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September 30, 2006

Walking Down Memory Lane

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA – We've been editing the documentary for the last couple of weeks. We gathered over 80 hours of footage while we were in Zambia. There was another 20 hours prior to leaving the U.S. and about 10 hours since. I've always been in awe of how documentary editors wade through all that footage to craft (what they hope) is the BEST hour-long documentary. As we work on the Zambian documentary, I find that there are several really good stories that could be told. The trick is chosing the right one. The most powerful one. The most compelling one.

I notice there is an odd thing that is happening for everyone. When we first came back, it was all terribly exciting and it was fresh and familiar for all of us. Now, as we watch the footage, Zambia is becoming a more distant memory. Yesterday, M.K. was saying that it hardly seemed like we were at Victoria Falls. We were all saying that the documentary footage is like a big pile of home movies. Probably far more meaningful (and interesting) to all of us than anyone we make sit through them! I think that is the biggest challenge of documentary editing — finding the story that others find meaningful and captivating. As Zambia becomes more of a memory for us, it gets easier.

September 27, 2006

Good Intentions

BY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA - "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” — Douglas Adams

DSC06343.JPGWhen we went to Zambia, we had good intentions. We thought we would bring a new industry to a country that would embrace us and our goals. We thought that Zambia would want an opportunity to expand its employment options. It didn’t occur to us that Zambia or other countries might not want to do things the same way we do things. Some people like to learn from their own mistakes instead of the mistakes of others. I am sure when the wheel was invented, people were hesitant and wanted to stay with what was more familiar. We should have thought of that possibility and been more sensitive to a people's self-discovery.

Countries consist of people and traditions and pride. Zambia is not any different. Zambia has 73 tribes in its country. Each tribe has their own language, their own history, their own culture. Some of the tribes work together and are friendly to each other. DSC05880.JPGOther tribes don’t like each other much. I am sure history would explain their apprehension with each other. Tribes are like large families. When a couple marries then their children adopt the tribe of their father. Some tribes believe in polygamy. Others tribes forbid it. Each tribe has its own mores and values and standards. But whichever tribe a Zambian belongs to it is the best tribe in the country. If you don’t believe me just ask one! One thing they all have in common is respect. They respect the right of other tribes to live according to their beliefs. Sound familiar?

We also went to Zambia to learn about their culture. We went with the belief that every culture has something to offer. We wanted to know what their culture could offer the world. We spoke with many about what made Zambia a wonderful place to live. The people looked at us like we were crazy. They looked around them and would respond, “Zambia is my country! Why wouldn’t I love it? Look at the people, they are so friendly.” And indeed they were to us!

DSC06602.JPGI believe what ended up happening is that instead of us helping establish a new industry and changing a country, our experience in Zambia changed us. We discovered things about each other, but more importantly we discovered things about ourselves. We are becoming more of who we were intended to be. We keep unlayering ourselves and those around us sometimes are confused as to who we are. They are not alone. We are confused as we discover who we really are as well. It is a process, but it has been self-affirming for all of us.

We may not have gone and done what we intended to do, but we ended up where we needed to be.

September 23, 2006

We are Driven

mikey.jpgBY MICHAEL "KARATE MASTER" MONTESA, SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Before leaving for Zambia, my life was quiet and boring ... I always followed the rules, always by the book, always inside the box. I would work nonstop, sometimes 60 hours a week. I would follow a strict daily schedule planner everyday. I worked. I forgot what fun was. All of that has changed now ... I have changed.

It's really amazing how one trip to an African country can change people's lives. It has changed my life, for the better. Sometimes I wonder, "What if I had never gone to Africa? What if I had never given myself this chance?"

This morning, I was having a conversation with one of my fellow respiratory therapists during break and he told me how he can see the changes in me. He noticed that when I got back to work I was reserved and depressed. He said that when I talked about the trip I became excited and proud. I have told him about the experiences and the personal bonding that happened on the trip and it just feels so good to be heard and to be understood by other people. Sometimes when people ask me about the trip, they only want to hear the exciting things. I don't try to tell them about the challenges that we overcame. I am not sure if they care or can understand. But some people try.

It is still difficult for me to be back to work as a therapist . I feel so disconnected and lost sometimes. Most of the time, I just want to be left alone. But in my line of work, that is not possible. I have a personal responsiblity to my job. I am so thankful and grateful that they let me take off five weeks and held all my classes and my duties while I was away. I am part of a team at work as well. We are responsible for patients during the critical settings. I understand the value more than ever of every team player and what we all contribute to any project. This is not the time to pull away from them because they need me now more than ever. Regardless of the stresses of work, I am still committed to the lessons I learned in Africa. Everyone needs to take time to laugh and play and dance. I don't want to ever go back and be that overdriven stressful person I was before. I really believe that taking time every day for moments of fun are making me a better employee, friend and family member.

The ironic thing about this discovery of time management is the conflict I have over the film Zambia project itself. I realize the crew still needs me too. We are under a deadline to get a rough draft of both the feature and the documentary by this week. So, many of the crew are working all nighters logging and editing endless footage. I try to help as much as I am allowed. The good thing is when I am with the crew I am also having fun.

mikey_logging.jpg
The other day, I was capturing some footage of Cyndi, Pam and MK's conversation about the problems behind the set and on the set. I was amazed how much I didn't know. Some parts I knew but most of the problems we had I wasn't even aware of over there. I am grateful to them for dealing with those problems. Cyndi and Pam were constantly everywhere! They dealt with food issues, phone calls or just phones, ATM's, actors, props, transportation problems, sites, director issues, endless problems that occured every day! I know we had challenges on the set too but our problems were much smaller compared to what they were dealing with. I am glad we didn't know about those issues because it could have affected our concentration on our jobs or how we dealt with certain actors or other member of the crew. Thank you Cyndi and Pamela for being our PRODUCERS ... for always watching our backs and for not letting us get affected by the daily issues that faced us everyday. Thank you for letting us grow and learn the challenges of filmmaking. You helped us be better crew members and better friends to each other.

Listening and watching the footage brought back tons of fun memories from the trip. When I watched the clips I experienced the same feelings I had when I was actually living it! Sometimes its difficult to look at photos because I miss everybody and our time at the Kwazulu Kraal Lodge. I have to remind myself that the future starts today. A friend of mine told me not to dwell in the past but let the past be your guide to your future and he is right. We have two films to finish. One film to show a story of Zambia and another film to show the crew's experience. I am excited to share our experience and the emotional aspect of filmmaking. I believe our documentary will show the human side of film. I think it is compelling because it is so real!

groupie.jpgBefore leaving for Africa, I was so excited to photograph the beauty of Zambia but after coming back to the U.S., I realize I have captured something else ... I have helped capture the heart and soul of the film crew.

September 22, 2006

Blast from the past

_MG_8242.jpg BY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, TEMPE, ARIZONA - It’s early Monday morning and I am a little grumpy; it is my first day back to work. I came into the building and it feels extremely odd being here. When I came to my desk, I noticed that my calendar read Monday, August 7th. The moment froze and it quickly took me back to that day. I remember being extremely excited, scared and paranoid, trying to make sure I had all my medicine and other items ready for Zambia. I remember that I kept calling Mike, asking random questions about the amount of stuff he was taking. Even though I went over my luggage twice, once I got to Lusaka, I realized I had forgotten items back home. My thoughts and memories were interrupted when I saw I had 1089 emails to read and people waiting for my help; nice way to come back to work.

This trip has had a big impact on me; I have discovered and strengthened my beliefs in what I want to do with my life. While being in Lusaka, I found it weird that I would come home to the lodge extremely drained from working all day, eat late, get almost no sleep, but always looked forward to the next day, in order to do it all over again. I was talking to Cyndi yesterday and she asked me if I wanted to shoot some interviews for her…if I wanted to, my response was simple, I would love to. I think I have been exposed to what I really want to do in life, and it is hard when I am away from it.

We, the crew, have been talking about how we want to keep working on other projects. Cyndi has shared her thoughts that we could actually start working in the industry now, by going our own separate ways. I am sure most of the crew has a great amount of potential for success in the film industry. The only thing in the back of my head is - it will never be the same. Especially if it is not going to be with the crew I was part of for 27 days…the Film Zambia crew. I can’t explain how, in this short amount of time, these people made such a huge impact in my life.

During the last week in Lusaka, I remember thinking “this is it." In only one week we would be heading back home to return to our lives. On the plane ride, I had a feeling similar to when one crams before a big test. I was trying to remember everything about the moment, since I knew that it was the last time I would be around everyone.

Editing the film has bought me more time to be around the crew, but I can’t help thinking, what’s going to happen once these films are done?

For the documentary, we were asked about images that were burned in our minds. For one reason or another, the following moments were never documented. They are burned in my mind, when I think of the crew.

Edgar: Trying to kick the soccer ball, missing completely, then falling.
Nick: “What if Jacobo jumps”
Robby: First one to throw up…..I had money on Grace
Shawn: Also going down while playing soccer…at least he kicked the ball!
Mike: Giggling like a 12yr. old boy at Christmas
Jacob: For building the Flintstones-cam
Jared: Smacking his head everywhere, it sounded like a bell.
Heath: Karaoke nights
Alec: Dancing with the people from the bus – but you pulled a Robby
Pam: BA...enough said
Jeniece: Scene 89. I am shocked Jeniece was not holding her camera while working the slate
M.K.: Screaming like crazy over a spider…. as well as screaming while cheating at speed.
Cyndi: Falling down in Livingstone - sorry Cyndi
And myself...falling down while pushing a car; hey I was laughing so it was all good.

There are also those moments when I hear, see, feel something that takes me back to Lusaka. I was at the doctor’s office the other day, waiting for my name to be called. I sat in this uncomfortable chair and began to fall asleep. At some point, I thought I was back in Lusaka, sleeping on the bus; I was brought into reality when the nurse called me in.

I will never forget my time in Lusaka, even though it was hard, stressful and at times I wanted to pull my hair out. The payoff that I took was so much greater than everything combined. I can’t thank everyone enough for the experience they gave me.

September 21, 2006

Priceless

BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET", MESA, ARIZONA - We have been back from Zambia for 18 days now. I can't believe it. It's crazy! Each day that goes by, is another day closer to finishing the project. It feels like a race against time and we all know that time waits for no man. I hope we can make it to the finish line. It could be a tie breaker though. We'll see though. Could be a close call, but that's what makes races exciting. It's suspenseful and intense.

I must say I am a little sad. As I go through the footage to log, all the memories and feelings with them come back to me. It seems so long ago when we were there. It feels more and more like a dream. Having footage and photos help confirm that we were there and we did make a feature film and documentary. It is hard to let go of that life we had back in Zambia. I want to hold on to the feelings of joy and excitement we had when we were there. We were doing what we loved and we grew closer as a crew. I have to be honest, it's hard to see some of the crew back in their old lives again. Some are moving on in new and different directions. I will definitely keep in touch with some of the crew. Every time we get together, I believe we are more ourselves and we continue to learn and grow from each other. Sometimes we don't like something someone does, but overall we except each other for who we are.

pricelessJeniece.jpgMoments I will never forget...

You know your in Zambia when...
Our big purple and white bus (the added seats were useful).
Looking under the gates at the children at the Kwazulu Kraal Resort.
Our nicknames.
Constantly eating pizza (Im sick of it at the moment).
The Arcades.
Always having my camera and Carlos laughing at me for it.
Everyone always looking out for me, since I was the one always lagging behind.
Washing our clothes in the tub (thank goodness for washing machines).
The "Boob Room".
The Doom Squad.
The dance clubs (everyone dancing).
Scene 89, take 1 ahh (and everyone making jokes about it).
The "Animal in Man" speech.
The plane ride back to the U.S.
The music and playing pool and cards with the boys.
Musical beds.
Being on set.
Doing make-up for the children (and making some of them cry - oops).
Kwacha and haggling for gifts.
The crew and faculty (building special friendships with some of them and getting to know all of them).
Cyndi ... and the experience she gave to us all. An experience of a lifetime.
The list can go on and on...I will miss every moment I had because it shaped me into the person I am today.

This whole experience....is priceless.

Blah Blah Blog....

BY M.K. "GYPSY PUNK" RACINE, TEMPE, AZ - MK.jpg Very recently, this is all we’ve heard from Cyndi, in person, through e-mail…”you all need to blog!” I agree with her, we all need to blog a little more. But my last was pretty draining, so I have been avoiding the “pen” as long as possible. Post-production has been a little demanding, in a different way than production was. However, I fully expect to reap the benefits of learning and growth, as I did while in Zambia.

Post-production for the documentary is slow, tedious and timely. With over 80 hours of footage and only three weeks for completion, from the time we arrived home to the Sundance deadline, the task was overwhelming from the beginning. Just how I like it. It’s been great to be around the crew again, to work as a team, but even the team as a whole has diminished some and our task force has lessened a bit. Some of the crew has returned to school full time, others to work. As far as our families, we might as well be back in Zambia, as I see mine very little.

I’m am intrigued by the editing process; I got a taste of it this summer, while working with Cyndi, Robby and Heath, on the China – International Video. But we are not even at that point yet. Still logging and capturing…. I am pleased that we have such a great amount of footage. Better too much than too little. Before we left Phoenix, we had decided on a certain path for the documentary. However, once we arrived in Zambia, Cyndi told us to just let it unfold. It will come out and we’ll go from there. Interestingly enough, a few documentaries have unfolded before us. It has been established, which one will be sent to Sundance. We have one for MCC, and another…what we’ll do with it when completed, I don’t know.

I shared my thoughts about yet another documentary, one that follows the members of the crew over the course of this next year. Its purpose would be to better illustrate the remarkable change this experience propelled in our lives. How it has changed us as individuals…living dreams, finding something inside we didn’t know existed…and how it has changed the course of our lives as a whole. Some of us have been fighting the change since our return, while others are letting it happen and a few are pushing hard towards it. There were a few times, while at home, I felt a doc camera should be there to capture the struggles that have arisen for me, as I tried to assimilate back into the life I had left so briefly. But when you have changed, even a little, you can’t go back to what was, not easily, and not honestly. To do so would be to cheat yourself of the destiny that has fallen upon you - this moment in your life. And also cheat those close to you, from knowing the person you have become.

I’m not sure why I experienced so much change in such little time. Perhaps because I have said no to so many things to this point, that this one yes let in the power of past experiences I missed out on. Who knows? I’m just thinking, just looking for answers...trying to piece things together. I don’t think it will be as easy as putting the documentaries together. If that is the case, I’ll accept that as what was meant to be.

Before I left for Zambia, I thought I had created the path my life was to take. But now, there are questions. As with the documentary, I know the answers will come; it will all unfold before me, and I’ll just go from there.

September 18, 2006

Getting Bug-Eyed

bugEyedEditor.jpgBY ALEC HART, PHOENIX, USA – We got back from Zambia on September 4th. I think I have spent 90% of my waking time since then sitting in my chair staring at a computer screen. I'm turning into a bug-eyed freak. Nick, Jacobo and I have the task of pulling a powerful and compelling film out of the footage they got in Zambia.

I want to send props to AUGUSTINE LUNGWU and BENNE BANDA. I would edit ANY film they were in. They are terrific film actors. Their performances are so consistent, they are a dream to edit. Any scene with the two of them cut together quickly, easily and effortlessly. It would be neat to have them as the main characters in the next Zambian film.

Some of the other scenes have been a nightmare in hell to edit. I am, however, grateful for every one of those difficult scenes because they're making me a better editor. Trying to pull two-second reaction shots out of other sequences to have the performance make sense is taxing but rewarding when completed. Jacobo has been editing with me. He's getting good at Final Cut. We're going back to New York City when the films are finished. I need to get back to work and start building my reel. Having these Zambian films on my resume won't hurt either!

September 17, 2006

Getting Closer!

flyingGidget.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – We've been working day and night on the Zambian documentary and feature as we're closing in on the Sundance deadline. While we can be very serious in our pursuits, sometimes we can't help but kick our heels up! (Fortunately, Jeniece "Gidget" Toranzo is tiny or my bed would be a shambles after she bounces her tension away!)

Last night, Jeniece and M.K. played "soap hockey" in my tub. Their excuse was that their feet were dirty. I think they just needed to kick the living daylights out of something. The same thing happened to the guys. For inspiration, they decided to watch the editing in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and MAN ON FIRE. (Rarely a clever idea to try to exceed the qualities a multimillion dollar film.) They had to go out and shoot pool for a few hours. Again, the simple need to smack something hard.

I find Post-Production to be more difficult than either pre-production or production. All I want to do is smack myself in the head for the things I didn't think of doing while we were in Zambia. Why didn't I have them do more of those interviews? Smack. Why didn't we get more street footage? Smack. How could we not notice there was a costume change? Smack, smack, smack. It's funny. Pre-production is all sweetness and light. Grandiose plans of what can be accomplished. Production is a bit less sunny. It's more of a runaway train that flies by all of those plans to find a rhythm and destiny of its own choosing. Post is nothing but trying to accommodate all of the wayward moments that occurred on set. So, we rejoice when we find wonderful solutions (see photo above) and smack things around when we're struggling. In spite of the suffering, I can hardly wait to do this again.

Photograph by Mike Montesa

September 15, 2006

Superheroes One and All

After spending a month in Zambia, I now know that making the first feature film in a country is an insanely difficult task. If there is no industry in place, there is nothing to support it. It’s nearly impossible to find equipment, parts or supplies. There is also a lack of understanding by stage actors about what it takes to make a feature film. They had no idea of the amount of time it took. There was the nearly insurmountable challenge of feeding, housing, moving and maintaining a film crew of 18 and accommodating a cast of 45 for nearly a month. We all began the project with tremendous excitement but, from day one, we encountered serious hurdles.

Amazingly, the crew never broke and rarely faltered. No matter what challenge they faced, they were steadfast and determined in their goal to finish the film. In the U.S., one can always throw more money at a problem when filming (that’s why so many films go over budget). That wasn’t possible in Zambia. It didn’t matter how much money I was willing to spend since there wasn’t a single bulb in the entire country. So, we had to figure out how to make it work when nothing was available. Our crew had to pull solutions out of thin air. Their creative problem-solving was amazing.

FEATURE CREW

superShawn.jpgShawn “The Flash” Downs did lighting on the feature film. Initially, we brought four very expensive light kits to Zambia. The first day of shooting, we melted a transformer and blew several bulbs. Our expensive lights wouldn’t work. We had to go to the electrical store and create a low-cost, low-power solution. We ended up using shop lights with halogen bulbs of varying intensities. When presented with his new lighting gear, Shawn adapted without complaint. He lit the sets quickly and efficiently. No matter how small the location, he could bounce, screen or gel the lights to create great visuals. I look at the footage and I’m in awe of what he did. The guy’s got a great eye. Maybe even two of them.

superCarlos.jpgCarlos “The Dark Knight” Espinosa was the cinematographer on the feature. He used the Sony HVR-Z1U, high-definition camera and he was the man in charge of capturing the director’s vision. Like The Dark Knight, the work of a good cinematographer is hard to see. It’s in the eyes of a satisfied audience as they get lost in the story. As the cinematographer, Carlos was first on and last off the set each day. He hung out of helicopters and buses and cars. He pulled Zambia through the lens so the world could see what we saw. Only better. To look at the images, you’d never know what he went through to get them on the screen.

superMikey.jpgTechnically, Michael “Thor” Montesa was unit photographer for the feature. At the end of the month, Mike had over 40GB of photographs taken on set, on location, in the wild and of the crew. Some of the images have already been seen on the blog and in the crew video. The images are powerful, evocative and beautiful. His Zulu warriors leap out of the image and into your imagination. Mike is an amazing crew member and, one day, I am certain he will run his own crew. He was a great support to everyone. You could count on him to do whatever it took to make things work. Get sandbags, block windows, jerry-rig lights, carry a live light to follow the action. Whatever it took. He’d do it. Mike was the backbone of the feature crew.

superNick.jpgNick “Green Lantern” Marshall was first assistant director. On set, he got the nickname “Tick Tock” because his primary responsibility was to keep things moving. He had to make sure the crew got set up as efficiently as possible, that the cast was in make-up and on set as quickly as feasible and that all scenes were accomplished for the day. The biggest challenge he faced was his evening meeting with the producers (me and Pamela) to go over what needed to be accomplished the following day. He had all of the responsibility and none of the power to personally move things. With only three weeks to shoot, he never lost sight of what we had to get to make the story work. I’m looking forward to when he directs his own feature film. He’ll be strong and steady after this experience.

superEdgar.jpgEdgar “Silver Surfer” Rider was the script supervisor. Like the cinematographer, Edgar was one of the first on set every day and one of the last to leave. He monitored the progress of the script scene by scene, take by take. Edgar watched the script inch toward completion. In spite of the daily grind, Edgar was the best pair of hands we had on the set. He moved more gear than anyone. When we went out at night, he partied with an enthusiasm that was contagious. A theater major, Edgar enjoyed watching the development of the characters as much as anything else.

superJeniece.jpgJeniece “SuperGirl” Toranzo did make-up and hair. Initially, Jeniece came on board as an editor but we were needing someone to take care of the cast visually. Jeniece jumped in and learned to do make-up for dark fleshtones. There aren’t a lot of all-black casts in the Mesa area so she had to research and study and prepare on her own. Not only did she make the cast look great, she caught the continuity details that others overlooked. She hid microphones, removed sheen and adjusted prosthetic pregnancies. With a cast of 45, there were days Jeniece must have wished she really were Supergirl. She handled them all. She made them look good and feel great about giving an authentic performance. We call her “Gidget” because there’s always fun around her. She’s just super.

Superheroes All for One

DOCUMENTARY CREW

superRobby.jpgRobby “Superman” Brown was the cinematographer on the documentary. Unlike the feature crew, Robby was on duty 24/7. Whenever anything was going on, someone would shout, “Doc cam!” and Robby was racing for the action. Trying to catch the truth behind the truth, Robby sometimes had to force his way into confrontational situations to capture the moment. Toward the end of the trip, it seemed as though Pamela’s camera had been surgically implanted on the end of his arm. No wonder we had about 80 hours of footage for the documentary. Super job, Robby!

superHeath.jpgHeath “Aquaman” McKinney was the audio guy on the documentary and almost anything else he needed to be. You could always count on Heath to “go with the flow.” In addition to serving as a human alarm clock each day, Heath would take care of anything that showed up for the day. He always adapted cheerfully to whatever was thrown his way. On the flight home, he even cheerfully went through Customs in Johannesburg to return sound equipment to Susan. The rest of us were terrified he wouldn’t be able to find her or that he’d miss his flight. He didn’t do either. As he had the previous 27 days, he navigated cheerfully.

superJared.jpgJared “Hellboy” Moschcau was the Unit Photographer on the documentary. Originally assigned to do sound on the documentary, Jared asked for a reassignment when he discovered a real love for grabbing a great shot that we could use on the blog or in the film. One of the youngest crew members, Jared became the mascot of the Kwazulu Kraal. He would bound into our rooms to see what was happening. He knew he’d get a task to do if he came to visit. He came anyway. In all the literature, it says that “Hellboy” is a special friend to DOOM. He was a special friend to the Doom Room. He was special to all of us.

SWING CREW

At a production studio, the “Swing Crew” consists of the folks who move from sound stage to sound stage, constructing and preparing whatever needs to be done. Our swing crew served the feature crew, the doc crew and the production staff. Now that we’re back in the U.S., they’re hard at work on post production.

superJacob.jpgJacob “Spiderman” Felix is particularly gifted at constructing useful devices and tools out of virtually nothing. He built a dolly from a floor display, some skateboard wheels and a couple of broom handles. A few pipes and weights became an efficient steadicam. He worked with the Glidecam so that it had a broader range of motion with more subjective control. Give him a couple of rolls of duct tape and he’ll build you a submarine, if that’s what you need.

superAlec.jpgAlec “Wolverine” Hart declared at the beginning of the trip that he wouldn’t shave until we returned to the U.S. Within a few days, he could have been Wolverine’s twin brother. While Wolverine is known for his keen senses and fierce hand-to-hand combat, Alec is known for his fashion sense and his fierce verbal jousting. An editor with a keen eye, Alec is happiest in the editing room. He’s working harder now than ever before.

PRODUCTION CREW

The production crew does all of the behind the scenes activity that is vital to the completion of the film. Often unsung, unrecognized and under-appreciated, the production crew makes sure the film gets, well, produced.

superMK.jpgM.K. “Batgirl” Racine sometimes worked with the documentary crew but toward the end of the trip, M.K. primarily functioned as a Line Producer for the feature. A line producer will manage the day-to-day physical aspects of film production. If I wasn’t on set, she was there to monitor and report the progress. She and Nick kept things moving when it didn’t seem like anything would. Likewise, she kept pushing on the documentary. If M.K. is given a task, she won’t stop until it’s done.

superPamela.jpgI’ve put Pamela “WonderWoman” Bowman last on the list, at her request. She’s hoping everyone will be tired of reading and will skip over the ending. The request is representative of how Pamela served as the Associate Producer of the two films. She worked behind the scenes and always put the needs of the production above hers. Very few people know how vital she was in getting the films completed. She got on board early and provided encouragement and support from the earliest stages. In June, when I lost faith, she found it and pushed me to continue. And, at the end, when I was so weary and frustrated with the enormous problems we faced daily, she’d just keep calling cast members, arranging for transportation until I could get going again. She was a better producer than I was. I am looking forward to when she produces her own film. It’s just a matter of time.

September 13, 2006

Scene 89, Take 1-Ahh!

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BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET", MESA, ARIZONA - Last night, after coming back from dinner with Cyndi, Alec, Jacob, and Nick, we were visited by Mike, Shawn, and Carlos. I started logging again when everyone started rushing to the other room to go look at a clip. Oh brother. It was a clip of me smashing my finger in the slate on the last day of shooting. Everyone was laughing their heads off. If someone were to walk in and see us, they'd think we were crazy. Apparently, I'm a dork and I goofed up on the take. Instead of clapping the slate, I clapped my finger! "Scene 89, take 1-ahh!" Not a pleasant feeling I might add. The face says it all. Especially, when Alec played it in slow motion. Everyone apparently thought it was funny. Ok, I guess it was because I was laughing too. It's funny because I found out later that Alec was off in the distance with some of the other crew members and he kept saying (I coudn't hear him, though), "Don't mess up. Don't mess up. Don't mess up..." I think he jinxed me, thanks buddy. Good lookin out. He must have known I was going to mess up. I guess it's better to laugh at yourself than to be laughed at. Wait a minute, I did get laughed at. Nevermind that then. I guess all you can do is join them. Good times, good times.

I have been sick for about a week now. Pretty much since we have been back. Although I may not be feeling well and all I want to do is lay down, I can't help but want to be with the crew and help them with the logging and editing. Nothing matters to me now except being with the crew and working together on a common goal. I miss being with the crew and working together with them. Going to work at my normal job isn't the same anymore. I have a hard time concentrating now because all I want to do is be with the crew and share memories of Africa together. I just want to work and learn and become a better crew member. It's hard to explain to other people, other than the crew, what we went through in Zambia. All they hear are the words without the feelings attached to them. The person can't feel what we feel when we describe to them our feelings and experiences. It's a little sad because I want them to be able to feel what I felt and experienced. I want to have that connection with them. They can't possibly understand the experience we had unless they were there.

In a way I don't want this project to end because it just doesn't seem like it can ever be done. We all worked so hard to put this together and it will be exciting because we did it together. I hope to work on more projects like this one in the near future with the same crew because we are AMAZING. We have overcome many challenges and raised the bar for the next project to come. Sundance here we come!

LIfe After Zambia

BY MIKEY "KARATE MASTER" MONTESA, MESA, AZ - My life after Zambia has changed. I don't know why but it's hard to adjust to my normal life again. All I want is to be with my FilmZambia family, to work and talk with them like we did when we were back in the Kraal. When I was in Zambia, I felt free, like a Taita Falcon flying in the endless sky. taita_falcon.jpg

I had no restrictions on myself and I didn't limit myself. I spoke my mind freely and was not afraid of what other people would think of me. I think that is why I miss that life so much. When I was in Zambia, it seemed like I had more freedom to be me than I do here in the US. Working with the crew over there was so much fun and and continues to be rewarding here. We take the time to talk about what's going on at work and in our personal lives. We are understanding of each other and we listen to each other. We are friends.

As an artist, I want to express my feelings through the art of photography. My work shows vibrant and happy places but my work doesn't always honestly reveal what I really feel about my subject. After Zambia, I realized that the words I speak can be just as powerful as the images I shoot. It's amazing how the crew has taught me to be a better photographer. They respond to me and my work and give me advice and valadation. Sometimes they critique me and other times they compliment me. I feel their genuine concern for me. It is liberating.

Their advise extended beyond what I offered on the project. Cyndi, MK, Shawn and the others were always there to listen to me. In the past, I usually kept my problems inside me. I felt that it was weak and bad to reveal your problems. Now I know that it feels good to be heard. It feels good to let it all out and let people listen to you. In the disclosure I often found answers to problems. I found out that real friends may not agree with you, but they still care about you.

I really do think that the Zambian trip changed me. I have a different outlook on life and my perspective has changed a great deal. The other day, Cyndi asked us in reflection if we realized before we left that the trip was going to be a "life altering" experience. I had never thought about it but now I realize it was. It changed me for good.

doom.jpgIn addition to finding my own value on this trip, I also got a new appreciation of the importance of friendship. Real friends are those you know you will always have in your life. Distance and location may seperate you, but if you have opportunities to meet or talk you take up where you left off. This experience created a bond based on the project, the work, the struggles we overcame together and the personalities of the crew. My "doommates" will always be with me. To me DOOM means so much more than an insect repellant or a silly group name. It means friendship with openess, honesty and acceptance. I'm so grateful to have these friendships because they showed me it is more then ok to have fun and enjoy life. It is what makes life worth living. It also gave me something to look forward to every day. Those guys make me smile and laugh all the time.

My life will never be the same again. I am thankful for this trip because I began to understand me better. I gained more self-esteem and I learned to stand-up for myself. I want my voice to be heard. I want my art to reflect me. I have decided that having fun and enjoying life is important. I have a greater appreciation for my friends and for being a friend.

This journey is not over! It is just beginning. It will continue to be interesting and life altering. I'm looking forward to the challenges that will come along.

I Am Enough

BY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA USA - Logging – I sit and watch and record events of the movies and I remember the essence of Zambia. I try to concentrate and pay attention to what may be useful for the films and then a scene occurs or a moment is recorded and all the emotion I was feeling at the time floods back to me. I sit and let those feelings embrace me. I smile.

Last night I was reviewing the Danny concert. I showed my kids how they danced and sang. I wanted them to listen to the sound of Africa. Instead I sat in my chair and started dancing myself! I realize they will never understand what I experienced in Africa. Sometimes I do not understand what I experienced in Africa. I just know I am different.

Sometimes I feel I have edited my own life. My feelings prior to Africa seemed all consuming. I would hear songs or moments would flash into my mind and those feelings would consume me. I have learned that feelings are feelings and if I want to get through them I have to allow myself to feel them. I can’t fight them. They are feelings. They are my feelings. I have learned that eventually one day you might wake up for a sunrise and send your feelings away and they obey. Those all consuming moments become a faint fond memory. They become a smile.

pamsmilingsm.jpgAfrica taught me to be patient. It taught me that I cannot do everything for everybody. I can do enough and others will do their share and at the end of the day it is time to dance and play and laugh.

The crew says I seem happier now that I am home. They say I don’t seem so stressed.They attribute it to my husband and children. Certainly there is truth in that, but I also believe I am happier because I am more me. I am less of everyone else. And that is enough. I am enough.

September 12, 2006

Hip Deep in Post Production

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA – We returned from Zambia on the evening of Monday, September 4th. After four weeks of traveling and a tough three-week film shoot, most of us would have preferred nothing more than to take a week or so off to rest up BUT we're trying to make "THE" festival submission deadline. So, we're all hard at it. We're hip deep in post production on BAD T!MING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION. Instead of going to bed in the "Pink Palace" each night, we go to our own homes for a warm meal, a soft bed and working showers. In the morning, we congregate (again) to keep pushing these films to completion.

In all my years as a teacher, I've never seen such determination and dedication from a group of people. The more amazing thing is the amount of trust they place in each other. Each member of the group counts on the others to give the production their best work. In school, there were always "slackers" ... students who did almost nothing, started late on everything and hoped to "squeak through" on minimal effort. FilmZambia is definitely a capstone project for this crew. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks.

Whenever I'm working on a screenplay, I go through phases were I positively HATE what I am writing. Right after I finish a script, I can't stand it!! I always have to put it in a drawer for a couple of weeks. I abhor it. All I can see are the mistakes. After a few weeks, I'll take it out and read it and I find myself liking what I've written. I sometimes think I'm clever.

The same thing happened in Zambia. It was such an effort to finish this film! The last couple of days were EXTREMELY stressful. The long flights home didn't help. I was worried that it wasn't going to come together or, worse, if it did come together, it wouldn't look or sound good. What a pleasant surprise I've had for the last few days. As we capture the footage, log the documentary tapes and review the storyteller footage, I am SUPER HAPPY and EXCITED about what I'm seeing. The footage is looking good. The actors are believable. The sound is (mostly) good. Some of the 2nd Unit footage is incredible. As our trip to Zambia fades, the films are taking shape. Who knows what else will be materializing with this group?

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September 10, 2006

I Owe, I Owe

BY CYNDI “MUKUMBA” GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Last spring, I got an idea and it became a dream. My dream was to go to Africa to make a movie. I wrote a grant and talked about it in my classes and was surprised to find that other people could make that dream their own. They could find a place for themselves in my filmmaking madness. On August 8, we got on the plane with all of our hopes and mountains of gear. I look back now and realize that I am not the same person who got on that plane. The experience of making this film with these people has irrevocably changed who I have known myself to be and I owe all of THEM so much.

postZambiaParty.jpgWe had a FilmZambia Party last night. It was a chance for all of us to get together and reminisce about all that had happened and catch up with how we were all doing stateside. We reunited with the faculty who had left Lusaka after ten days and told them all about our adventures. We had a potluck with a mountain of food (we could have eaten for a week in Zambia on all that was there) and a slideshow that Mike and Shawn put together. Shortly after the slideshow, the crew gathered ‘round and surprised me with several touching gifts. There were letters of appreciation, a crew photo album, Livingstone photos, pens, a wall hanging and a book of Zambian tales. As I looked through and read through everything, I kept thinking that I should be the one showering them with gifts. I kept thinking about how much I owed each of them.

I want to publicly thank each of them for their contribution to the film. Without them, this work could not have been done. Their generous hearts and able hands took a wild idea and turned it into a tangible reality. As we work feverishly on editing the films for the impending deadline, I am more awed and amazed every day at what they were able to do. In my next post, I’ll write about each crew member (this should take most of the day!) so that you can better understand what I am talking about. They are amazing, courageous, deeply committed people who wove a dream out of thin air.

September 09, 2006

Producers Pow Wows

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, ARIZONA – One afternoon, Cyndi and I let our documentary cinematographer, Robbie, join us for the producer’s meeting. He had his camera with him. He heard our conversation and he recorded some of it. His comment was something like, “I wondered what you guys talked about. It’s fun to hear the inside scoop.” I think he enjoyed the Cyndi and Pam pow wow. Much later in the trip, after a particularly frustrating day, Carlos said, “Man, I can’t believe it. Cyndi and Pam go through this every day.”

carConference.jpgAs producers on an enormous project with responsibility for 14 students traveling to another continent, Cyndi and I would discuss every little detail that had occurred throughout the day. I felt honored that she trusted me. Sometimes we vented and sometimes we celebrated. There were only two times I publicly humiliated her. She humiliated me a few times as well. (Pam, SHUT UP!, on camera no less.) It’s hard not to make a few blunders when you’re managing such a huge task in a pressure cooker situation. For the crew, we tried to stay positive and encouraging about everything. Sometimes, the challenges would get to us, too. Mostly we confined our negative comments to the car trips between sets so they wouldn’t know the hard time we were having trying to keep it moving. We learned to trust each other. Being from different lifestyles and yet accepting of each other encouraged a partnership of trust.

We could see crew members behaving similarly with each other. The feature crew became a very tight-knit group because of how much they needed each other’s commitment and support to accomplish their responsibilities. The documentary crew struggled as they were expected to support the feature crew and get great documentary moments. They vented and struggled just as we did.

I know there were times where we both were so frustrated with events and/or each other that we wanted to bolt for the next plane home. Fortunately for the project, instead we would discuss the situation and resolve the issue of the moment. I guess that is called damage control. There were times when I relied on MK and Jeniece to vent my frustrations. I knew they were my roommates and more importantly my friends. They would listen and they knew that my feelings needed to be heard. They also knew once expressed they were allowed to dissipate into the African night. Cyndi knew I shared with them. She knew sometimes I needed others to help me sort out my feelings of frustration. She trusted me and by extension trusted those I had faith in. In doing this we avoided the grudge match.

powwow.jpgI believe one of the unique qualities of the crew is our ability not to hold grudges. Instead we lightened the load by making it and any situation a joke. Life is too short to hold on to stuff. Conversation and clarifying our opinions helped avoid contention and misunderstandings. Knowing that everyone was committed to the success of the project no matter what encouraged tolerance for each others differences and respect for each other.

The project is still not done. Cyndi and I still continue to have our pow wows. If you read the blog, you see the crew is in the same space. They want to continue working, too. We are in negotiations on how we can keep this momentum going in future projects with this crew. We believe we have something unique to offer the world. If you don’t believe me listen to one of pow wows, but be forewarned, our ambitions are contagious.

September 08, 2006

Understanding

BY NICK MARSHALL GILBERT, ARIZONA - I don't really like typing that: Gilbert, Arizona. It's kind of an indication that I'm back. Back from my trip and back from living with everyone. The last few days I was in Zambia I was sick and since we came back to the U.S. I've been sick for a few days. Wednesday at 4am I went to work and the whole experience of returning and seeing my coworkers and just doing my job was like a fever dream. I didn't understand things and everything moved differently and maybe because I was sick, but the vibe was thrown off and I didn't see any of the crew to talk to and just people would ask, " Wow, how was Africa?" I'd look at them for a pause and smile a slight, sickly smile and say in a dazed way, "It was fun" or "It was fine."

handsomeNick.jpgAfter all that I learned, after everything we overcame and just the whole experience, how could I possibly sum it all up in a quick one sentence answer? But in that pause I just thought it would be easier just to say something nondescript, something like "fine" or "ok" because even if I took them aside and sat for days with them and told them everything that I experienced, they would stare at me and wouldn't get it because they weren't there. Most people I have talked to didn't even understand what I meant by film. They asked if I made a short film or a religious film. Even if I told them it was the first feature film in Zambia and what we did was extraordinary, their faces told me, they just didn't understand.

When I'm not with any of the crew, it's like something's off, like I'm missing something that should be there. Even when I feel sick, if the crew gets together, I feel better, they make me feel better. Today I woke up at 3am and went off to work and after left to go to M.K's house to edit. When Alec, Jacobo, Jeniece and I were in that room at the back of the house, going over the feature footage (even though watching that footage again made me remember all the stuff that we experienced each day, some of the unpleasentries) we all talked as we sucked in footage and all laughed. When we'd break to take a breather from the footage we would go out into M.K.'s living room and I would see M.K., Cyndi, Pam, Robbie, Carlos and Mike. It seemed like walking out of my room at the Kraal. Our community was there and we just sat and talked. I'd get distracted and notice that Alec and Jacobo and Jeniece had already gone in the room again. It was just nice getting lost in the conversations and dialogue with the crew again. Just talking with very few words and everyone would just understand.

Even as Pam rested (she's been feeling poorly too), she'd wake up and hear a small portion of what we were talking about and immediately know and understand. Even now, I'm exhausted from the long day, body still ticking with some pent up energy and even if I got no sleep and went to work and then back to M.K.'s, I know I'd feel better right when I got there and started working and talking with the crew. After living and working with these people for a month, it's hard just to take that away, not to see them and not hear their stories. I just feel a calming balance when they're around. And I know they understand.

Production Crew Slideshow

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September 07, 2006

It Begins...Again

breakingRock.jpgBY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA - The editing process begins today. Editing is tedious (not as tedious as breaking rock beneath the noonday sun in Lusaka) but it is the end result that should make all the hard work worthwhile.

Sometimes, as you go through the footage it is painful. There are moments you want to capture, remember and use, but as you ponder upon what the point of the movie is, sometimes you have to cut out something that won’t support the story. It is rather symbolic of life.

In life we all get distracted. We have a plan or goals or dreams. Then something or someone comes along and you get lost for a little while. If you are paying attention you can correct your course and get back on track. Sometimes the distraction shows a better direction or more noble goals. Sometimes you readjust or change completely. Sometimes you become disappointed in yourself for choices made or wasting time on insignificant things. Then, if you are true to yourself you edit out the unnecessary or start all over again. Being true to your story should always be the determining factor. What has to be cut doesn’t always have to be thrown away. Sometimes the footage is saved for the future…just in case.

Cyndi often says the following in regards to an actor or a scene. “That was authentic or real or true.” As we edit these movies I know she will once again teach us to search out the authentic moment that supports the story. Sometimes it may be a matter of opinion. Hopefully it will be obvious as to what scene best portrays the story line.

So the next process begins. We are all nervous and extremely anxious. We want to view the rough draft and see our efforts manifested. At the same time we hesitate. This last process is crucial. We can not let up now. Today we started planning the edit. Tomorrow we will all work together to get it done quickly. In the end we will have our movies. And at the end of the day it will be our crew that did it all, through pre production, production and post production.

So it begins…again.

What What What?.......Oh

AlecRobbieChopper.jpgBY ROBBY "NO PASSPORT BOY" BROWN. TEMPE, ARIZONA – I think today I finally fully understand that I'm home now. After a few attempts to pay in Kwacha I took the Zambian money out of my wallet, washed all my clothes and have gotten used to a nice hot shower followed with anything I want to eat I eat....Perfect. But I still miss Zambia and the crew. ESPECIALLY the crew. I don't have Heath running into my room to wake me up. Even if I was already awake I'd lay in bed and wait for him to burst in. He was never gentle about it. Today we are going to start logging the footage for the documentary and for the feature. It's a lot of work but again, nothing this crew can't handle together. I'm excited to see how the doc turns out. We can take it in so many directions because so much has happened. We have all changed for the better from this experience and I think the friendships that this crew has generated are going to last for a while. That's great. I want to thank everybody for this beautiful experience.


MMMMMMMK...."-thanks for keeping me on my toes even when I gave you a look.
Heath "Karaoke King" – even though the umbilical cord broke and I was happy, you made a great Boom Operator.
The DOOM SQUAD – you're a bunch of goofballs but great talented guys who made the trip much more fun.
"Billy Jean" and Nick - You guys were great roommates I loved the conversations we had. Sorry for snoring.
Jared "Grace" – Good grief. Way to go on capturing those fun moments. Good job. "I love you Paul"
Alec and Jacobo-The other half of the Doc Crew, " That's juice son...yeah." Enough said.
AlecRobbieChopper.jpgJeniece "Gidget" – The whole crew agrees, you're such a sweetheart. You did a great job on makeup, everybody looked "Amaaaaazing."
Pamela - "Stop hitting the Children" and get Cyndi to the set on time.
And Cyndi "Mukumba" - There isn't enough time to explain how grateful the crew and I are for everything you taught us and did for us. Sorry about all the kwacha spent but trust me, It was not spent in vain. We love you dearly.

So for all the inside jokes and fun times, teaching me so much and all the memories, I thank you guys. Our lives will never be the same. If we can handle what we just did then we can do anything. I look forward to working with you again!

The real world

oss1.jpgBY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, MESA, AZ, USA - So apparently we traveled 33 hours back to Phoenix. My body is telling me the flights took about 4 days, but my mind is telling me that they only took a couple hours. One minute we were paying our fee to leave Zambia, the next I see Mike having trouble in Johannesburg with his ticket and his camera bag. Another minute later, I am walking the streets of London thinking about the rich history of its country and by then I was listening to the pilot tell us, "we will be landing in Sky Harbor in 20 minutes."

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As I was leaving the airport on Monday night, I could remember the day I was getting dropped off to fly to Lusaka, the very beginning of it all. Little did I know how the next 27 days would unfold to be one of the most extraordinary times I have experienced. Flying home had its funny events, like being woken up by an old man kicking me over and over, and M.K. spilling a full cup of water on me and my seat, very early on in the trip. The stories and memories did not stop when we arrived in Phoenix. I hope that they don't and that this is the beginning of great things to come.

WaterSpot.jpgThings are out of place at the moment. I drove back from the airport and once I got home, felt like I was missing luggage. I started looking for the Sony bag, but remembered that I relinquished my duties of taking care of my "baby" once we arrived in Phoenix. I did not eat like I had planned; yet, did take a long warm shower and then went to sleep. It was odd waking up to different sounds, different smells and a different place. I woke up looking for the couch that was in our room at Kwazulu Kraal, to see who slept on it (Mike or Shawn) but there was no couch. I opened the door to my room and did not see Heath outside, waiting for everybody to wake up. There was no more pool table or chairs waiting for people to debrief the activities of the day. Even though I am home, I feel out of place and I miss the place we called home for a month. Being here feels good, but this cannot replace the void and sadness of leaving the people I knew as my family….the crew.

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During this experience, I got to meet great people and I know everybody worked so hard to get this project accomplished. I know I learned and took something valuable from each crew member. During our stay, we encountered many setbacks and, at times, it felt like there was something that was preventing us from completing the project. However, at the end of the day, the crew came together and we took care of business. My roommates Mike and Shawn made my stay more tolerable. On and off the set we always had fun…thanks guys. I cannot say enough of or to every single person on the crew, other than THANKS for the great memories and I hope we can all work together in the next project. Cyndi, thanks for providing me with this great opportunity and putting your trust in me. I learned a lot during this project and I hope to work by your side in future projects.

DOOM!

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September 06, 2006

WE’RE ALL CREW

jacobo.jpgJACOB "JACOBO" FELIX, CHANDLER, USA - Waking up this morning I was out of sync. No wake up call, no cold shower, no crew, no work. This has definitely been the best job I have ever had. Sadly it has now come to a conclusion. I hope sometime in the future we all get the opportunity to work together again. The times we spent, and the friends we made in Zambia, I will miss it greatly.

I am honored that I got the opportunity to work with such a great crew. I appreciate everyone on the crew, and all the effort they gave to the project. We all worked hard and adapted well as a team. When it seemed that everything was working against us, we came together and prevailed. I want to thank everyone; I definitely learned something valuable from each of them.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Cyndi; she gave me the opportunity and experience of a lifetime. I will forever be in her debt. She took a chance on me, because I knew close to nothing about film going into this. Now I know this is the industry I will work in for the rest of my life. Thank you Mum.

Jacobo is my name (Jacob) in Spanish. Only my close friends and family call me Jacobo. It means a lot to me that the Film Zambia crew now calls me Jacobo. We’re all friends, we’re all family, and we’re all crew, the Film Zambia crew.

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Life must go on

BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET", MESA, ARIZONA, USA - I don't know why I am sad but I am. Then I realize that I am no longer in Africa with the crew. I must say, it feels really weird to back in reality. It felt very awkward to drive again and eat whatever I wanted. The first place I went to was Jamba Juice. Yum! It meant a lot to me when my sister kept telling how much she is glad that I am back and how much she missed me. When she said that she was sad and cried a lot, it made me wonder if we had that twin thing, if she cried when I cried. I know I was very homesick, but I had no regrets going.

CyndiJenieceGate.jpgI had to go to work the next day and boy did that feel weird. It felt like I didn't fit in at all. I didn't really know what to say or how to act with some of the co-workers. It will take some time to get back in to the normal routine. But it is very hard to talk about my experience with other people. They wouldn't really understand. I miss talking with the crew members because they can relate and have a better understanding. (Who else could understand this photo of me and Cyndi talking to the neighborhood kids under the lodge gate??!?)

I know that life must go on and everyone will go on their own separate ways which makes me sad. There will always be a special place in my heart for certain crew members that have touched me in a way that I never thought they would. I am truly grateful for them and the friendship that has developed with them. I cannot say that this experience has not changed me in any way because it has very much. Despite everything that has happened, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I wouldn't want to give back the memories that I have gained because they're priceless. I hope no matter what, that we will keep in touch with each other. I will truly miss them and I wish the best and only the best in all they do. I hope that maybe down the road, we can all work together again or at least have a crew reunion. Words cannot express how grateful I am of Cyndi Greening and the experience that she has given me. She is a wonderful and talented person and I wish her the very best in life because she definitely deserves it. To the crew... I miss you all!

September 05, 2006

Third and Final Week Summary

VictoriaPrecipice.jpgBY PAMELA BOWMAN MESA ARIZONA
Requested by readers.

Monday August 28 2006 –
Visited Livingstone. Hiked around Victoria Falls. Great photos and footage
Ate lunch downtown . YUM!
Returned to Lodge. Enjoyed evening under the stars.
Slept well!

Tuesday August 29 2006 –
Took Helicopter ride over falls. AWESOME!
Toured wild animal park. Tons of elephants.
Drove back to Lusucka!

Wednesday August 30 –
Shoot court room scenes and prison scene. Intense!
Issue with frustrated actors. We don’t blame them!
Create courtroom out of nothing!
Once again problem solving capacity building.

Thursday August 31 –
Crew and cast at business for shoot.
Wrong location, but make do.
Pamela’s luggage is picked up. YEA!
Laundry is done- Good thing. Clothes were beginning to stand up all by themselves!
Shoot concert scene at Dolphin restaurant. Fun night! Dancing again.

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Friday Sept. 1 2006 -
Sound person Susan leaves set early. Bummer!
Shoot exterior shots. Drive up to location.
Beautiful location, but not right for scene. Oh well shoot it anyway.
Drive back home. Worried about money for gas, food and essentials.
We make it back.
Go to Concert for Danny. Shoot concert. Fun!
Head home hungry and tired. Pam won’t stop for food. Lousy producer-tight with $.

Saturday Sept. 2 2006 -
Shoot more exterior shots.
Lunch with Mulenga-very productive for Cyndi and Pamela
Crew blogs and return home for party.
Cast angry about money issues.
Cyndi addresses issues then retires for the evening. She has had it.
Crew Dances and parties all night!

partyTime.jpgSunday Sept. 3 2006 -
Crew sleeps in. Too much partying!
Cyndi and Pamela meet with Danny. What's up with that?
Pack up.
Head out.
Shop for 15 minutes.
Get to airport in plenty of time.
So glad to be going home!
So glad to be done with this movie.

Monday Sept 4, 2006
Arrive home at 5 pm. Lost 8 hours in flight.
Pamela and Mike loose their luggage. Pam is cursed!
Hugs good-bye.
How to survive with out each other?
Go to bed and sleep!

Holding Hands - Holding Hearts

BY PAMELA BOWMAN – MESA ARIZONA USA - We are home. And once again one piece of my luggage is lost. For some reason it seems appropriate. While in Zambia I left my life behind and for 23 of the 27 days I had very little to remind me of that life. Now upon returning I bring back only the luggage I recently had been reunited with. All that I acquired in Zambia was in the luggage the airlines has misplaced on our return flights. Two different lives and perhaps two different people living them. I’m sure there is meaning there somewhere. I am just too tired to analyze it all.

pushTheBus.pngNow that the filming has been done I wonder who will read our blogs. The work is not finished. There is post production still ahead. Our crew does not have the luxury of taking a few days to rest or have jet lag or time to absorb recent events. We still have to push the bus! So push we will.

When I told my family about some of our challenges and some of the highlights I kept seeing the faces of our Zambian friends. I would love to be able to reach out and touch their faces and hold their hands. In Zambia everyone holds hands. Grown men are seen walking down the street holding each others hands. It showed the world they were brothers of the heart. It was endearing and sweet and good. There is sweet intimacy in holding hands. I think it says you trust those hands with your life and with your heart.

We are home. Now we are with others who missed us and supported us and loved us. Once again that is really what life is all about. Being kind to each other. Loving each other. Encouraging each other.

To the crew I would love to say…..what, what, what. And thanks for sharing the best of you. You have enriched my life. I would hold your hands any day because we are brothers and sisters of the heart.

Caught Between Two Worlds

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, ARIZONA - We spent 33 hours flying back to the U.S. and I arrived more exhausted than I've ever been in my life. It took everything I had just to get my mountain of baggage to the car. The ride home was surreal. I couldn't figure out where I was.

I sat down on the couch and was asleep before dinner was ready. I don't recall going to bed but know I did because I woke up there in the middle of the night. A dim light was streaming from a doorway to the left. I thought I was back in Livingstone, sleeping in my cot at Taito Falcon Lodge. I thought I was looking at the thatched walls and ceiling. I thought I could make out the mosquito-covered beds in the room. Ahhhh, everyone is safe; sleeping peacefully in their beds. I could relax.

I was snuggling back into the pillow when I remembered I had left Africa. I sat up with a start. Where am I? I just couldn't make sense of it all. I slept fitfully.

zebraSun.jpgWhen I woke up, I realized that we were back in the U.S. and Africa was only a memory. I was angry at myself for feeling so discombobulated but, when I looked at the African Voice blog, I realized I was in the same place as some of the others on the crew. I really enjoyed M.K.'s post (below) about letting that other life go. Heath's post about the little details of that existence was comforting. I know that I'll never be the same after that month in Zambia. It's good to know that others were similarly altered.

As the person who was in charge of this whole adventure, I was constantly worried about the safety of the group and the success of the project. I don't think I realized how stressed I was until we finally got back. I am relieved to have everyone back home. No (serious) injuries or illnesses. Everyone in generally good spirits and wiser for the journey. I find myself wishing we were in something similar to the Kraal so we could gather over breakfast and find out how everyone is doing ... but, everyone is now doing that with family and friends. My "nest" is empty and my "babies" are on their own in the world again.

I want to wish each and every one of them well and THANK each of them for the fantastic, unbelievable job they did in Zambia!! There truly aren't words to express what they had to go through to make this project work. Amazingly, they did it. Individually and collectively. I can think of numerous times in which EACH of them excelled and contributed in profound ways. I hope this is evident in the documentary. They are an amazing and wonderful group and I am lucky to have worked with them! I feel exceedingly blessed for having had the chance to be in Africa with them.

Home Sweet Home But Not Really

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BY MICHAEL 'KARATE MASTER" MONTESA, MESA, AZ, USA - I'm finally home after 33 hours of flying and sitting in airports. It feels good to be home and be able to have a warm shower, wear fresh smelling clothes, and know that water runs 24 hours a day. My body knows that I'm home but my mind is still behind in Zambia. I really do miss the place and now I realize that I am not ready to be home yet. I miss the wake up call and taking turns using the shower before the hot water runs out. I miss the roundtable talk with Cyndi in the morning during breakfast and during dinner. I miss everything.

_MG_9111.jpgLiving with the crew for 27 days was fun. We went through a lot of challenges but we overcame all of them. We worked it out together and shared everybody's input on things. I am so proud of our film crew because we worked like a team and nobody held grudges on each other.

Coming home was especially challenging for me. While in Johannesburg Airport in South Africa, the British Airways Counter person refused to let me on board the plane because I was missing the plane ticket stub. (I guess on the way from London to South Africa, they ripped the wrong ticket so I had the opposite ticket). After much discussion with many people, they finally let me board the plane. Then before boarding the plane, they wouldn't allow me to carry my camera bag because it was big and they said will not fit on the overhead bin which it does. So I took all my camera and lenses and I was downgraded to a clear plastic bag and a laptop computer.

_MG_9187.jpgWhile in London, we had a seven hour layover. Just enough time to visit the Hyde Park by the Paddington Station. That was a nice break after 10 hours of flight. We were able to enjoy the London weather and able to walk around. Then at the the Terminal 4, we had to go through a tough security check again and had to follow a long line. That was a nightmare. Finally, before boarding the flight to Phoenix, the US. Homeland Security checked my passport and asked me a few questions. I got scared for a while but they were nice enough to let me board my flight. That was my first time ever to get checked by the Homeland Security. I'm a frequent traveler and this is the the first ever. After getting to Phoenix, AZ, I found out that my camera bag never made it to the U.S. Unfortunately, it was the same for Pam's luggage (remember Pam lost her luggage for 3 weeks while we were in Zambia). Hopefully, our bags will turn out today. I'm very positive on that.

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Now that I'm back in the US, I feel some sadness and void in my heart. It will never be the same again like it was for those four weeks. We became a family and more than good friends. There are some people that I have known or worked with for a while like Cyndi, Carlos and Alec. There are some people that I got to know for the first time. I got to know MK and Pam and made a special bond with them. I also got to know Shawn and he became like my little brother. We watched out for each other and we worked together all the time. He actually made a big impact on me about filmmaking. He knows tons of stuff about film and I learned a lot from him.

Looking back on our journey, I feel lucky that I had this opportunity. I will remember this forever and cherish it. I am home but its not quite the same again. I am looking forward on getting together with everybody on the crew again.

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Something is Missing

karaokeKing.jpgBY HEATH "KARAOKE KING" McKINNEY, MESA AZ - When I went to bed last night, I found myself to be lacking. I didn't hear the constant clacking that comes from a pool table that should have been right outside my bedroom window. Even more so, when I woke up, the birds weren't chirping like the used to. The weather was a lot warmer than I could remember, and I didn't hear the sound of a constant banging on the metal gate that kept us safe inside our little pink palace.

I walked outside, to take in the day, it was missing a herd of little children that were happily wishing me well as I started my day. A bus didn't show up to take me anywhere, and I made my own breakfast. It's hard to believe that all the littlest things that we came to know and love, while we were in Zambia, are now just great memories. I will never forget that place and the way that it made me feel. I truly was part of something so much greater there in Zambia.

I am a little jealous of those that we left behind, Zambia was a gorgeous country. I would love to return to study there and take part of the exchange program that our Teachers were setting up while we were there. I think most of all that I will miss the people that helped us out. Doudi was our chef. He cooked some of the best food I had ever had. He showed us around and taught a few of us some words in the language of Nyanja. He's also a musician, and treated us to a concert on our very last night in the Kwazulu Kraal. Emma, and Diana, were the assistants to Doudi and were learning the trade of tourism in Zambia. Two very kind girls. Then we had Alan, our driver. I never had known such a humble person who always wanted to do what was right. He really kept us in line when we got bright ideas. Helen and Marta were our housekeepers, they kept the lodge clean and tidy, helping us so much. We had so little stress there when we got back from a long day to see that our little homes away from home, were just as good looking as the day we got there.

I'm sure they learned from us as well, but I know that I learned more from them. I am indebted to them, Thank you so much guys for treating us so well at the Kwazulu Kraal. And Dr. Ngoma, zikomo kwambiri.

September 03, 2006

Letting Go...

LG 1.jpg BY M.K. "GYPSY PUNK" RACINE LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA - When you come to a place like this, with the purpose we had, you know you'll have the opportunity for growth, professionally. Very likely you'll experience something similar on a personal level as well.

What I didn't expect, what I didn't know in the very beginning, is that I had arrived here incomplete as a person. I only know that now because I feel I'm leaving with my life so much more enriched, in ways I had never imagined or expected - certainly in ways I didn't plan.

We had so many struggles in making these films, both indiviually and collectively. There was a feeling that we were isolated in a number of ways. Not merely isolated from home and loved ones, but from the outside world in general, isolated by the culture here, and for our mentality and our values. As a group, a crew, our family was on its own here. But this is when you realize the power and force of family. We never faltered as a crew; that wasn't an option.

To be honest - I don't want to leave. I don't want this feeling to end, because right now, today, our last day in Zambia - I know we've accomplished something. We achieved the goal we had when we arrived; the goal that led us here. And looking back to how we accomplished our goal, piece by piece, person by person, I know these are the people and the experiences that have made my life much more complete. The've changed my outlook with regard to my own life, my goals, my personal growth.

I feel blessed for being witness to the growth of each person on our crew. And it hurst a little to know we won't be there for one another in the same way we were here. But they should each know that I'll always love them, I'll always support them, and of course, I'll never forget them.

I came together with these people to make a film, but the underlying factor is that we were brought together to enliven and make more complete one another's lives. We each did that for one another in our own way, and what I've taken from them, what they've chosen to give me, is something I would never have found on my own.

We each have our lives back home; we long for our loved ones and the comforts and conveniences that make it home. Yet here, we made a life for ourselves. Some days we had to scratch our way to the top, in order to accomplish the smallest task. At times, for all we got done, we still didn't accomplish a thing. But we kept pushing and we made our life here successful. Now, to be pulled away from this life, a life we all worked together to create, a life that relies so heavily on one another - it's a little sad. I have nothing but positive feelings regarding our film family, and I can't wait to see my family back home, but I can't help thinking...

We're all living two lives...how do you let one go?

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September 02, 2006

Departure

BY NICK MARSHALL LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – We leave tomorrow at 5 pm. Part of me wants to go home, relax, talk with my friends and tell them all the stories I have. Just go home and see my family and enjoy driving and getting food out of my fridge and reading my books and writing, writing all of this down. But there's another part of me that wants to stay here, immerse myself in this culture and these people and just write a book here. I'm going to miss waking up and walking out of my room and seeing all the crew, talking and laughing over breakfast and then piling into a van or bus and just moving on out to shoot. I think I'll miss the interaction with the rest of the crew the most. It's kinda become a family. We have each other's back and we share money and we work as a team.

nickFalls.jpgWhen we went to Livingstone we visited Victoria Falls. Just being in the presence of something like that, just witnessing that power, that earthly power, I think we all were in awe. We stayed at a lodge, open everywhere and all I could think of was Sedona and the east coast. The lodge was situated on a giant gorge, a mini Grande Canyon and we awoke to birds chirping, a peaceful zephyr and the hypnotic flow of the water that ran through the gorge, for two gorgeous days. After being contained in the compact city for two weeks it was relaxing just to see nature and it seemed we were the only people for miles. The second day we journeyed off to a safari and elephants crossed in front of us as we drove, a herd of elephants and we held our breath so the giants would not get startled and charge. Monkeys sat and ate on the ground and scampered off when the cameras flashed. We drove to a monkey village of sorts, a village abandoned and reclaimed by monkeys and we stood ten feet from two eating white rhinos, as two monkeys fought behind some bushes.

There are so many things to write in so little space and time. I'm thinking about editing, about writing a book, about Sundance and having people watch our Documentary and Feature. Watching all that we went though and all we put into it. At this moment, at this exact moment, I'm kinda heart broken to leave this place. I would love to come back and make another film here and I don't think I could ever forget this place and these times.

Overall ... I will miss this place

HappyJeniece.jpgBY JENIECE TORANZO, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - Tomorrow, we leave to go back to the states! I am so excited to get home. My experience here has been amazing and challenging. Yesterday was my last day as the make-up artist. Now I am officially off duty which feels weird because I really got used to carrying the make-up bag everywhere we went. Last night, some of the crew went to see Danny and K'millian in concert. It was amazing and different becuase I was surprised to see chairs at the concert and everyone sitting down. I felt kind of dorky because I was definitely in the dancing mood. How could you not be with the type of music they play? Even when I am in a bad or sad mood, I can't help it but want to dance to Danny and K'millian's music. They are very talented artists. The first thing that Danny asked me was where my make-up was. I guess he enjoyed me putting make-up on him the night before. He is a very down to earth person and I hope to keep in touch with him and maybe someday I will do his make-up for him and his dancers again.

Although we had a lot of ups and downs, overall I will miss this place very much. Words cannot describe all the feelings and emotions that our crew has gone through. I think that our experience here has changed us all. We are an AMAZING crew and I will never forget that. Give us a challenge and we will conquer it.

Almost Home

zambezi_river.jpgBY MICHAEL MONTESA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - Well, our time is almost up here. We are leaving tomorrow afternoon via South Africa and London. I admit, being on the set was not easy and was not fun all the time but the crew made it enjoyable to be there. Sometimes, it got boring and the takes would seem to last forever. I love working with the Zambian actors. They are fun and some of them are very easy going and casual. We made a lot of friends here and it's going to be hard to go back to the States and resume our normal lives (for me anyway).

I will miss the all the crew and most especially my roommates, Carlos and Shawn. I got to know everyone and developed new friendships. What I also learned from this adventure is how much I love filmmaking. I know the work I want to do and I can now focus on the film industry. I realized that I would love to produce. I like to see how everything goes together and put the thinkgs in place to make a film happen. I know it's not easy but working with a good team (like ours) helps.

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Get to the Chopper ... Quick!

goToTheChopper.jpgBY CARLOS "SHAKE SHAKE" ESPINOSA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA - These last couple days have been … rather amazing, kind of hard to describe them. This past weekend we traveled down to Livingstone; the ride was a little long but we once we arrived, it was well worth it. The next day we went to Victoria Falls. I am glad that I got the opportunity to see one of the natural wonders of the world. I got to capture footage from the falls but it was a litte difficult and frustrating to shoot since the mist of the falling water spray the path. I was trying to avoid getting the camera wet and I used my sweater to protect the gear. At that point, I finally realized what I had in front of me, and stopped to enjoy the beauty and power of the falls. I was not able to take any still photos but Shawn came through and took some great ones for me.

Later that day, we got a bigger surprise when we found out that we where going to be capturing some aerial footage by helicopter. Once we got to the charter site, things moved quickly and the next thing I knew I was asking the person who assists on the heli-pad to double check my seat belt. Shooting out of a helicopter with the door open was unreal; the view was amazing. At times, I felt like yelling but I don’t think everybody would have enjoyed that since we all had headsets on for communication. I don’t think I have ever held a camera like that before. I remember thinking, “Don’t drop the camera. Don't drop the camera.”

One thing I have learned about shooting a film is that you have to be on your toes and ready for everything - we did everything from push-starting a bus to shooting out of a helicopter. The feeling I have about the experience will last a lifetime and I know when I look back at this I will always have a smile on my face. The people from Zambia and the crew have had a great impact on me and I will hope to use this experience down the road.