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August 30, 2007

Isn't It Ironic?

BY JENIECE TORANZO – "GIDGET" – MESA, AZ — So, tomorrow is another big day with the District ... AGAIN. The hearing was only supposed to last one day and one day only. Ironically, on the exact same day last year we left for Lusaka, Zambia, AFRICA to shoot BAD TIMING. And ironically, the hearing tomorrow is the exact same day of our last day of shooting one year ago. What an amazing day that was! We first shot at the Angel Newspaper and then we went to the Le Triomphe Dolphin to film Danny performing. What a rush. So much was going on. It was amazing!

Well, since the first hearing on 8 August, we have had two more full days of testimony and now, tomorrow, will be the fourth (and we hope final) day of testimony with the Maricopa Community College District. One of the main purposes of the hearing is our fight for the rights to the films.

Read more on the article by Ryan Gabrielson from the Mesa Tribune online. And be sure to leave a comment. Tell us your opinions.....whether it's positive or negative, we about free of speech and sharing your voice.

August 28, 2007

Zambian Storytellers

storytellers.jpgI am so looking forward to my next Zambian project! We are planning to return to Zambia to record the native stories and fables of all 73 indigenous tribes. In the Summer of 2005, I took a Digital Storytelling Workshop in Sedona that convinced me that it was important to save indigenous tales. In the Spring of 2006, MCC Media Arts offered its first Digital Storytelling class. The value of capturing the individual memories and generational traditions of the elders of a culture is something that inspires me.

In our first Zambian visit, the Chair of the National Arts Council asked us to record five Zambian storytellers and commit the footage to DVD so it could be distributed to schools and universities throughout Zambia. It was an exciting and wonderful idea. We went to the Council headquarters with the assumption that we'd be recording in one of the buildings. They had other ideas.

They marched us into the bush and we recorded the native Zambian storytellers in a natural setting. We moved a big rock for the storytellers to sit on. We found mats for the children. We used the shoot as a learning experience. Each member of the crew had the opportunity to try different positions. Steadicam, glidecam, audio, handheld. Whatever they wanted to try. We had all six cameras running and every piece of hand-built equipment in action. It was a great day. Afterwards, the crew and I spent hours lecturing about filmmaking, demonstrating techniques and networking with aspiring Zambian filmmakers. It was an increible day. Here's a clip of the day.

August 21, 2007

"WOMAN OF THE YEAR" err .... "Month"

BY JENIECE TORANZO MESA, ARIZONA-Yesterday Cyndi was awarded for winning (this month's) "Woman of the Year" on 99.9 KEZ Beth and Bill. I was unable to attend and tape it because of work. We were not able to find anybody else available to fill in either. Now, almost half of the crew have moved on to bigger and better things. Shawn is in Los Angeles, Jacob and Alec are in New York, Heath is in Utah, Robbie's in Oklahoma, and Jared moved to Flagstaff. The ones that are left are Cyndi, Pam, Nick, Edgar, M.K., Carlos, Mike, and me.

So unfortunately she had to go by herself to receive her award. I think it's awesome and if it weren't for Pam writing in and nominating her then it wouldn't have happened! This is something she needed right now especially with all the drama going on with the films trying to be taken away.

Here is the description of what the "Woman of the Year" must accomplish.

Schumacher Mercedes-Benz and 99.9 KEZ presents The Beth McDonald Woman of the Year Award. This year-long feature celebrates Arizona's amazing women!

Each month Beth McDonald will choose one woman who has made a difference.

-Has shown an incredible act of generosity. (UMM.... HECK YEAH! CHECK! THE ZAMBIA PROJECT.... just to name one...)

-Is a trendsetter and has paved the way for others. (CHECK!- THE WHOLE MEDIA ARTS PROGRAM AT MCC. Not to mention a numerous student successes in the field!)

-Has made a difference in someone's life. (CHECK! WOULD THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY COUNT?! And of course-all of her Art Media Art Students!)

-Represents the image of a true best friend. (CHECK! HER "JOHARI WINDOWS" ARE ALL ALWAYS OPEN! So She Is Totally Open And Tells You How It Is And Is Completely Loyal To All Her Firends.)

-Has achieved success in business. (CHECK! YEPPERS! YOU BETCHA! She was with FilmZambia Project and she was trying to do that with the MCC Media Arts Program, but NOoooooo. A certain somebody from MCC wouldn't let that happen. Sounds like jealousy if you ask me.)

-Show dedication to education. (CHECK! THIS IS WHAT SHE LIVES FOR 24/7! She's a natural and looooves it! She even taught some classes for free at MCC just so the students would be able to graduate!)

-Has shown an act of heroism. (CHECK! EVERYDAY. EVERYTIME SHE GETS KNOCKED DOWN...SHE GETS RIGHT BACK UP. SHE TOOK THE RISK....WHEN NOBODY ELSE WANTED TO. ...... to the Akon tune "you can put the blame on me....you can put the blame on me....")


99.9 KEZ Calls About Beth's WOTYA

BethWOTYA.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, ARIZONA, USA — This afternoon, I got a crazy phone call from 99.9 KEZ. Initially, I thought it was someone calling for some sort of survey so I wasn't really concentrating. In fact, I was thinking, "Why the heck did I answer this dang phone?!" But the young woman on the end of the line kept talking.

"I'm calling from KEZ, 99.9 FM, home of the Beth and Bill Show." I'm still not focusing all that hard because I'm thinking it's a promo call. "One of your former students nominated you for Beth McDonald's WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD." I'm paying a little more attention now. How kind of them to call and tell me. That's the sort of thing that really brightens your day.

"Pamela Bowman sent a really nice letter about how you went to Zambia with those 14 students to make a film AND all about how you grew the Media Arts program at Mesa Community College. We just wanted to let you know that you are a FINALIST for this month's Woman of the Year Award. Beth will make the announcement on the air tomorrow between 7 and 8 a.m. If you're the winner, we'll be calling you again." To be honest, I was so stunned I hung up without saying a thing. A few minutes later I called back and apologized for being such a dolt on the phone. I confessed that I thought it was a survey or prank call so I wasn't really listening at first.

Sarah, that was her name, was very gracious and laughed. She said she understood. She also said she'd read about the projects and she thought they were quite neat. It was a really nice moment. I'll remember it for a long time. I told her that I was honored just to be nominated and that the FilmZambia crew deserved just as much credit as I for the success of the project. And, as everyone connected with the project would attest .... As the other producer, Pamela Bowman probably deserves the Woman of the Year Award far more than I do! She had to put up with me!

August 14, 2007

FilmZambia Crew on their Experience


BY THE FILMZAMBIA CREW, ALL OVER THE U.S. — A year ago at this time, we were in Zambia, in the middle of our first week of production on BAD T!MING. It was exactly one year ago today that we had our first day on set and we discovered that our lights were toooooo powerful for the Zambian circuitry. Even with our adapters firmly in place, it was hopeless. The bulbs flickered and the filaments fizzled. The transformer in the building smoked. It was just sad.

Gaffer Shawn, Grip Jacob, Alec, Heath and I went all over town trying to find more bulbs. When we discovered there were no bulbs on the entire continent, we got all MacGuyver. We went to an electrical store and bought halogen yard lights. The guys fashioned our own 500W and 1000W lights with reostats and switches. Thank heaven Mike Montesa brought his photographic umbrellas and stands along to Africa. He saved our souls ... or at least the films.

Crew member Jeniece Toranzo edited together a wonderful mini-doc on the FilmZambia Crew. You can see how they dealt with the challenges with the lights and many of the other difficulties faced during that shoot.

Still Learning from Zambia – One Year Later

BY KAI KIM, MCC ART FACULTY, MESA, ARIZONA — A year ago, from August 8 through September 4, three faculty members and 14 students from Mesa Community College went to Zambia, Africa to make two films. That’s a pretty huge undertaking if anybody has any idea about what goes into making a film.

ZambiaKai.jpgAnd this was only possible because of the generous and magnanimous vision of Cyndi Greening. The students had not only learned so much from this experience but this journey really changed their lives. All of them appear different than their previous “middle-class” students from Mesa, Arizona. The lesson learned from real life experience in a non-classroom setting about technical issues of film making to learning to problem solve in Africa is a pretty amazing teaching approach. The end results were complete success.

Most of the students are pursuing careers in film related work. They have taken their experiences to pursue their dreams. What more could a teacher expect? I envy these students, because they had the opportunity to learn and experience something that really impacted them at an age when everything has not been tainted, when everything is amazing, when everything is possible!

Crew member Jeniece Toranzo put together a short video on the impact the journey had on the FilmZambia Crew. It brings back memories of where we all were a year ago.

Zambian Nostalgia

BY NICK MARSHALL TEMPE, AZ — I've been reviewing the journal I kept from our filmmaking efforts in Zambia. It's hard to believe it has been a year already. Sometimes it seems like yesterday. Sometimes, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Aug 11, 2006...

...But our best footage was when we went to the high density area, & people, hundreds of people living in squalor & in huts that looked like they were made by their own hands. street_life.jpgThe kids ran around wildly trying to get in front of cameras, we’d flash a pic & show it to them & the boys, already men’s faces, would smile and gesture like the rest curious & excited but when you asked to take their picture, they became so serious & hard faced as though they were posing for one picture and only one picture & that one would tell you all you needed to know about them forever...

Food was out everywhere, flies buzzing around everywhere, on meat laying out, some shriveled veggies, & massive amounts of stuff, just things to sell everywhere. Cyndi giving money to some that she bought stuff off & when we filmed their shop. When we left on the bus, I couldn’t say anything, couldn’t speak, cuz I knew I would breakdown, or at least cry...

It wasn’t that I pitied them or was ashamed of them at all, that was their home, that’s what they knew and they can find enjoyment in that simple life because they have to, but very hard, responsible life. I feel a pain in my stomach when I think about it. But I took pictures too. We all did, and me & Carlos discussed this a little in semi privacy when I asked to see the pictures he took. He hinted at the same thing, when we first got off the bus, he thought “What are we doing here?” I think I understood him more at that moment, I already could guess at his character, but having him say it aloud was more somehow like I knew the truth now of who he is and how he thinks instead of speculating.

Aug 14, 2007 (this year)

I tried to figure everyone out on the crew, to get to know them better, to see what drove them. I tried to write little paragraphs about each person cutting right to the core of that person, so if you didn't know them at all, anyone who would read that tiny paragraph could see them behind the surface level. Perhaps I'll put up some of those in the future.

Aug 12, 2006...

Sunday was rest day, relaxing, taking our shoes off & just sitting around and getting ready for Monday, but instead one bus driver (Max) said he was part of a N’goni tribe where they dance traditional dance & Cyndi said she’d love to see it (as well as everyone else). nick_kids.jpgThey were going to set up & dance in their traditional garb in the compound in the courtyard, but Cyndi thought that maybe if we could film it outside & find a location that looks like a village & shoot it for the feature than we could hit two birds with one stone. Me, Cyndi, Edgar, MK walked the neighborhood to scout out locations. Behind our compound was pretty good so we decided there. Back at the compound, came Dr. N’goma & overheard & “You need a village?” he mentioned there’s one a few kilometers from here. Great, we waited for the bus, wondering what this is, where we were going & what to expect.

A man with glazed eyes pronounced a plastic cup in my face. “Drink.” I looked; milky dirt water. I declined politely and again, he stumbled, with his sharp teethed smile, “You Zambian now. Drink.” I learned later that it was Chifuku, “Shake Shake,” a Zambian moonshine of sorts bought in a milk carton.

Aug 14, 2007 (this year)
Excavated out of my journal, I notice this is when I stopped keeping track of dates. Now, on a Tuesday, a day off from work, I sit in my crackerbox studio in the heart of Tempe and write and sweat. I have these memories swirling in my head from a year ago and all I am right now is glad. I think everyone that was involved in the project, when they look back one year ago today, I think it would be impossible not to get emotional.

Someday I've love to return to Zambia and jot down more notes and see the differences. This last paragraph is undated but was written near the end when we were in Livingstone:

— I look up to the sky, head held high like a solider to the rain, a washed out blue and I wanted to paint all this scrubbery in liquidy water colors, running off the canvas because it’s too small for this vision of calm.

August 13, 2007

One Year Ago....

BY JENIECE TORANO "GIDGET" MESA, ARIZONA- I just received an email the other day from Johnaphan Mvula, Jabbes Mvula's nephew. I can't believe he remembered that it has been a year since the crew and I were in Lusaka, Zambia. It's AMAZING that it has already been a year! It feels like such a dream now. I am so glad that we had most of it documented because jenieceKidmob.jpgI wouldn't have believed it myself that we actually went! Exactly one year today, which was Sunday, we were filming the N'goni Warriors. What an amazing experience that was. I remember that we had just arrived into Lusaka, Zambia on Friday. That same day we arrived at the Krazulu Kraal and met Dr. N'goma. Everything was happening so fast. We barely had enough time to get to the Lodge and unpack. Before we knew it, we were off to Mandevu. I was so excited! That place was so amazing and the people there were so beautiful and all so friendly! Everywhere you went was a "kodak moment" and so rich in color. It truly was a neat experience. One of my most favorite memories, I remember Cyndi always yelling my name and then had some of the other crew yelling for me because they were afraid that I would get lost since I'm vertically challenged. Yes...that's right. I am short. You know, I asked God if I could be taller....but He said "No."

At Mandevu, there were so many people and tons of children all curious as to why there were a large amount of "white" people coming with all of these cameras. They are so cute and photogenic. The camera really loves them and they really love the camera. It was amazing to be able to exerience that for a moment. After that we started to leave and saw a group of grownups playing a game with rocks. I'm not exactly sure how the game went. I wasn't paying attention when the gentlemen were trying to explain it the Cyndi. I got distracted buy a large bus full of mostly women and children, singing and piling out of it. It literally was shocking to see how many people came out of that thing. It was like watching the clowns at the circus coming out of their little bug and you can't help but say "how'd they do that?" It was definitely a neat little trick. Nothing you'd see back in the states that's for sure. Then the most hilarious thing happened. They were all singing and Alec started to dance the "harlem shake" with them. They just loved it. It was a great way to end our first big excursion out into the community.

The next day we went to shoot the N'goni warriors. On the way up to the village, the warriors all sang and clapped hands. As soon as we arrived to the village, everyone quickly got out of the but and started photographing and recording the warrior dancers. It all happened so quickly. I helped Carlos by being his guide (so he wouldn't trip while he walked backwards in the village) while he shot closeups of the warriors dancing. It was all too surreal.

In the end the whole trip completely changed my life. I believe it changed all of us, for the better. I am NOT the same person I was a year ago and I am glad. I have come out of my shell tremendously and learned to express my feelings more. Man, I sound like a guy. Ha-ha, I realized that I matter and that everyone else matters too. Everyone is entitled to his or her own feelings. And it only took me 25 years to figure that out. Ha-ha...Cyndi once told me that when she first met me, she thought I was frighteningly shy. All I was thinking was "Dang! I knew I was shy, but not frighteningly shy." I can only laugh at that cause it's really really ridiculously funny.

GidgetFinger.jpgThe past few weeks have been tremendously hard. As I watch all of the clips and photos of the cast, crew, and the locals, I can't help but get emotional. Yep, this is where the girl side of me comes out. I can't believe what an amazing crew we were and are. We did such an amazing thing. Cyndi asked me to put together a video of all of the cast and their experiences. I really dug through everything to find images that capture everyone. And, it only made me miss it all over again. You can watch my short video on the impact the journey had on the FilmZambia Crew.

One year ago, to the day was August 8, the day we left for Zambia. This year, that same day, I was on my way to the MCCD hearing, regarding the films, I got in a car accident. Go figure huh? "Bad timing" if you ask me. Who knew that one year to the day, we would have to fight for our rights to the film? This only goes to show that what we did was amazing and wonderful. And no matter what anybody says or does, we still went to Africa and made TWO films and changed the hearts of the people there....we hope it gave them a voice. We hope for a better future in the years to come. Zikomo Kwambiri, Makumba.

August 08, 2007

Genocide or Suicide

BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN, MESA ARIZONA - One of our goals with the Zambia project was to create the possibility of the film industry in Zambia. Upon our return those in the “business” remarked to us how ambitious our goal really was. Of course, in retrospect, our naivete allowed us to believe in our goal and us.

chop.jpgWe have been back for over a year. Since then three more films have been made in Zambia. People write to us asking for our advice for future projects. Others have asked us to sign on as producers for their African projects. So we continue to have a personal and professional interest in the region.

Those who follow global news are well aware of the continued upheaval in the African Nations. It is my opinion that many are using the differences that exist within Africa to divide and conquer. They continue to be successful as more refugees flee to “safe” country's or die at the hands of their fellow countrymen. As refugees flood the economy of these countries it creates more tension and more division. shake.jpgEventually “safe” countries start to drown as more people saturate the countries ability to sustain themselves and the process repeats itself.

Our goal was to unify, educate and promote business within Africa by Africans. We met many who were willing, able and anxious for any opportunity. My advice to the friends I made there is to be careful with who you shake hands. Realize that many who are investing in your country are not investing in your people.