check.
Money for lunches? Check.
Yadayadayada.
The talk about no boys in the house while I am gone? CHECK!!!

Pams-ben.jpg Now my boys are different.
My new daughter-in-law will have to deal with Isaac, son Number One. Son Number Two is a different story. Anyone know of a good orthopedic surgeon? Yes, Ben needs to come home from Chile to repair his torn meniscus. I will not be here to mother him. My husband assures me they will all survive without me. How is that possible?

Do I have all my supplies?
Cameras?
Pepto Bismol?
Sanity?
Memory, now where did I put that?

This is so FUN! I am going to Africa. I am on a film crew. I am so happy to be me! Thank you Cyndi for having confidence in me. Thank you for having the vision to see how wonderful this screenplay is. Thank you for all the work you have done to put this together. No one really knows all you have done except you, but I have a pretty good idea. We are all indebted to you. We all owe you and the only way to show our respect and admiration is to show up, work hard and have fun. I think we can do that!

Ten days and counting! HURRY UP AND GET HERE!

Thanks For The Opportunity

BY MICHAEL MONTESA, MESA, AZ, USA - Eleven days from now, we will be leaving Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for Africa. We will be arriving in Lusaka International Airport in Zambia after 32 hours of flights and layovers. I'm really excited and just can't wait! Can you imagine we will be filming the first movie about Zambia, written and directed by a Zambian? All of this is possible because of the support from MCC, the State of Arizona and from the government of Zambia and Dr. Edgar Ng'oma. Thanks to everyone for all the support and this incredible opportunity.

mike_1979.jpgWhere would I be if my parents had never decided to immigrate from the Philppines to the States 16 years ago? What if I had never come to the US at all? Would this opportunity ever happen to me if we never moved to Arizona? WHAT IF is a good question but there is no way to know the answer. All I can say now is I am so glad I came to the US and moved to Arizona; I am so thankful for it. My parents believed that there would always be opportunities waiting for us in this country. montesa_central_park1.jpg They thought that all we would have to do is work hard and search for that opportunity. They wanted to take advantage of the higher standard of learning, equality and freedom that every citizen enjoys. I do enjoy the beauty of America and, in my experience, this is truly the land of opportunities. Even Jabbes says that about America.

My perspective of America is far different from the people who were born here. The people here are friendly and caring. Of course, I have lived here now for 16 years so my mentality is more American now but I also practice my Filipino tradition. I am lucky to have both montesa_antelope_canyon.jpg worlds because they are each unique experiences. When I'm in Africa, I want to share with the Zambians how beautiful this country is. I want to show them that this country is not just about theme parks and skyscrappers but also about the natural wonders that surrounds us and the efforts of people who try to preserve the natural resources. If I were to pursue a career montesa_brooklyn_bridge.jpgin medicine, I would probably become preoccupied with my responsibilities and not enjoy the beauty of nature. I think that is why I love photography and cinematography so much. I love to capture beauty. I will enjoy this opportunity to reveal America's natural beauties by showing my photos to interested Zambians.

montesa_monument_valley.jpgI want to return the favor America has given me and my family by representing the USA in its best light. I look forward to sharing our talents, gifts in the arts and our good citizenship. This is but a small contribution and a way for me to be thankful for the opportunities afforded me by this country. Meeting Cyndi, Jabbes and the Zambian Production Crew is not an opportunity I take lightly. Each day, I feel that this is my given purpose in life. THANK YOU.

July 27, 2006

Visualizing Our Future Battles & Glory

kaikim.jpgBY KAI KIM, MESA, ARZIONA — We will soon depart for Zambia on August 8th. My role as a faculty member in this project is to help with the documentation of artists and storytellers. We want to see how artists work and how their tradition has been carried on from generation to generation throughout contemporary Zambia. We want to record storytellers talking about their lives, the connection between the past and modern Zambia.

It’s interesting to read some of the MCC students’ blog posts where they are talking about “visualization” and “vision” because that is one of the things I wanted to write about. In my classroom, I talk about how in prehistoric times, artists were considered “shamans” because they had the ability to “visualize” something before they made an attempt or tried to make it a reality. They would paint images of the battle and the hunt on the walls of their caves before actually doing it.

Art is a form of communication, communication of one’s idea, and concept in visual form. Art came before language and writing; there were symbols and visual images and we have been communicating with them for a very, very long time. I studied painting, photography, and filmmaking as an undergraduate at San Francisco Art Institute. In my opinion, film is one of the highest forms of art because it combines, all the aspects of visuals (composition, color, form, textures), sound / music, light, writing/poetry/storytelling, acting and so forth. I am really looking forward to participating in the process of making the film and the documentary. Since all of the faculty and students come from the Fine Art Department at Mesa Community College, I am also looking forward to seeing end results. I think it will be something special.

OneZambia.jpgWe would like to use some of the training and documentary bits for our curriculum at Mesa Community College, also. I’m really excited about being able use them as teaching tools in my classroom. We hope that other faculty members in cross-disciplinary areas will benefit from them as well. Some of the departments that might find additional value include cultural geography, anthropology, English humanities and theater.

As part of the Zambian project, we will also work on establishing an ongoing international education exchange program between Zambian Universities and Colleges and MCC. There will be four faculty members and about twelve students going from Mesa Community College. Mesa Community College has some of the best art and design students I’ve ever seen and I’ve taught at many different colleges and universities. At MCC, we have great students and great teachers! I think the students are very fortunate to have courageous, innovative, exciting teachers and administrators who are giving them the opportunity of a lifetime. I mean they will be learning something beyond what they can ever learn in a classroom. A real hands-on experience, not in the streets of Phoenix or Mesa but in the mountains and streets of ZAMBIA, AFRICA!

July 26, 2006

ALWAYS

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, USA - During one of our training sessions we were told the pros and cons of this project. It is easier and more fun to focus on the pros. The cons were like, “you could die over there! You really could!” Cyndi wanted to make it perfectly clear. “If you have a problem with that then you had better pull yourself out of this right now!”

There are wild animals and a culture we are not familiar with, but die? Bungy-jumping-.gif
We are not bungy jumping off of Victoria Falls. This was clarified by our fearful leader Cyndi. We are going to be insulated. Jabbes has arranged “supervisors” for each of us. We have had our shots. We have done as much as we can to prepare for this project. We are dying to go!

But that statement does leave one with moments of reflection. Late at night with the steady sound of breathing from each of those I have nurtured for the last 24 years I ponder what their lives would be like with out me in it.

Through the years everyone develops relationships. In the everyday events of life you see and relate to those you see and relate with every day. I have never consciously chosen to stop associating with anyone. Usually circumstances dictate who I see or don’t see. I remember hearing that after high school you won’t see those you have spent four years of your life with. I didn’t believe it then, but it was true. The same occurred with my College friends. And as I have left communities I have been disappointed and sad at the lack of communication with those I have history with. So now I am embarking on a new adventure. I would be remiss not to think of the implications. As I meet new people and develop new relationships I acknowledge it diminishes the time I have for others, including myself.

There will come a time in all of our lives when we can not be a part of the lives of those we love, but I believe that we can always be in each others hearts. Sounds corny, right? Well, it is. That doesn’t make it untrue. I also have found strength and courage knowing of the love and confidence others have for me. Recently, I also have experienced self-doubt and weakness when I have felt all alone, abandoned or worse denied.

pjsliding.jpg“You could die over there! You really could!” I know that is true, but I also know I could die right here. And I will some day. In the mean time I am enjoying the feeling of birth, my own, separate and yet intertwined with family, friends, nature, environment and once in a life time opportunities.

My little world without me in it. Yes, I want to be missed by those I cherish. I want them to know it isn’t what I may accomplish that is worth remembering. It is how I made them feel.

Be forewarned, when I am gone I will haunt your heart just as many linger in mine…Always.

Save it

BY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, AZ - We are working on a very tight deadline in order to hit Sundance ’07. We are going to have to spend sleepless nights to get these two films edited down to the first draft within 3 weeks. Luckily most of us had the same training from Cyndi so our skill levels are about the same and it will make it easier to switch off after long hours of staring at a computer screen that seems to start flinching after a while.

One reason I enjoy post-production is because you sit at a computer and stay focused on the cuts and sound editing and everything else in life disappears. It is so easy to drown yourself in editing. To keep up on my skills, I have been editing wedding videos and home videos. I try to memorize as many keyboard commands and any other short cuts to speed the process up.

crashOne thing I do not like about post-production is that you never know when your computer needs a break and decides to CRASH. I can probably guarantee that will happen, especially when the deadline is tight and all our nerves will be racked. Sometimes I think computers can sense when you really need something done. They decide to show who is really in control and say information overload, goodnight.

After taking classes at MCC since 1999, I can always hear two things while working at home. CLAP CLAP, “double click” and “Save it! If you like it, save it!” Cyndi’s constant reminder in class has really stuck in my mind and saved me in many situations of crashing.

July 24, 2006

Here we go!!

notes.jpgFor faculty members Kai Kim and myself, going to Zambia seemed like a longshot at first. There were times over the summer when we didn't know if our funding would go through, and whether we would have permission to leave our school duties for the project. Well, it looks like everything's a go and it's finally hitting me--I'm going to Africa!!!!

I am so excited for the opportunity to assist in the educational exchange part of the program. Our intent is to determine exactly what our schools have to offer each other in the way of faculty and student exchange, and to implement the best of both for the benefit of all. There is so much we can learn from the Zambian people, not only in the visual art department, but in the areas of dance, theater, music, sociology, and anthropology. We are hoping to collect materials to bring back for curriculum development, to be shared by all the colleges in the Maricopa Community College district.

Next summer we will further our plans and hopefully get our exchange program scheduled. I know I would definitely not be opposed to teaching a workshop in Zambia!!

I am looking forward to meeting the people I am hearing so much about, and learning about their rich culture.

BACK TO WORK!

Zambezi.jpg.jpg BY M.K. RACINE, CHANDLER, AZ - It’s not “hard” to jump back into things after a five week long hiatus, especially when everyone continues to move eagerly forward! However, it’s not easy either. I returned from Germany on a Friday, discussed “where we’re at” with Cyndi and Jabbes on Saturday, joined the crew for a meeting on Monday, and laid sick in bed for over a week, since Monday night. Yeah. It hasn’t been easy.

The easy part was meeting with Cyndi and Jabbes, as well as reading the completed script with the crew on Monday. To be back where the energy and excitement is…well, it was exhilirating! I wanted to give everyone a big hug and just sit and catch up – but there was work to do.

Even that had to wait, however. For a week I lay in bed, wondering, "what else am I missing;" it was agony. Time is closing in, as far as the budget, organizing equipment, funds, etc. I keep telling myself, however, once everyone leaves for Zambia - those efforts will not cease. Hopefully, we will be able to continue to generate funds. I’m sure we will continue to generate interest. Though time is short to fund the trip for all students, we will work towards increasing awareness and donations for the film, our project, and the long-term educational exchange, among other goals. In no way are we near the end, and that’s very exciting.

In the grand scheme of things, five weeks, well six, won’t be too much of a loss in time for me. In its entirety, for Jabbes and Cyndi in particular, this film will be a year-long adventure. It’s come so far and I cannot wait to look back six months from now, and consider all the progress we’ve made to that point. But enough dreaming, it’s time to work; time to get out of bed, box of tissues in hand, and get to work!


July 23, 2006

History Makers

BY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, AZ - Today I heard something about being a History Maker, being the one who changes the course of life. I started to dwell on that and had a WOW realization! That is what we are! This movie could change lives in Zambia! Then I started thinking about the actors. They probably don't realize that if this is successful, they could become legends in their nation. Many years from now, people might look back at them like we look back on Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, and Katharine Hepburn. With Danny taking his musical talents to the big screen, it is just like our musical movie King, Elvis Presley.

Not only might this change Zambia, which certainly is the most important goal of this project, but also Mesa Community College: the teachers, the students, the administration and the college culture. And to think that this huge change in Zambian history was from the goal that Jabbes Mvula had to honor the memory of his son.

Getting Ready for our Final Exam

tsotsi.jpgBY JACOB FELIX, MESA, AZ — Studying like the night before finals. I think this past few months I’ve prepared more for this project than anything else in my life. I’ve read the script inside and out (which I thought was a very good story) and thoroughly studied the scene descriptions. I’ve also been reading several books on film and aesthetics, I’ve even enjoyed reading these books. I’ve never really been a reader until now.

We’ve been working on some hands-on stuff. On Friday, Robby, Jabbes and I worked on assembling a camera crane which went together pretty easily. We're trying to make sure we can get it to Zambia and back again as easily as possible. We also started working on our low-budget steadicam. We got plans for the $14 steadicam (Robby blogged about that a few days ago). A few us said we were going to build one. The other night, I went to the hardware store and picked up the parts. Yesterday, at work, I put it together on my lunch break. I borrowed my uncle's camcorder and just practiced shooting with it. It works pretty good.

We're now just about two weeks from departure, I can't believe its just around the corner. I’m very excited, and anxious to get started filming. I think most of the crew feels the same way. I know from now until then, I'll keep reading, practicing, and studying everything I can. I think everyone else is doing the same thing. We all want to do our best work. So, we're cramming for "final exam" in Zambia.

Taking Notes and Visualizing the Films

notes.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - I think I am a very visual person. If somebody is telling me a story or how their day went, at times, I can’t help but visualize the events that they are describing. The first time I was reading the script, it was hard for me to stay focused because I was envisioning all of the characters and the buildings. I have been taking lots of notes lately between reading books and watching movies. I have been exploring what I think is great cinematography and I have gathered a few films to study and take some notes on BAD T!MING.

I read Cinematography Screencraft. The book has a compilation from several great cinematographers and how they have found success. Janusz Kaminski (who did the cinematography for SCHINDLER'S LIST, AMISTAD, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT to name a few) believes using minimal light gives directors and actors more freedom and allows them to be more creative. I believe this could be beneficial to our crew since we are working in an unfamiliar environment; however, he does believe lighting should support the characters throughout the story. Kaminski believes it is important for the actors to know where the light is coming from and what the camera is doing. In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the camera was hand held 50 to 60% of the time which gave it a raw feeling.

I just saw a great film, AMORES PERROS, by Alejandro Gonzales. I think it is one of the best films to come out of Mexico. In this film, a lot of Kaminski's principles are used; most of the film was shot hand held which goes great with the story. Dogs are used in this film, and the animal factor carries to the main characters, where they fight like animals. It was important for the characters to know what the camera was doing since the camera was always behind the action, either running behind them or in front of them or following them up the stairs. I have seen this film many times, but this time I took a good 4 to 6 hours studying it. I was watching how the shots were composed, how they managed the color to help the story and support the characters. I noticed a lot of red was used ... maybe to carry the love-hate relationships between many of the characters. I noticed how even normal household items helped set the mood and described the characters. If that sort of information is put into dialogue, it's tedious and boring. When it is in the visuals, it deepens our subconscious understanding of the characters and enriches the film. This is what makes film unique as a storytelling form. There is so much carried in the visual and auditory elements.

One thing that has not been discussed greatly has been the audio. I watched AMORES PERROS with and without sound. There were parts of the film where the characters did not have lines but the camera work and the music allowed the viewer follow along and feel what the character was going through.

When I think about what we are up against — going to a foreign country, working with a cast that is mostly unfamiliar with filmmaking, a student crew — there are feelings of anxiety that creep in. I think that once we arrive and we begin shooting, many of these feelings will probably go away. I hope our training, practicing and preparation kick in and guide us through. I know that I will learn a lot from this project that would be impossible to learn in a classroom or even reading books. I'm going to learn so much and try to give back as much or more than I am gaining from the experience. I am very thankful and honored to be a part of this.

July 22, 2006

Heart and Soul

traditions.jpgHEATH McKINNEY MESA, AZ, USA - I don't think I'm alone when I say that there are a lot of bland movies coming out of the Hollywood Movie Factory these days. Many don't have the excitement and originality that I like. When I watch movies I look for a feel and or taste that makes it real to me. Recently, I've been watching African-themed movies like A FAR OFF PLACE or THE AIR UP THERE. I don't know if it's the novelty of seeing something other than a Hollywood backlot or stories about distinctly different cultures that makes them feel more exciting and original to me. My favorites are movies with tradition and history tied deep down within them.

The African films I have seen thus far reveal the "Heart and Soul" of its people and I'm honored to be a part of a new movie that we hope will contain the heart and soul of Zambia. From the concept to the script and the cast and director, to locations and theme, BAD T!MING reveals the lives and drama of Zambian natives that live life in ways we do not yet understand. It is our individual and collective hope that we will be taken into the heart of the Zambian culture and celebrate that which makes them unique in the world.

Independent Film Fan

BY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, AZ, USA - Other than the movie BAD T!MING, I never thought I would blog about why I like independent films. I never used to find the point in them until I started taking film classes at Mesa Community College with Cyndi Greening. Once you see the breakdown of a Hollywood movie, you know how each and every movie is going to end up. You can pick the bad guy out easily and tell what the resolution will be. In the independent film industry, you never know what you are going to get. Most people like things that are predictable and safe. I think that is why typical movie goers have a hard time with the change of format of the indie films.

One of the first indie films I saw was WAKING LIFE. I loved it!!!! We also watched the DVD extra on the program they used to make this. At that time, I was in my beginning film classes. For a class project, I ran each frame of the film through Adobe Photoshop to give it a filter for that cartoon look. It turned out pretty cool, but not as detailed as WAKING LIFE. Now I even see that technique used in commercials. My husband calls me in the room every time it is on because he knows I am just amazed by it.

th-08.jpgRichard Linklater is now coming out with A SCANNER DARKLY which I am so excited about. I believe this will be a bigger hit because it has A-list actors Keanu Reeves, Robert Downy, Jr., Winona Ryder, and Woody Harrelson. I have to say, he is brilliant and on my list of favorite directors…next to Jabbes… : ).

My first full out experience with Independent films was at Sundance '06. I liked every movie I saw. I know at least two of them will probably never be released (American audiences are not ready). I am so glad I had the chance to see them. I will be a regular attendee from now on.

Don't Call Me Giddy...

ecstatic_man.gifBY ROBBY BROWN, TEMPE AZ - This evening I went to the movies with my friend. We saw MY SUPER EX GIRLFRIEND. Usually after the movie, if it was a good movie, the rest of the night is filled with "Remember when..." and "Did you see that..." Well tonight it was more of me saying, "OH! And when we go to Zambia we're going to be filming in... and, "In BAD T!MING, there's this one part where... "

My friend and I couldn't stop talking about the films I AM WORKING ON. For every question he asked, I had an exciting answer and this web site for VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. The more excited I got, the more excited he got ... which got me more excited. As soon as I dropped him off, I searched frantically through my music to find the perfect song that could keep up with my adrenalin rush (Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song won out). I cranked up the volume and screamed. I cheered! I was and am on cloud 9.

The story (BAD T!MING) is great, the cause is perfect, the drive behind the team is fantastic! What an amazing opportunity.

July 21, 2006

My Vision

shawn4.jpg BY SHAWN DOWNS, PHOENIX, AZ, USA - The art of storytelling has been exercised since the beginning of humankind. In ancient times, it was a tradition of many tribes and peoples to communicate stories orally that were to be passed on for generations. These stories contained a meaning or moral that was significant to its culture. Furthermore, these stories consisted of the only understood history of its peoples as there was no written records or documentation.

About a century ago, the development of technology altered the method of storytelling so that it could be preserved through literature and motion pictures. In the United States, no one can deny the appreciation of this new method of storytelling. Recently, the film industry alone has produced revenues of approximately forty-five billion. Movie and television industries contribute sixteen billion to the State of California's economy, employing 164,000 and indirectly employing another 184,000. The film industry is a powerful industry that in time can produce large revenues and employ thousands.

For decades major studios have controlled the film industry and, by extension, the kinds of stories that are told in American. In recent years, technology has again changed the way stories are told. Recently independent filmmakers and film companies have been emerging. It is time for new stories to be heard. This technological evolution will allow a story that delves into an unfamiliar culture to be told. It will be told by an unlikely bunch. We are all hoping that the story will be so beautiful that a new industry will arise. An industry that will tell Zambian stories for years to come.

They're Here!!!

zambiatx.jpg

July 20, 2006

Fun and Learning at MCC

MCCbrightLights.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, AZ — Tonight, it was suggested that I blog from the teacher's perspective. As the person who started this wild and crazy adventure, I guess I'm probably most aware of all that has occurred to get us to this point. It all started as a modest little project to help an MCC student make the first feature film in his country. Since then it has evolved into a more robust and far-reaching project. It's touching more students, including more faculty and affecting more Zambians. It can all get so serious.

While there's a lot of good work we're hoping to do, the truth is, we are all having so much FUN doing it. Every time we're together, the excitement in the room is contagious. The students practically run around, getting and setting up lights and cameras. Like a well-oiled machine, they move through the scenes. Afterwards, they smile and kid around as they put everything away. Cases and cases of equipment are carried around like they're filled with air.

RobbyJabbes.jpgEven more amazing is the relationships that are developing among the crew members. I've worked on other film crews and this is not all that unusual. A friend of mine said that it was classic "siege mentality." There is a closeness that developes between people who endure challenging events together. Whatever the cause, there is a trust, reliance and comaradarie with this crew. As a teacher, I try every day to make a difference with my students. I hope that they learn as much as possible, enjoy themselves AND get value for their time. Weeks of instruction in the classroom don't even come close to impacting students the way the Zambia film project has ... and we haven't even left yet.

Human Experience Through the Lens

BY KATIE GREISIGER, GILBERT, USA - There are soooo many exciting things going on in my life right now...I am looking for a new career, I have to start preparing my promotions campaign for the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival that will be in October in Tempe, Ariz., and of course working on this revolutionary project for Zambia and Mesa Community College. I like that things always seem to fall in to place...almost by accident but always for a reason. The "mistakes" and challenges in life are what make us stronger. I know I have had my fair share...but I have no regrets and always remember to look for a solution and meaning during hard times.

That is what I see in the script, BAD TIMING; the strength of the characters and the story. I think audiences of all cultures will be able to relate to the emotions and struggles of the characters. I do not think that differences in culture will necessarily take away from the human experience, rather it will remind us how being unique is what inspires creativity and learning.

I am very excited to be a part and of course SEE the film! It will be great to join an audience in a dark theatre and try and listen for their reactions or watch their eyes widen during pivotal moments. I can't imagine a better feeling knowing that I get to help teach other people about the project, Zambia and what MCC and Arizona filmmakers are able to accomplish. It is all very inspiring to take risks and be more ambitious.


Texture

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, AZ- Rereading the script with two cups of joe and background music supplied by Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros. Nothing better than sitting down to a sweet, smooth drink, smooth music, and a smoother read. Going over it with a finer toothed comb this time. Really trying to get out those details and subtleties. I'm catching stuff I missed the first time, which is good. If you can reread something or rewatch something and discover something new, that little subtle nuance that character did with his face, with his hand, that adds to the richness and texture of the story.

africancoffee.jpgI've decided to read the script every couple days just to keep things fresh in my mind. The more I live with the characters, the more I'll learn to understand them, and the more input I can contribute to the film. I've started to hear the characters speak now in their own voices. I've started to watch the scenes play out in my head. I'm getting an understanding of this world they live in. It's developing a texture for me. After a few more reads maybe I'll be able to smell this environment and taste it on the tip of my tongue. Then I'll already be in Zambia in my head and I'll understand it better when we touch down there.

I know soon the script will be dog-earred like an enjoyable book. I've aready started to make my mark on it, chicken scratchs of notes. Ideas for camera angles, colors, and just little subtleties. I know I'm not the director or even the main cinematographer, but I can suggest, no? I learned not to assume. If I notice something that somone else doesn't or interpret something in a different way I don't want to assume they have already thought of it. By suggesting my idea, if they don't like it they don't have to do it. I'm just throwing another idea out there, and if the wind catches it, so be it, but if it sticks and it sticks better than the other idea, we might just have something better. The more ideas thrown into the fan, the better, in my opinion.

There is no fear anymore of going to Africa, the only fear, or unconfortable feeling I sometimes get is of not making a good film. Diseases, people standing almost on top of your feet they're so close, being the minorities, being robbed, all those and others, those don't even enter my brain anymore. They don't concern me in the least. I'm only thinking about the film. It has bulged into my thoughts and thinking about anything else soon gets swamped by thoughts of the film. At work I think, "That person is poorly lit", thinking this as I stock shelves. And " That person should move, they're throwing off the whole composition of the shot". I struggle against the urge to ask this person, this perfct stranger to "slightly move to the right". If you wouldn't mind? Please?

My body is vibrating with energy, with excitement. I don't doubt that everyone in the crew is vibrating at the same frequency. With the same excitement. For the past few months this project has been Jabbes and Cyndi's life. They've eaten, slept and breathed this project and we're all getting caught up in their whirlpool of energy and excitement. I thank them deeply for doing this project and letting me be a part of it. We haven't shot a single frame of the feature yet, but I can already feel the success of it, feel the triumph of what we're enbarking to do. It's developing a texture.

I guess I lost the subtlety, huh?

Dream Come True

zambia.jpgMICHAEL MONTESA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - As a photographer, I always dreamt of working for National Geographic or the Travel Channel. The locations they go to or the exotic places they photograph make every photographer green with envy. But having the opportunity of going to Zambia is going to put me into those locations of those photographers. I have a chance to take those sorts of images. I have never thought in a million years that I would be a photographer who would get to chance to shoot in Africa. Now, I'm going not just to photograph but to be a part of a film crew. I will get the chance to capture a native story and the essence of one of an African nation. HOW COOL IS THAT!?!

A few weeks ago, when The Arizona Republic published an article about the trip, people from the hospital where I work started asking about what it is all about. They knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker and they are happy and excited for me that this lifelong dream of mine is finally getting started.

Some people are curious and wondering if I'm going on a medical mission. In the medical field, when some people hear about a trip to South America or Africa, they often assume that it's for a medical mission. HIV/AIDs, poverty, refugee rescue and those sorts of problems come to mind. Jabbes, the director of the film, is a classmate of mine and a Zambian. Through Jabbes I have learned that Africa is so much more than its problems. This trip is my own personal mission to help the people of Zambia have their voices heard and stories told around the world.

The story that we film and images we make from Zambia will increase and perhaps change the awareness what Zambia is really like. Everything I read and see tells me that the country is so beautiful. For my part, I hope to capture and showcase the whole of Africa (not just the problems) to my fellow classmates at MCC, the residents of Mesa and the citizens of the world who have an interest in understanding and appreciating other cultures.

Ties to Technology

BY HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, AZ - These last few days have been a horror to me. We have been without cable. I find it sick sometimes how well we can adapt ourselves to technology and as soon as we are cut from it we consider it to be torture. I miss a few shows and I think that I'm gonna die. I'm seriously going to go through some withdrawal when in Zambia then. But, I'm begining to think that they are both neccesary and essential withdrawals from technology. If I am to focus on this project, I'm going to need to think of absolutely nothing but that. And, a distraction of tv and internet is simply unwanted there.

I really am a man of few words sometimes. I do know I am guilty of not keeping people around me more informed of this incredible change I've gone through in order to prepare myself for the journey to Zambia.

I started knowing less than an enthused movie viewer. NOW, I can't get enough, and I don't focus on actors anymore like most of the status quo world. Now, I see the importance of everyone behind the camera is just as amazing as what's done in front of it. I'm delighted to be educated in such a high class manor and that MCC has been the college that gave me this opprotunity.

Stabilizing Our Shots

steadycam.jpgBY ROBBY BROWN, TEMPE AZ - We are less than three weeks away from leaving for Zambia. I feel a lot of things about that but mostly excitement. I'm a little nervous, but nothing big. We have a ton of support from around here in the states and back in Zambia. It's up to us to not let them down. We have a great script, lots of talent, awesome teamwork and very dedicated producer/directors. We're all putting in 110% to make these two films their absolute best. Unfortunately, we don't have quite enough funding for EVERYBODY to go yet. But with all the support and light shining on this project, I believe things will work out.

I found a website about how to make a $14 steady cam. A steady cam is a series of tubes and counter weights held together by just a few nuts and bolts. Incredibly easy to make and highly effective. It helps stabalize your shots and also makes walking with a camera very smooth. Movement enhances the viewer's enjoyment of nearly all films. Documentary filmmaking doesn't always allow time to stablize yourself when you have to follow somebody. This little steady cam will really help me while I'm shooting the documentary VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION.

Another plus, it's small enough to fit easily in our luggage. The website shows you how to make a steady cam for a small, miniDV camera. Those cameras are much lighter than the SONY HVR-Z1U we're using. So I'll have to take that into consideration while making it. I'm going down to Home Depot this weekend to pick up the stuff. Then, I'll spend the rest of my time practicing.

Superb Script

BY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, ARIZONA, USA - I have been going through the BAD TIMING script. I am so excited to be a part of this project. I can visualize every captive moment. In this case, I was confused and had a hard time keeping up with the characters names. This may be because the names are so different compared to typical American names. So to fix this problem, I grabbed a stack of notebook paper and started to go though the script again and made notes of all the characters and how they connected to each other. That way, when I was studying the script, I had an easy reference. But I gotta say, I loved it. It was very well written and I am extremely excited to see it all played out on screen. It is just so exciting to have a finished script in my hands. I have attempted to write a screenplay myself and never get past the first 8 pages. I am so impressed with Jabbes. From my attempts, it just is not an easy task to get the story all set. Especially when all the main characters have to be introduced in the first 10 pages.

lions.jpgI have been going through and consolidating junk. I found a project from elementary school where I drew a plane with a lion and I wrote a story about Africa and how I wanted to go there. I am crazy about wild cats. My last house was completely wild cat skin décor, my desktop background is leopard and tiger on my laptop. Not to mention, the Disney LION KING movies will always be my favorite. I just found this opportunity connected to my childhood dreams so amazing. It is almost like I knew I would be connected to Africa someday.

When I was asked in classes where I would like to go, anywhere in this world, I would always say Africa to go on a safari. Someone actually asked me if I would go on a shooting safari. No way…just with a camera. There was only one other place in the world I wanted to go and that was Egypt. Low and behold, looking at a map, it is also in Africa (my geography skills were never great). Whether I will be able to go to Africa on the shoot or if I will be here working on the edit, it is all connected to my dreams growing up.

I never thought...

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - We are only weeks away and I am excited and nervous all at the same time. I wonder if anybody else in the crew is feeling the same. I can bet Cyndi is though. She is one tough cookie. The breathing exercise she had us do at the last meeting helped a lot. I am starting to envision what it will be like there. Ohh ... I'm getting goose bumps.

A few months ago, I was mostly thinking about graduating from MCC. If someone were to ask me what I was going to be doing during summer, I never ever thought in a million years that I would have said, "I'm going to Zambia". So you can bet that this is a once in a life time opportunity. I hope to learn and gain as much experience and knowledge as possible. I don't even think I can imagine what all will come out of this experience ... Yeah! I'm so excited! Happy... happy... joy... joy. Yeah us!

ngoniwarriors.jpg

July 19, 2006

A DAILY CONVERSATION

BY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA AZ USA

“You are going where?”

“Africa.” I say it casually as if going to Africa is a normal occurrence for any 48 year-old wife and mother of four.

“Are you nervous?”

“Nervous? Why would I be nervous?”

I am going to Africa to shoot a documentary and help with the first feature film ever made in Zambia. Should I be nervous?

“There are wild animails!”white bird africa_m.jpg


“In the zoo!”

Actually, we will be in a large city for two weeks. Apparently there are wild animals and birds and creatures roaming the streets, but I am sure they will not mind us. Now when we travel to the bush, I love saying that. It sounds so exotic. We might encounter some wild life, but I am confident I can out run Cyndi.

“What about diseases?”

“We have all taken shots." Ouch on those. And we will be taking malaria pills. And did you know my husband, who is not going to Africa can not give blood for like 7 years after I get back? I do feel bad about that. He has good blood.

“What about your family? Who will take care of your children?”

I look at them like they are boring me with details.

“My son’s, 23 and 20 are green…with envy. They are just mad they aren’t going. My 17-year-old daughter is thrilled. She gets the car while I am gone. My 11 year old will be running the house. She has been bossing us around, well , for 11 years! I hope to shout that she has raised us to be self sufficient and productive members of her family.”

“What about your husband? Won’t he miss you?”

“Yes, he will. He likes me a lot. He thinks I am entertaining. He also likes that I am adventurous and am always thinking.”

OK now I am exaggerating. There are not many men pj-and-Chris.jpgwho like women to always be thinking. Thinking is usually followed by spending money, remodeling, talking and for some going to Africa.

“How long will you be gone?”

“Almost a month.”

“A whole month? That is a long time!”

A month is 30 days. We will be gone only 27.
It really isn’t that long. My biggest fear? The food. I must admit I tend to be a foodie. I like what I like and fish is not on my list. They belong in the water where they can outswim the larger fish.

“Well, call when you get back. I want to hear all about it.”

“Yea, sure, I’ll have you over to watch my slides.”

Now who’s nervous! I see the fear in their eyes.

“Oh, will you be doing slides?” They ask with trepidation.

“You betcha!”

It’s called a movie!

July 18, 2006

Still Looking for Funding

BY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, USA — Last night's meeting was awesome. We are now three weeks away from departure to Zambia; making the first feature film in this country; contributing to the country; starting our careers as filmmakers; being a success. We are just around the corner from a life changing commitment.

The room was filled with emotion last night. Some were scared and nervous and some, like me, are extremely excited, and others are still wondering if they are going to get to go. It is a total bummer that we are FOUR students short of having us all be there in unity as a crew. The plane tickets are extremely expensive and will only be going up from this point.

I have been on Myspace.com spreading the news and posting links to the website in their film section and on filmmaker magazine with hopes that SOMEONE would be interested in helping out.

Unfortunately, I am one of the students who are not funded yet. The first to be funded are those who specialize in production (cinematography, sound, lighting). Those of us who have both production and post production editing skills are the last to be funded because we can also contribute following the shoot. Granted, there is much to be done here in the states, too. We've been prepping and practicing with all of us. If the money comes, we know we're needed.

So, if you'd like to make a tax deductible contribution to support us, please email Contribute to FilmZambia.

July 15, 2006

Represent

PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - In many ways , I imagine, this project is like any film project. You have a script, you have actors, you have sets and costumes and you have a crew. In more ways this project is not like any other film project.

The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. — Aristotle

In our situation we recognize that we represent much more than ourselves in this project. We realized from the beginning that what was being produced would reflect on MCC, Mesa, Arizona and the USA. Grand Canyon 29.jpgAt the same time MCC has respected the rights of the Zambian writer to tell his story in the way that best represents his culture. It is a deep, mutual respect. It is honorable.

This project is unique because as far as we know it has never occurred before. We do not know of any other junior college or even a four-year university that has provided funding for their students to go to a foreign country to help the citizens shoot their nation's first film. As a result our crew recognizes our responsibility to do our professional best. We will represent what is noble and courageous about America.

This project has been funded in part by MCC. This project exemplifies an excellent use of funds earmarked for innovative student and faculty learning. Arizona is known for its artists and for supporting art. Arizona understands the educational benefits of art. Kent Seidel, PhD said, “There is ample evidence that the arts help students develop the attitudes, characteristics, and intellectual skills required to participate effectively in today's society and economy. The arts teach self-discipline, reinforce self-esteem, and foster the thinking skills and creativity so valued in the workplace. They teach the importance of teamwork and cooperation. They demonstrate the direct connection between study, hard work, and high levels of achievement.” When you consider the artistic contribution Arizona is known for, it is not surprising that Arizona would be the initial state that supports such a project. We will represent what is creative and cooperative about America.

Grand Canyon 98.jpgAs citizens of the United States, we understand that some regions in the world view all Americans as greedy, self absorbed, lazy, power hungry individuals. We know this is not true and we have the opportunity to show the world another side of America. This project exemplifies the true spirit of American citizens. Our goals are selfless and altruistic. We will represent what is kind and generous about America.

We have a huge responsibility to ourselves. We are to learn all we can from this educational opportunity. We are to expand professionally through this momentous project. We are to grow personally from contributing and participating with the Zambians. We will represent the achievement that is possible when one commits oneself to service, leadership and global understanding.

July 13, 2006

Arizona Supports Zambia: Next the World

elephant.jpgBY KATIE GREISIGER, GILBERT, USA - So the title might be a little presumptuous. However, I truly believe we are making a lot of progress with gaining public support of the project.

I am so proud to receive phone calls and copies of published articles about the project from family and friends. The excitement in their voices about the projects is what tells me that all of our time has been well spent whether the funding is there for our plane ticket or not. It may seem a little cliché, but everything in life DOES happen for a reason. Every day should be a learning experience or we are just not living. This project has reminded me how short life is and how moments of enlightenment and change are few and far between. I even quit my job to continue to support the efforts and do not regret it in the least.

I have been working on securing a fundraising event for the film project. Although it will most likely not be until the end of July, it will still provide some promotional and funding support for the small but mighty crew that is trekking to Africa. Even if I am back here in the states, I know I will still have helped on a revolutionary project and am grateful for the opportunity. As a native Arizonan, I am proud that so many people have been interested and supplied hours of labor to help push the project forward.

It is no wonder to me, now, that the birth of this project was in Mesa, Ariz.

Making My Life Count ... Quietly

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, ARIZONA, USA- Ok so I have a confession. I really haven't told to many people that I am going to Zambia. I have tried to keep it a secret and slowly told a few people when I felt it was ok to do. My reason? There are several. One is that I have always kept my personal life more private and even when I am asked questions about my personal life, I tend to beat around the bush and trick the person into turning the question on them. Ok so my secret is out on that. Oops.

luangua.jpgI honestly didn't want to jinx myself by telling other people like family and friends. What if I told all these people and then I wasn't able to go due to funding. Then it would look like I was a liar or just bragging to people. I didn't really want to go through all of that and risk it so I just kept my mouth shut. I wasn't sure what kind of reaction I would get either. I am not worried at all about what we are doing. I am very proud and honored that I am a part of someting great. So far I have gotten a little bit of negative, neutral, and mostly positive feedback. I didn't want people to treat me differently or act differently. Now I don't know if this is stupid to think, but I keep wondering, will we be missed? Will our family and friends miss us because we will be gone for practically a month! A lot can happen in a month. What if something happened to us? "Knock on wood" that it doesn't. I really truly hope that everybody willl be able to go and that we will be able to have enough support for everything so we can pull this off.

One of my favorite quote is from the movie WHERE THE HEART IS. Most of the quote makes me think of this project. We are fighting for a good thing and it would be a memorable moment in our lives if we were able to succeed in it and be able to pass it on. Natalie Portman plays the character Novalee Nation and she says: "You tell them that our lives can change with every breath we take ... and tell 'em to hold on like hell to what they've got: each other, and a mother who would die for them and almost did ... You tell them we've all got meanness in us, but we've got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that's why we've got to make sure we pass it on. "

July 12, 2006

The Summer of Change

jeniecenemo.jpgBY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - I would have never thought a few months ago that this would be the summer of change for not just me, but for so many of my classmates. Being on this project has helped so many ways. I have learned to be more outgoing and not as shy. I have learned to open up more about my personal life to others and be ok with it. I believe that this project has helped shape and mold the crew to become more professional and adult. To learn and take responsibilities for our actions. I think we have learned to become stronger persons than we thought we could ever be.

I love being on this project and I wouldn't change it for anything. I must admit, I am getting more nervous as the days are coming closer to our departure. This is a huge project that we are taking on and I believe that we have the skills and talents to make it successful. I can't wait and I am so excited to able to have the opportunity to go. I just hope we have enough funding and resources. I went shopping for make up and supplies yesterday for the actors. I hope I got the right colors because it took me a couple of hours to find what I have now. I hope I don't forget anything. I hate that feeling when you leave for a trip and you have that nagging feeling that you forgot something or forgot to turn something off. I hope none of us get that feeling because it will be harder to replace it and it's not like it's a hop, skip, and a jump away! It's half way across the world!

I pray everything will go smoothly. Pray with me too.:) I think two is better than one. The more the better.

Getting "B" Roll that Rocks

BY ROBBY BROWN, TEMPE, ARIZONA, USA - Over that past weekend I had traveled down to Farmington, New Mexico, where I’m from to see my friends, family, and meet my new nephew before we leave for Africa. Of course, there was the usual support and excitement from those in town who knew about the trip. And shock from those who were hearing about it for the first time. “Africa?!?!” Yeah, Africa. It was fun passing out the web addresses for the film blogs and keeping everybody updated when I'd find out we were in the paper. TWICE while I was there.

kafuesky.jpgOn the 7-ish hour car ride back to Arizona, I thought about how amazing this will be. We’ve all worked hard and are preparing as much as we can to make the best films we can make. As I would look out the window at the scenery I’d ask myself, “Ok ... so how would you shoot that?” Granted New Mexico looks pretty much nothing like Africa at all. I want to make sure that the B-Roll I shoot looks great and is visually appealing. Zambia is already a beautiful place from what I read, see and hear. So really part of the work is done for me. I’m in full film mode now, I just have to feel the shots. You can take a picture or point a camera at anything but if you really want to capture something meaningful and engage the audience, you have to feel the shot. There’s an immediate connection.

As soon as I drove back into town I went straight to our meeting for the film where we got to read the first 30 pages of the script, each person reading a different part. I couldn't be more excited. It’s just such a great story I didn't want to stop after just 30 pages. There's another 60 pages (I learned each page is a minute of film time and our film is 90 minutes). I'm looking forward to reading and starting to visualize the film. If we can all picture it, different angles and cuts then the actual filming should come a little easier.

This is going to be good.

July 11, 2006

Carrying the Project Together

sillyHeathsm.jpgBY HEATH McKINNEY, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - It's incredible how far this film is coming along in its pre-production. I am literally enthralled by all that is moving around us, the publicity and support ... the support keeps growing. Becuase this is an Independent Film, we are an extremely tight crew with an extremely tight budget. The producer, Cyndi, works endlessly and late nights trying to find the money we need so that all of us in this tiny crew can go. We all feel how important BAD T!MING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION can be for Zambia; so we all want to be able to get there to support the film to the best of our abilities. This is going to require the effort of hundreds of people, with the bodies of fourteen.

To some it might seem a little bit like we are biting off more than we can chew. At least we are willing to do it. We want to bring a Zambian story to to rest of the world. We all want to get the best thing possible out of this, and will do as much work as it takes to get it done. I love this crew, they couldn't have chosen a better group of people to bring this film to life. We all know what we need to do, and the duties that need to get done to make this a successful project.

I have come to realize that when it all comes down to it, the film industry may be one of the highest forms of art. Like an orchestra or a symphony, you have a large group of people who must bring the highest skill and best effort together and serve the larger piece of work as a group. Every artistic ability comes into play for each individual so the project succeeds for the group ... our small group and the much larger group known as the nation of Zambia.

Grabbing My Attention

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, AZ, USA - Guess you could say I was nervous about the idea. Well, I suppose, not really nervous, more like anxious. The waiting was, in fact, the killer, the anticipation. But I guess you always have to allow a certain amount of trust in that situation. What really got my noodle running, the gears turning, was how it seemed to be hidden away. How it was kept away from the light, until at least satisfactory, or even better; good. I understand completely why it would be under wraps until the authors were satisfed. There's nothing worse than getting people excited about an idea and then when you present that idea to them, and they read this idea written down on the page, and after they read, they look up and your there with a "what do ya think?" in your eyes and them a soured smile, a smile of "It's fine" or "It's ok" and you knowing it most certainly is not "fine" or "ok" because you have to go back again and rewrite and maybe they won't reread it, their idea of your idea already soured, and once they've made that connection, that judgement, it hard to persuade them otherwise.

But it is safe to say that I've read it. Well, a third of it. All of the crew did. We read it together, getting our thespian voices in order, or out of order. Taking turns on the different parts, realizing why we were better suited to be behind the camera rather than in front. I knew beforehand what the synopsis was but, how would it be written? Would it be interesting? Exciting? Tension between characters? And maybe most important, would I want to keep reading? Would I want to see this film? Well, now, at least for the first third, I can answer those questions.

YES.

My honest opinion is yes. And I believe it can only get better as I read the other two thirds. Of course everyone else is in the dark about the details, but I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. This is definitely not a review and most certainly not a tell-all. I'm just giving a taste, or letting everyone else know what it tastes like. I do have an inkling about where some characters will end up at the end of the script, but not all and, I think this makes for any good story, I can't see where the main character will end up, and how he'll be changed. I think if you're watching a film or reading a screenplay, the authors want people to think "where is this going?", "What's going to happen?". When people are taken by surprise and don't expect the twists and turns, that's what always makes for a good story. When you have to hold on until the end to see what will happen and you can't stop watching or reading, you must finish, and if you stop midway you'll be thinking about it too much not to want to come back to it. I love the feeling of being so absorbed in a story that everything not involved in the story fades to the back of your mind. These characters and the situations they're caught up in have your full attention. Now show me why I'm interested. Show me why I care. Then show me why I can't stop reading or watching until the end. Those are the films I love.

Now to make it. I only hope we can live up to the script. If the visuals are anything like the script, or if I dare, better, I have no doubt that people are going to want to see this film and not only see it but like it. Then I have no doubt that those same people will want to see how it was made.

This is what I meant by the waiting.

July 10, 2006

29 Days And Counting......

psa_photo.jpgBY MICHAEL MONTESA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - This weekend, Jeniece and I had an opportunity on helping out Katie and her film crew shoot a Public Service Announcement about Alzheimer's Disease. It was a great learning experience for me and Jeniece and good opportunity on meeting some new friends in the local film industry. I was there to light the set using the DP Lowel tungsten lights mimicking early morning light and also took some production stills (luckily, I brought my camera with me - I never leave home without it) .

jeniece_make_up.jpgJeniece also had a great time learning make-up techniques for film and enjoying her time on the set. She is such a great person to work with because she is always willing to learn and always jump on the opportunity to help. I always see her taking notes and writing down individual's name just to make sure she won't forget. Unlike me, I can only remember 2-3 names a day. I need to start writing down some important notes from now on.

steadicam.jpgWe also had an opportunity to see the steadicam in action. It was an amazing experience to see what it can do. Watching the playback, the shots looks smoother and flows nicer (courtesy of $8,000). It must be great to have one of this. Now I know what I want for Christmas.

We are now a month away from leaving to Zambia and all the excitement is building up. All I think about now is our adventure and the great opportunity this is for us to be able to film in Africa. Everyone is putting their best on working together and learning the tools that we will be using in the film. The Zambian project definitely made us closer like a family.

July 09, 2006

Movies Without Sound

jacobframe.jpgBY JACOB FELIX, CHANDLER, USA - Movies without sound. The other day I watched scenes from a few movies with the sound turned off. To watch, and study, how major cinematography works in major films. I was watching for key things like depth of field, and how they frame up different scenes. I couldn’t believe how much we don’t notice; when the sound is on we don’t see as much because we're caught up in the story. When watching movies without sound it really helped me observe the cinematography, the lighting, camera angles and positioning. In some scenes, I could see how the better actors really know how to work with the cameras.

Watching movies this way also helped me notice that even though I love music and enjoy the dialogue of a good film, I’m more of a visual person. Watching films like this made me think, and remember, that I've always been this way. Since I was very small, I hated the movie theaters in New Mexico because they didn’t have stadium seating. I would always cross my fingers and hope that no tall or big haired people would sit in front of me. Most of the time it would happen, they would sit right in front of me. That would ruin the whole movie for me. Anyone would get irritated watching a film with obtrusive objects blocking parts of the movie screen.

Now that I'm older, I wouldn’t want to see a film with shakey shots, bad lighting, or poor editing, either. That’s why it's important that we work hard and work as a team, to make sure this film is not just made, but made well. We have what takes to get it done, and I have a lot faith in this team, that we will do an excellent job. At the meeting this past Wednesday, we got a chance to view and critique some scenes we shot a couple weeks ago. Though there were some minor mistakes, it turned out pretty good and showed us what key things we are going to work at and perfect before shooting starts. It also displayed to us that we all work well together.

One of the films I watched was LEGENDS OF THE FALL which won an Academy Award for Cinematography. Every shot was amazing. You could see that everything was well thought out and visualized beforehand. This is the state of mind that I have now; to visualize everything I look at as though I were shooting it. Where would we put the lights? Would this be a good place to set up the camera? Do I really like seeing that in the background? These are the questions I find me asking myself.

Logging Footage

CyndiAlec.jpgBY ALEC HART, NEW YORK CITY, USA - Everyone is getting anxious to go to Zambia. They are eager to get the film BAD T!MING started. The documentary, VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION, started filming in January so I already have a ton of work to do. I've started logging the 47 hours of footage that we have SO FAR. I'm sure they'll get a lot more exciting and dramatic footage in the next month. I think some of the most beautiful footage will be shot in August. I am expecting that we will have well over 200 hours of footage by the time this is done. I hope to get an early start so we can get the story shaped as quickly as possible.

This photograph was taken in Arizona last month. We were out to dinner with The Bowes: Sandy, Jeff, Chris & girlfriend Sara. It's not too often now that we're all in the same city at the same time. In the U.S., as we get older, we tend to move some distance away from our famiilies. Our life is not as communal as the Zambian life. Our families are much smaller, too.

Cyndi says that it is because we live in a much more industrialized and modern country. We do not have the same need to stay close to our family because our survival doesn't depend on staying connected to our family tribe. We can do things like move all the way across the country and live in NYC on our own. Through an accident of birth, we were born into a wonderful life. Through intention, we can help those born in a very different world to share what their life is like. As the editor, I like being able to see ALL of the detail behind what the audience sees.

Building a Great Team

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BY KATIE GREISIGER, GILBERT, USA - Saturday, July 8, I needed some help while producing a Public Service Announcement for my work and I was lucky enough to be able to turn to some new friends from the Zambia Film Projects.

Although more wanted to help but couldn't make it, Jeniece and Mike quickly jumped for the opportunity to lend a helping hand and gain more experience on a set (although luckily only a 30 second PSA and not quite the two films we'll be shooting in three weeks). Mike was a life saver and helped with lighting and Jeniece helped and learned more about make-up for film.

The Zambian team is really learning to work together well and be supportive for one another. We are all anticipating hard work during the shoot in August but at least we will be able to rely on each other and produce the product that everyone is anticipating, and maybe even exceed expectations.

From Mother to Daughter

PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA USA - One sunny noonday while traveling with my daughters to a lunch date, I ran into some road construction. Sitting at a light, I honked my horn gently at the car in front of me to let them know that we had the green arrow to turn. The passenger took offense at my nudge and let me know with just one finger what he thought of me and my considerate reminder. Now tell me what is a mother to do?

As human beings, do we not have the right to communicate our intentions? Could I allow my daughters to think that I would tolerate such disrespect? Well duh, NO! I followed the car through the light and approached them on the right. I rolled my window down and asked, “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?" The passenger flips out his handy dandy switch blade!

I follow blade man just long enough to have my daughter write down the license plate and the make and model of the car. My husband calls to tell me to get off the stupid freeway. Now, let’s get one thing perfectly straight. Freeways are not stupid! I comply and exit the freeway. I report the information to the police. They promise to call if they locate the one finger switch blade man. They never called back. My daughters learned an important lesson that day. Their mother is insane.

My daughters are now 17 and 11. They are beautiful, intelligent and funny. They do not honk at cars, but they do fight injustice in their own way. I am honored to be their mother. I hope they have learned how valuable they are. I hope they know sometimes you have to sacrifice something good for something better and sometimes you just have to sacrifice. I often tell them that life isn’t fair, so, oh well. I also hope they see that I think life is an adventure. I want them to know that I know I don’t know everything, but I am having an awfully good time learning as much as I can.

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I am going to Africa to shoot a documentary on the first feature film in Zambia. Now just how many daughters are telling that over the water fountain? I can see the first essay at school next year. “We spent the summer learning about Africa because my Mom decided that is where she wanted to go and so that is where she is.”

My children will have a wonderful life. I‘d like to believe I had something to do with that. They are adventurous and curious and productive and kind. They have known disappointment. They have known heartache. They have known love. They do have one flaw. They never honk.

July 07, 2006

Fun ... Zambian Style

jparty.jpg BY CARLOS ESPINOSA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA - Another fun meeting took place last Saturday, in which Jabbes and his friends were in attendance as part of the crew. One thing that sticks out is the people of Zambia like to get together and have a superb time. We had another opportunity to eat Zambian food, but since I was behind the camera, the food ran out quickly and I did not get to try any. Since I do not eat fish, I did not try the Nemo plate (according to Jeniece). I did try “Samosa” which reminded me of a Mexican pastry called 'empanadas', only they have meat. Even though they were a little spicy, they were very good.

This last Wednesday we had a meeting/training session, which was good since the Arizona Republic was out to interview the crew and learn more about the project. Afterward, we reviewed footage we had captured a couple weeks ago. We got some taste of how the team is working together and recognized the areas of opportunity we have as a crew.

After the meeting, I drove Jabbes home and we were talking about how we are around the corner from beginning the shoot of the film. The pressure is building quickly since we want to help Jabbes tell his story and make an excellent film. We have been blessed with great support and I think the film is getting a lot of attention and we want to live up to the expectations. We are only shooting for 3-4 weeks, and from what I have been reading, a feature film takes about 9 weeks to shoot. We need to understand that the time we have is precious and we have to be on top of our game to accomplish a great film.

Its party time!

BY JENIECE TORANZO, MESA, ARIZONA, USA-Saturday Jabbes threw a party. All of his friends from Zambia came, but man o' man did they come late! I didn't realize that they used Zambian time here in America. It was funny because we were told it started at 6pm and in Zambia it really means 9pm. So by the time everyone got there, we were all starving and ready to dig in and try their food.

I did try everything but the big fish. I really liked their rice and chicken. Very good! I tried to eat with my hands, how the Zambians do, which that was kind of different but it was fun. Towards the end of dinner, they brought out what looked like turnovers. That was very good, too.

nemoplate.jpgMy least favorite thing, I must say, was the little fish. I didn't want to try it at all to begin with, but Cyndi told me to at least try one. It was very hard to look at this little creature looking at me and I'm thinking "I have to eat you as you look at me." Poor fish. He never saw it coming. It's like I was eating a friend of Nemo. So I stuffed him in my taco because I just didn't have the heart to look at him starring at me as I ate him. I took one bite of my taco and the stuffing started to fall out. I looked down and there was my poor little friend staring right up at me. Only it was half of him by now. I only ate his butt. Yuck. In order for me to finish him up, as I said I would to Cyndi, I quickly pushed him back in with everything else and just closed my eyes and hoped that I couldn't feel or taste him. What a way to go.

Well I survived, but I'll tell you one thing, I would not survive on FEAR FACTOR! Money is not so important to me that I would put myself through that. Other than that, everything else was very good!

As we mingled with Jabbes' friends, I got to know one guy. I think his name is Daniel Phirri. Hope I spelled that right. He was such a nice guy and fun to talk to. He tried to teach me and Jacob to dance like the people in Zambia do. He is a very good dancer. I felt like such a dork because I wasn't used to how they dance and I didn't know how. They really know how to dance. It seems like it's in their blood and it comes natural to them. Or maybe it's because singing and dancing are a part of their daily life. Although I was embarrassed to dance in front of people I didn't know, it was still fun and I eventually got over it. They have a lot of energy! I was so tired by 11pm. I just hope I can keep up with them in Zambia. I don't want to be known as a party pooper. I don't think that would look good since we are representing America.

Advancing Confidently

PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA USA -- Last night we had another training session in preparation for the feature film shoot. Cyndi was multi-tasking again. She had us set up for an interview. We talked with former student Jordan Pack. Jordan was an animation student who was back for the summer. For the documentary, she wanted to get his take on our opportunity of filming in Zambia as MCC students. He said how he wished he had had such an opportunity and how it could have benefited his career aspirations.

AZRepublic.jpgWe also had a visit from the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Their reporter Josh Kelley (and photographer Dave) observed as we got the interview recorded. Josh also commented on what a great opportunity for MCC students to go to Africa and shoot a film. Later, we watched footage from a previous practice shoot. We critiqued our work. We discussed what worked and what didn't. We examined the lighting, camera angles, sound and editing. It was very beneficial.

Then came the talk.

We have the funding for two (2) faculty and eight (8) students. The problem is there are 15 students and six faculty. That means Cyndi wants to get funding for 5 more students. That's $15,000.00. If she can't locate funding, that's five students who have dedicated their thoughts and actions to this project for the last four months that will not get to go. The question I have (and I am sure the other students have) is, am I one of the 5 who will be left behind? Cyndi calls it Sophie's Choice (from the William Stryon novel and film that starred Meryl Streep). The dreams and goals of which child lives ... and which child dies?

Cyndi explained that the determining factors will be an assessment of our effort, commitment and knowledge. Do we show initiative? Do we have to be told what to do or do we just do it? How do we relate to other crew members? Do we work well as a team player? Are we paying attention to what has to be done and thinking of ways to accomplish it? How skilled and proficient are we with all of the cameras, lights and tools? If we don’t know how to do something do we figure it out, ask questions, read up on it or let it become someone else’s problem? Are we open to the cross training Cyndi is providing for us?

Most everyone works well as a team. Certainly many hands make light work. The hardest part for those left behind will be knowing the contribution that could be made if he/she were able to go. Each of us wants to go desperately. We might even think we deserve to go for the effort we've put in, but that doesn’t mean we can go. Even though we have unlimited energy, determination and passion, there is a limit to how many plane tickets we can afford.

As I wait to see if the funds come in, I will ponder on what Henry David Thoreau said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” I await the meeting in the common hours.

I Heart LA

partylinz.jpgBY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, ARIZONA, USA - I was bummed to miss out on Weds. meeting with the Arizona Repubic reporter. We had just driven into town from L.A. at 2:30 that morning. I just love L.A. It is amazing to find that so many people you talk to there are associated in the film industry or know people who are. I am hoping to find a job in the industry. Although the streets of L.A. are dirty compared to Phoenix, the excitement and buzz around there is so much greater. It seems like people in L.A. don't care what other people think, they live the way they want.

My son Jett left a day earlier with my mom. I called to check up on him that night and we both started to cry. It is going to be so hard on us to be miles away. I think the best thing to do is avoid that phone call home. It is hard to hear those cute little voices. I think it will be harder for my family because I will be so busy working time will fly by for me.

Going to the party at Priska's house was really fun! The food was interesting. I myself do NOT care for fish or any seafood. So, I passed on the little creatures and went on to other choices that I thought were great. For those who don't know me, it takes A LOT for me to try new foods. The food choices I made were great. I would for sure eat them again. We also heard some music from Zambia which I truly enjoyed and listened to it again on the way to California. The folks we met were wonderful and sweet people. I imagine long term friendships coming out of this project.

July 04, 2006

Independence Day

AlecHartWebshot.jpgBY ALEC HART, NEW YORK CITY, USA - Tonight, I walked over to the East Hudson River to catch the end of the Macy's Fireworks display for Independence Day. The smell of burned sulphur was strong in the air. The loud booming of the fireworks echoed in the concrete canyons. You could see the reflection of the explosions in the glass.

Tomorrow, I start logging the footage for the documentary, VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. Recording began in early February in Mesa, Arizona. Cinematography will continue until BAD T!MING, the first Zambian feature, wraps. The deadline for the Sundance Film Festival is generally the first week in October. Since the films wrap on September 3rd in Zambia, it will be a miracle to get the rough cut ready in time for the 2007 festival.

Initially, I was planning on going to Zambia as part of the crew. Now, I think I can be more useful by staying in the states and working on the edit. We're still working out how to get the back-ups safely back to the U.S. during the shoot. We tried uploading a file on a server here and having it downloaded there but the connection was too slow. Tomorrow, I have to check into FEDEX.

July 02, 2006

Party People

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A wonderful party was hosted on Saturday evening by Priska. Arizona Chairman Fred welcomed Arziona Zambians and the Zambian Film Crew to the event. Native Zambian food was served including wonderful hors d'oevers made by Nali. Students Andrew, Danny, Don, Frackson, and Chibwale shared their reflections on the similarities and differences in U.S. and Zambian education.

Danny and Pauline tore up the dance floor. Jeniece and Jacob joined in the dancing. Frackson explained how popular Nigerian music was in Zambia. He also shared that his elder sister had come for a visit but she was a bit bored because life in the U.S. was not as communal as life in Zambia. He also explained a great deal about the differences between patrilineal and matrilineal tribal succession. It made it more clear why the situation with Konwandi was as it was for Jabbes. Later in the evening, Roy, Mike & Tracey came in from Tucson. Roy bears an uncanny resemblance to Snoop Dogg. Kennedy chatted a bit about Mondo music.

Bob, Ian and Sam were some of the first to arrive. They had been at the earlier gathering at Cyndi's house. Sam and Nali talked about the difficulty in finding good jobs in Zambia. The unemployment rate is quite high. At some point during the evening, nearly everyone shared how much they missed Zambia and how much they wanted to go home but, at least for right now, it's better to work here to support those still at home. At the end of the evening, Cyndi was asked to talk about the film projects. There was a huge outpouring of support from the Zambians in attendance. At the end of the evening, Paul (who has a wild and crazy sense of humor) said he'd be coming to Sundance with us this year ... if we rented a big enough house!

Angels

Koln.JPGBY M.K. RACINE, KOLN, GERMANY - One can hardly be prepared to learn of the sudden loss of a loved one.

It is hard for a friend to watch one suffer when dealing with such emptiness. For me, I am not sure what is most difficult, being there - feeling there is nothing I can do to truly comfort my friend, or being thousands of miles away, while others do the comforting, and I remain absent.

I was so saddened and shocked to read of the passing of Kondwani, while viewing the website, weeks after his death. Jabbes continues to be the brave, strong individual I’ve always known him to be. To read the thoughts and words of various members of the crew, allows me to grieve with them, but to also feel for them. Members of the crew care for Jabbes, greatly. He is respected and well liked. When such a friend suffers, one cannot help but suffer and ache too. Though I feel limited in what I can offer, from this distance, prayer empowers me to be with each of them.

When I think about Jabbes and such loss, I also think there must be a gain. I now envision two angels by his side. Two brothers meant to be together, meant to be with their father in this way, so no amount of distance can ever separate them. This is a gift not all experience, a gift not all seek to find. I pray this gift offers Jabbes comfort and provides his sons with peace.

July 01, 2006

Why Zambia?

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA - Sometimes, people ask me, "Why Zambia?" It's a good question. Initially, I became interested in the Zambia feature film and documentary project because of Jabbes. As my student, he made short films that I found compelling, including the loss of his son. While it was sad and moving, it was the determination that Jabbes had to honor the memory of his son by establishing the film industry and stimulating economic growth that continued to propel me into the project. This project was about more than just his personal loss. It was about making a significant contribution to his country.

I started writing the Innovative Project Grant Proposal and researching everything I could find about Zambia. I started with the CIA Factbook. I found out that:

  • Zambia was about the same size as Texas
  • The population is about 12 million
  • The national language is English
  • It is predominantly Christian
  • Zambia is a demoncracy with elected government officials
  • It has been independent since 1964
  • Mining and agriculture are the chief industries
  • Infant mortality is 86/1000 live births
  • About 16.7% of the children are growing up without parents because of HIV/AIDs

Zambia came out of the horrific colonial slave-trading past (To better understand that period, you can watch the Spielberg film or go to the website on AMISTAD). In 1964, Zambia gained independence. Zambia's first president said that Zambia could not truly be free until all African were free. A very profound conviction.

Like Jonathan and Lorra Gilbert wrote in their posts, it's our responsibility to do our best to commit our lives to make a difference in the world. By the grace of God, an accident of birth, really, we were born in the richest country in the world. Now, we have a chance to support economic growth and build an industry in an African nation that would really benefit from that effort. It will improve the lives of many Zambians.

Why Zambia?

How could we refuse? Initially, one of Zambia's sons asked us to bring the stories of his people to the world. Since then, Zambian citizens, arts patrons and many government officials have invited our participation. As photographer and Kenyan Activist John Schaefer said to me yesterday, "We save our own souls when we do this work." We are lucky to have been asked.

Pray for Power

jackson.jpgBY LINDSEY BLACK, CHANDLER, ARIZONA, USA - Wednesday night at my church we had guest speaker, Jackson Senyonga from Uganda, Africa who has a church of 40,000 people. The way he talked about the people over there excites me even more. They are loving people in Africa. The best thing he said was he has 20 more minutes. Then proceded to say African minutes. Which just shows they slow down and take their time and not rush through things. I did get a little worried when he said "power today, none tomorrow." I am hoping it is different in Zambia. That will make a 3 week shoot on a very tight schedule otherwise. The best thing about hearing this pastor is that my husband left the service telling me that he feels much better about me going now and he wished he could go.

I have been working on an editing project and I have had a lot of problems with the output. I get so frustrated and hope that we don’t have issues like this. This is the bad thing about relying on electricity and electronics, sometimes they don’t want to work they way you want. I am thankful that these kinds of issues are in post-production and we will be in the states for that. But it does turn on the light that things can go wrong and we have to be prepared to deal with it.

Tonight we are getting together for some Zambian food and music. I was bummed because I thought I wouldn’t get to go because we are going to LA. But I just found out we are leaving at 3 AM so I can pop in for a short time. I can’t wait!