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August 14, 2007

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.

February 24, 2007

Revisiting FilmZambia Crew Reels

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — Working on the film trailers has us revisting all of the shooting days and recalling the terrific, dedicated work of our amazing FilmZambia crew. Their dedication and determination were unparalleled. So, a reminder to take a look at their reels if you're looking for a crew member who will do whatever it takes to get your film done!

February 04, 2007

Making the Festival Circuit

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, AZ, USA - So you’ve got an idea. A good one. You've turned it into a film. Now you’re wondering how to get your film onto the film festival circuit. Well, instead of scrounging the internet for hours, clicking on billions of links that lead you astray, spend a minute reading this and afford yourself more time for those other good film ideas.

First, go get Chris Gore’s Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide. Today I frequented my local Borders to skim through this book (I had been hearing it was the be-all, end-all source for film festival information) and I planned on leafing through it casually and then going on my way to finish the rest of my errands for the day. It started off fine, glancing through casually, reading sections of interviews and “Top 10” lists. But oddly enough, I soon found myself seated in a comfy chair, enjoying the interviews with directors talking about their impressions and mistakes on different festivals and then found myself taking out my pocket notepad and jotting down notes. I really intended this to be a five minute escapade and twenty minutes later I got up and really did leave. Gore’s top 10 lists cover mistakes filmmakers make and what to do at film festivals, even how to effectively crash a party at a film festival. Morgan Spurlock (SUPERSIZE ME) talks about how he prepared for Sundance and Jared Hess (NAPOLEON DYNAMITE) also describes his experience with Sundance. The end of the book is filled with detailed info about all the major film festivals in North America. Gore also throws in cheap marketing tips for your film.

wablogo.jpgIf books aren’t your thing, click over to WithoutA Box.com. Sign up for free and get information about all the upcoming film festivals. As a filmmaker, you can search by submission date, genre, location and dozens of other parameters. Without a Box makes it much easier to find the perfect festival for your film.

If you pay a cheap yearly fee, Without a Box will summit your film and press package to as many festivals as you want and you only have to fill out one entry form instead of hundreds. Watch the Demo to see what other services they provide. These two resources make getting on the film festival circuit much less exhausting. You can even see which festivals are going on and buy tickets to those festivals. The site is amazingly easy to navigate and useful.

January 15, 2007

Films About Filmmaking at Sundance 2007

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, ARIZONA, USA -- At Sundance 2007, there are several films with filmmaking as the subject of story. Some are historical, some are contemporary, all promise to provide insight into the industry that the festival supports.

CrossingTheLine.jpgScreening in the World Documentary category, CROSSING THE LINE by Daniel Gordon draws a portrait of the last American defector still residing in North Korea after 40 years. Private James Dresnok, in 1962 (at the age of 19) deserted the US army by crossing over into Communist North Korea. In his native individualistic democracy he was lost in the crowd and only when he journeyed to an alien nation of communism did he become an individual; starring in many propaganda films always as an evil American. Gordon dissects a complex story of a man through archival footage of the People's Republic with Dresnok's own testimony, interviews of fellow soldiers and a childhood friend that still awaits his return.

Kahloucha.jpgIn his first feature-length documentary, VHS-KAHLOUCHA, Nejib Belkadhi follows a vivacious and highly energetic amateur Tunisian filmmaker named Mocef Kahloucha. Shooting his latest feature, Tarzan of the Arabs, on a VHS Panasonic 3500, Kahloucha dashes around sweatily in a poor district in Sousse, Tunisia, recruiting locals to star in his movie, where action scenes are staged using Kahloucha's real blood. Fueled by madness and an uncanny passion for filmmaking, Kaloucha livens up a community on the edge of despair and Belkadhi films in amazement, trying to capture all the magic.

Girl27.jpgIn the U.S. Documentary Competition, Director David Stenn's GIRL 27 uncovers a scandal, erased from history, of a dancer raped at an MGM party during the studio's annual sales convention in 1937. Even after filing a federal lawsuit and having her photo plastered on the cover of newspapers, the incident and her name were forgotten and etched out of the books of Hollywood. Stenn finds the now nearly ninety-year-old Patricia Douglas, determined to uncover the mystery and truth behind the tragic events and to bring her out of seclusion. Impeccably researched and based off his original article in Vanity Fair, GIRL 27 illuminates and expands those original words and photos and gives a chance for Patricia Douglas to tell her story.

ComradesDreams.jpgAlso screening in the World Documentary Competition, COMRADES IN DREAMS, directed by Uli Gaulke, journey's to find "film clubs" around the world. People willing to show films in alternative ways, in alternative locations, determined to appreciate the pleasures of cinema in small and devoted film communities. Stories spread over four continents, from a traveling Indian tent cinema to a "film club" in North Korea, to an cinema outdoors in Burkina Faso, the world's poorest country. Through a strong narrative, Gaulke links these people's dreams in a common comradery, to relish in the sights and sounds of all "cinemas."

December 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Cyndi!! We love you!

BY CREW FILMZAMBIA, MESA, ARIZONA, USA
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Cyndi and younger sister Sandy in the driveway on Grandma Greening's farm in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Sandy found the haircuts quite alarming ... Prince Valiant, anyone? The shoes are something else, too! Mine look a little large while Sandy's look a little on the tight side. Notice how her feet are punching up like bread rising in a pan. Sandy was one of my best buddies in my youth and continues to be one of my closest allies. Seeing the photo of the two of us is a terrific birthday gift!

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Pamela, "BA" Bowman
Happy 50th birthday!
There are so many things I could tell the world about you. Nervous? You should be! Let’s see…

You are who you are and “you are quite clear” on what you want. What is unique about you is your ability to help others gain clarity on what they want. I have benefited from your constant teaching this year. You have given those you know such a profound gift of self. As you have given us a sense of who we are I have watched you discover more of who you are. It is true we call you the GT (giant toddler), but in truth we all need to be more childlike. We all need to accept and love people as they are. This empowers all to become more of who they are intended to be.

Thank you for all you have done this year. I am quite confident that your next half century’s contribution to the world will be very significant, valuable and LARGE! Your brilliance is shining brighter all the time. We are not blinded by the light, but guided by it.

Thank you Cyndi. I celebrate your life.
Always, Pamela


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M.K. "Gypsy Punk" Racine
Joyeux Anniversaire, Cyndi!

This is the second year I have been able to be part of your birthday and I hope to continue this well into the future. You have come to be a major part of my life, Cyndi. Academically you enabled me to flourish in the creative and supportive environment you so patiently and consistently provided. And eventually, the technical expertise you supplied me with, met the creativity I had within. Thank you!

Professionally, you entrusted me in roles and responsibilities far beyond that of which I thought I was capable. Again, I learned from you not in a classroom, but in the openness of a country primed for growth and opportunity, a reflection of me. How can I possibly thank you enough?

Personally, Cyndi, you have become a dear friend, one who provides humor, words of wisdom, comfort, compassion, knowledge, a positive perspective, and timely wit, among so many other gifts.

I don’t believe there is a birthday gift ample enough to show my appreciation for you and the various ways in which you have enriched and impacted my life. This birthday I wish you all the happiness you can handle through the gifts of love, friendship, good fortune, success, prosperity, good health and all other gifts important to you. Thank you and Happy Birthday, Makumba!

Je t’aime! –MK

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Carlos "Shake Shake" Espinosa
Feliz cumpleanos…

Cyndi, well what can I say, even though I have known you for quite a few years already, I have not formally said happy birthday to you, You always hide it so well.

The big Five-0; well you are young at heart. It has been a privilege to be one of your students, to learn from you, to be motivated by you, to get pushed like nobody has pushed me before and more importantly to have your friendship. You have given me many wonderful gifts in life and this I cannot repay you...thanks for everything you have done for me.

So far, you have accomplished great things in life, and it seems that you are just getting started, I hope to be part of many more birthdays and experiences.

Te deseo felicidad, prosperidad, salud, amor y dinero……Cheers!
Carlos

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Nick "Tick-Tock" Marshall

Cyndi,

Well wishes for all birthday celebrations! Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge and honesty with me. You've been a patient teacher and a caring friend. I hope your birthday is joyful and fun.

-Nick



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Jared "Grace" Moschau
I wish you a happy birthday and the best big 5-0. You have been a great influence on me and have pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t make myself do and I am not the only one. You are a role model to everyone that is part of the crew and also like a mother. I appreciate everything you have done for me and the opportunities that you have given to me. I hope you have another 50 great years.
Happy B-day Cyndi,
Jared

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Robby "NPB" Brown
Hey Cyndi, Happy Birthday…The way I see it, the glass is half full…love you, Robby!







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Michael Montesa

Happy Birthday Cyndi. Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for being my awesome mentor and for letting me work with you through all these years. Thanks for all the advice and thanks for being sweet and caring friend.

MALIGAYANG KAARAWAN.

   








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More birthday wishes to come throughout the WEEK!!!!
Alec "Sleeping Beauty" Hart
Jacob "Jacobo" Felix
Shawn "Nikolai" Downs
Edgar "Billie Jean" Rider
Heath "Karaoke King" McKinney

November 17, 2006

Taste of Cherry

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, USA - Saw TASTE OF CHERRY. An Iranian film, winner of the Palme d'Or in '98. Picked it up on a whim for $4; VHS cover with a Pacino look-a-like, those haunting eyes and somber mouth. Numerous words of congratulatory accomplishments along side four (4) stars and "A Masterpiece" made me think, "How bad can it possibly be?"

A dialogue driven movie, driven being kind of a pun, since almost the whole of the movie takes place in a car. Mr. Badii drives around looking for something or someone. He comes across a man, alone, and asks him to take a ride with him. He'll pay him lots of money to come with him and do something for him. The guy isn't having any of it and threatens Mr. Badii. Mr. Badii searches on. He comes across a young solider, just a boy really, and offers him a ride. Mr. Badii says he's going to take the kid somewhere. The kid becomes nervous. Finally when they reach a top of a mesa, Mr. Badii gets out of the car and tells the boy to get out and look at a hole in the ground. The kid won't get out. Mr. Badii says all the kid has to do is come to this spot tomorrow morning at six and call out "Mr. Badii, Mr. Badii." If there's an answer, help the man out of the hole. If there isn't, fill in the hole with dirt. The kid is nervous and says he won't do it and fed up with the boy's refusal, Mr. Badii gets back in the car. As he gets in the kid bolts, racing down the hill and out of sight.

Skip some and he picks up a Afghani seminarian. The seminarian tries to convince the man not to commit suicide, that it's a sin and against God's will. cherries.jpgMr. Badii says if he wanted a sermon he would have picked someone older. The seminarian also is dropped off eventually and Mr. Badii drives off with no one to aid him. He picks up an older man who is a taxidermist and talks about how he too wanted to kill himself once. He told Mr. Badii that he had gone to a mulberry tree one late night to hang himself. He threw the rope over a branch and it didn't get catch. Several attempts to no avail, he climbed the tree and tied the rope tight. While up there he decided to eat one of the mulberries. It was delicious. He ate another. And another. Kids came by and told him to shake the tree so they could eat the berries. He took pocketfuls and returned home to find his wife still asleep and when she woke up they ate mulberries together. Mr. Badii said, "So you ate mulberries and suddenly your life of okay." The taxidermist said no. But it changed his perspective. Something as simple as the taste of a mulberry or a cherry can just change your perspective on things and how things can get better. He finally asks the taxidermist to do his deed the next morning. The taxidermist says he will.

The man goes home, takes a bottle of pills and goes to the grave he dug. He takes the pills and lays down in the grave as a nimbus cloud moves overhead, blocking the moon and hiding as rain casts down and thunder cracks and lightning alighting his calm face. Blackness.

All rather existential. But very interesting. It almost seemed like a life cycle of philosophy in one day. At least the characters and their conversations. The solider, timid about death, unsure of what he believes, curious but afraid of the unknown. The seminarian a little older but still a student. He believes in an afterlife and is purposeful, confident. And the taxidermist, an older man, accepting death as a physical thing. Even dealing with it in his profession.

So, "A masterpiece?” Maybe a little slow for that, but I did keep coming back to it and thinking about it. Waxing philosophical in my head about death and the "big questions." The movie involves more than I've written but that's the general idea of the movie.

So which character am I? At times all of them. They each reside in my brain somewhere, taking turns tearing the megaphone out of each other's hands and yelling their views into my tired head. I just try to absorb all the information I can and try and figure it all out as I go.

It doesn't take too long to figure out that life isn't a bowl of cherries, as the cliche goes. I wish I had some cherries right now.

November 10, 2006

Inspired?

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, USA- I remember when we were just about to leave, we went to the cafe one more time & I sat on those metal stools & I wrote my last blog in Zambia. I wrote about our hardships, the friendships & experience gained & how even with all the difficulties we experienced, individually and as a whole, at that moment, I wanted to stay there. I wanted to stay & write a book. I mentioned it sparingly but it was constantly in my head, staying afloat. It geared itself up in my brain, all the things I saw, felt & did while in Zambia, the people of Zambia & the people I went with. My excitement might ocassionally be tripped up by; How do I structure this thing? and What if I write something about someone & they're offended by it?, or What do I really want to say? and Can I even write this?, but I would try to keep focused & think of writing & read through my notes again.

nickMarshall.jpgWhen we got back I tried to start, but we started into the editing immediately. Even though I was happy to help, I wanted to help, but I wanted to write while the flame still burned. Wanted to get the ideas down while they were still fresh. I found it easy to get into that place again & I knew that if too much time passed, it would be harder to see it as it was instead of how I remember it. Almost everyday, clockwork, I'd show up at the hotel, the "Kraalette" & we'd work. And laugh & talk & eat & some of us; sleep. Robby would bring his tooth brush and enthusiasm. I'd bring the wake up call for Alec & Hacobo. A flick of a light switch can be a loud wake up call sometimes, sometimes not. MK would bring her smile & peppy self & usually the arrival of a break & lunch. Carlos would bring the sinking sun, blinding through shades & an ajar door. Sometimes I'd wait for a long segment to render & we'd talk. About movies, politics, just the world. Jeniece would bring the street lights & neon & the idea for dinner. Mike would show up either in the morning or afternoon & stay depending on if he had to go to work or not. Mike would bring his laugh & laptop & jump in the editing seat when one of us got tired. Cyndi lived there, sometimes rising to a knock and falling to the hum of the computers or Jeniece's breathing in the other bed. Pam sometimes there in the morning as I pushed open the door; talking with Cyndi , always the conversation between them. They'd argue like sisters; their threats and disagreements always only on the end of their sleeves & then there'd be laughter & the conversation would start up again. I would sit & listen.

We spent more time in that hotel room than in Zambia. It's funny, but in Zambia I got to meet these people, but in that tiny hotel room I got to know these people. In Zambia we were colleagues. In the "Kraalette" we were friends.

I had mentioned to Cyndi my book idea & even though apprehensive about being recorded, by me none the less, she encouraged me to write it. Now that I'm not at the hotel anymore & I'm looking for an editing job, trying everyday to inspire myself & write something, I finally had time to translate all my notes from Zambia that I jotted down to my computer. Reading those notes over again got a spark ah flickerin'. So, at this moment, this very moment, do I want to write this book?
Yes.
Do I think I can write this book?
I don't know. I really don't know.
But I can try.
Nothing significant is worth doing if there is no risk, right? If nothing else it's a goal.

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 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.

August 19, 2006

Adapting

BY NICK MARSHALL, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA -- It's odd. Only a little after a week and it feels like I've grown accustomed to this place, this pace. At first I took picture after picture, snapping away, afraid I'll lose a moment, afraid I wouldn't capture it all. Everything was new, everything was exciting, it felt like we would stop down and take off again after a weekend. But now, I don't take as many pictures, not that I'm bored with this place or it's not interesting, but it feels like I understand it better now. I don't feel like I'm going to run out of time.

street_life.jpgLocations and props have been giving us a problem -- well many things have been putting a rut in our path but I think the most exciting thing about this project, from the crew perspective, is how everyone does stuff on the fly. We change things that need to be changed, every day we make split second decisions and adjustments. We do anything to capture a scene and people just talk to each other. There are no egos and no one speaks down or up to anyone else, we respect each other and listen. We're slotted into our roles better now and everyone is on a Zambian rhythm now.

People are very open here and will talk and talk. And you'll listen with a keen ear, eager to hear their life or a project they are working on. We talk and laugh and it helps with the stress and the waiting. There are so many things happening, so fast it's hard to recall it all, hard to get it all down, but I take notes, jot down little things when I can and remember. There is drama everywhere, even when we leave the set, at our compound there are things to talk about, things to laugh about and everyone is meshing together, getting accustomed and helping each other out like a family. There is a high level of community here, everyone helping, sharing; they are eager to help, eager to say hi and talk. We are adapting to that community, that sense of helping and altruism, and in our little compound we just share very passively and are calm and we laugh. There is a lot of laughter.

August 12, 2006

Putting All The Pieces Together

nick_kids.jpgBY NICK MARSHALL, ZAMBIA, AFRICA -- In an internet cafe and typing by the dollar. Well more like cents. The money is odd to get used to -- they deal with thousands instead of singles. Bought a sub, cost 10200 kwacha. So far the experience here has been nerve-wracking, wonderful, stressful, beautiful, sad, tiring and a million other things. The flights were exhausting and seemed all to melt into the same day. We are staying at a housing compound provided by Dr. N'goma. He is very nice and very excited to have us; he welcomes us enthusiastically, as do all members of his staff. Everyone there is very friendly. When we first got access to an internet cafe I e-mailed my parents and we learned of the bomb scare at the Heathrow airport. We learned from an e-mail from Shawn's parents that it happened right after we took off from London. This whole trip has been close calls and things falling out of place only to be put back together at the last second so that we can move forward.

August 01, 2006

Film Zambia Crew

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(Click to view larger image)

July 20, 2006

Texture

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

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

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

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

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

I guess I lost the subtlety, huh?

July 11, 2006

Grabbing My Attention

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

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

YES.

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

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

This is what I meant by the waiting.

June 27, 2006

Missed Opportunities

BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, AZ, USA - Three days later and I'm still mad at myself for missing the opportunities of tasting Zambian food, talking with Jabbes' friends and praying as a group. I would like to say to everyone and especially Jabbes, that I am truly sorry I missed the gathering.

Friday, my brother's new engine for his Civic came and since the truck didn't have a lift we had to lift (four people), a 550 pound engine out of a moving truck. I had a feeling someone was going to get hurt and that it wasn't safe. Good thing it only fell down on my legs. I twisted or sprained my ankle, I don't know (I'm still a gimp) and I have several large bruises on my thighs.

Saturday, I called off of work due to my new gimpy attributes, money gone and awaited anxiously to go to Jabbes'. I got some late lunch and ate Chinese food only to gather I had aquired food poisioning when I saw it come back up.

There is a short film on Ifilm.com called I PROMISE AFRICA that I watched recently. It is short but very touching and effective.

I recently bought a new digital camera. I'm practicing now, using all the features, trying to be versed enough so I'm not taking bad pictures in Zambia. I've never really been a photographer, I've dabbled, but because of my interest in film I've mostly been a cinematographer. I think photography has helped me to focus on one single frame and to concentrate on framing that one picture and telling a story with that one photo. Learning and practicing photography has made me more aware of capturing the best story in any scene I am photographing. If I'm anywhere taking a photo, how is the best way to represent that place , and what emotions do I want to capture to tell the best story. I want to come back from Zambia with the best stories I can, and hoping have many people hear and see those stories and decide to help. I think that alone would be rewarding enough.

June 24, 2006

Who We Are

BY THE AFRICAN VOICE DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW, MESA, AZ, USA - The last week, we worked on a short video to give people a sense of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. Three of the editors put together versions of varying length.

WhoWeAreSm.jpg SHAWN DOWNS put together the Who We Are in Two Minutes movie. Shawn recently graduated from Arcadia High School and will be going to the LA Film School upon his return from Zambia. Shawn is an excellent cinematographer, gaffer and all-round crew member. Shawn had a short film in the PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL 2006. I'd count on seeing great things from him in the future.

WhoWeAreMed.jpg LINDSEY BLACK crafted the Who We Are in Five Minutes. Lindsey graduated from Mesa Community College. She has made numerous short films and is looking to build a career in the independent film industry. Lindsey enjoys acting, editing and producing. Already a Sundance veteran, Lindsey is looking forward the 2007 festival. She learned a great deal about networking at the last festival from actor, Adam Scarimbolo.

WhoWeAreLong.jpg MICHAEL MONTESA completed the Who We Are in 17 Minutes. Another Sundance veteran with a commitment to work in the independent film world, Mike is a respiratory therapist by vocation and photographer/cinematographer by avocation. Mike has won several awards at the annual Mesa Community College Art Show. In addition to being a great on-set photographer, Mike loves designing movie poster and DVD case covers. His designs are terrific.

June 06, 2006

These Words...

victoria6.jpg BY NICK MARSHALL, GILBERT, AZ, USA — Over the past days I have been reading/researching on-line about Zambia. I've been reading out their customs and what not to eat, what not to drink; mostly precautions. I have read traveler's experiences and advice on Zambia and Africa in general. But after staring at the screen for hours my eyes started to get tired and blur the words, blend them altogether. Each word became indistinguishable from the next and it was as though I forgot the language, couldn't comprehend the words and they seemed all to fall into the same melting pot. But as I sat rubbing my eyes, clearing my head, I thought: words can only do so much. Words can only do so much to make you experience something. Words let you imagine, but a photograph shows you what something really looks like. To describe something, an experience you had, something you saw, it takes time to write and read, so many words. Plus the language barriers, but a picture, a photo transcends all language barriers. So many words can be expressed instantly in your mind with one look at a fabulous photo. In an instance where you are lost for words or don't know the right words to express yourself, show a photo of what you mean, and confusion is erased, the air clears and instantly people understand what you were saying. Even better than a photo, which captures a single moment, video, which captures a stream of moments. A photo can give an impression of how something is, but a video of something shows you exactly what went on at that time and place.

My point is: These words I've been reading and pictures I've seen of Zambia and Africa they only let me experience so much. But to go there, and not imagine how it will be, but to be in it, in the thick of it right there, to breath in the exotic aromas of Africa and Zambia, that is the only true way to experience. I can prepare all I want for the experience, but until the time when we land and step on Zambian soil, I can not really know what it is like in Africa. I feel that the first zephyr to pass over me in Africa will take my preparations to the wind and I'll be left with only a faint reminder of what I was going to do. I'll have to take a deep breath and suck in the experience the most I can and savor it, try to document it, for when it is just a memory, a wonderful memory of Africa, I can use these records to help me recall the time I stood on African soil and breathed the African air.

more on words: To say something is your word, but what holds even truer than your words is your actions. People can say all they want, but until the action is preformed of what you said they'd do, it doesn't amount to much. There was something Robby Brown said on one of his blogs that stuck out for me.

"I'm not as good with words as some of the crew. I'm a doer, not a talker. And I will do whatever she tells me to do and I will do it to the best of my ability."

He's a doer. And when the time comes to show the product of sweat and determination the doers will be standing higher than the sayers. He might of typed this on a whim, but I highly respect him for it. He will do what ever it takes, not say he'll do it, and waste time, but go and do it and get it done well. I like drawing inspiration from people I work with and talk to and see, it makes it more valuable and concrete. Getting inspiration from a dead poet or artist can be affective, but I think if you can talk with this person, hear more of what they have to say, or see what they do, it just seems a bit more real.

There's a passage in a book called Suicide Blond by Darcey Steinke that has always stayed with me.

"He used to tell me that a person who reads all day, then watches the sunset is just as valuable as a person who interacts with the world, but he didn't believe it and God knows this world doesn't either."

May 22, 2006

The Rattle

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

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

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