Archive for July, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Join Me in Tanzania 13-Day Camera Workshop

If you are in East Africa this month please join my camera and storytelling workshop offered in Dar es Salaam July 17 – 30. For more information contact Irene Nilsen-Moe at Get Real Training or call +255 777 946 413.

Tanzanian filmmaker Karabani plies his craft in MFDI’s Dar es Salaam camera workshop June 2012.

PostHeaderIcon Illuminating the African Continent

The color, people, and texture, of Zanzibar are unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

This week I am back in Zanzibar at the ZIFF festival leading a one-week camera workshop with local filmmakers. ZIFF is  now in its 15th year of hosting mostly African film and music events inside a decaying 17th century fort. It’s a spectacle of spectacles witnessing the local residents in robes and traditional Muslim garb partaking of the offerings in an ancient amphitheatre that once housed legions of pugilistic Omani gladiators.

This is the second year that I’ve had the honor of leading a workshop. In Zanzibar, a mostly conservative Muslim enclave two hours by ferry from the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, there is little point training in the use of pricey lighting instruments like HMIs and PARs. Instead the required skill is lighting via mirrors and reflectors and white board, delivering high quality light to dark difficult-to-reach interior locations. I became adept at the mirror trick in Uganda several years ago and have since adopted the strategy in all of my work, whether I have a 5-ton lighting and grip truck at my disposal or not.

The point here as it is everywhere else is to work small and fast. Efficiency is the key not only to meeting budget and schedule demands but to inducing the best performance out of the crew and the  actors, who hate interrupting their presentation for an hour or more to reset lights for an alternative angle or close up.

In East Africa especially in Tanzania and Zanzibar the filmmakers focus intensely on their stories and the actors  who propel them, the casting and performance of these players being front and center of their filmmaking efforts. There is little talk about the relative merits of the RED camera versus Alexa versus C300. What matters here is what ought to REALLY matter to aspiring filmmakers everywhere, and that’s the strength and the compelling nature of their scenarios, and the characters who populate them.

That’s not to say there aren’t serious craft issues here  that need addressing. The lack of qualified audio recordists and DOPs undermines the watchability, indeed, the viability of programming in the region. Cameramen need more intensive training in understanding the basic tenets of the cinema, regarding point of view, use of close ups, and the discipline that goes into the every aspect of the craft.

A large mirror measuring a meter square reflects the intense tropical sun into a bedroom on the set of Mdundiko in Dar es Salaam 4 July 2012.

For sound insulation this TV studio in Dar es Salaam utilizes discarded egg cartons in place of expensive acoustic tile.