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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Haven't there been other films where local people are given cameras? What makes this project different? 
    • What sets This Is Us apart from other "just-give-locals-the-camera-and-collect-footage" documentaries is that this film empowers people to tell their own stores from script to screen. Whereas other documentary films have given cameras to local people before, This Is Us utilizes a carefully developed process specifically designed to empower others to poignantly express messages of their choosing. We do not simply collect footage from cameras that we hand out, only to edit it into a story later--we work closely with people we give our cameras to, enabling them to craft their own stories so that they not only do the filming but are also prepared to write and narrate.
  • How was this storytelling process work?
    • The fundamental approach was: "how can we balance between giving the local students the most creative control of their stories possible while still producing high-quality and focused short films, moving forward at an acceptable pace, and working within our budget?" 

      The answer was to carefully form an organized system whereby the students would: 1) be highly focused and prepared before they even begin recording; 2) continually receive one-on-one feedback throughout the filming process; 3) efficiently record their narrations; and 4) continue to meet one-on-one with the director during editing. 

      Using these fundamental goals as guidelines, we worked with local teachers to develop a process that enabled the students to write, film, and narrate their stories in a matter of weeks. The process focuses heavily on class discussion at first, then moves into a daily routine of continual one-on-one feedback with the students as they refine their narrations and capture footage. Close discussion and feedback with students continues through the editing process as the editor puts together rough cuts. The work culminates in a final screening party for the students and community.

  • What is the director's role in a documentary like this? 
    • Briefly, the director's role in a project like this is the same as any project: to keep everyone on track and working towards the same final goal. It is important that each student fully understands the goals of the project and that the students work as a group to pick a variety of topics that will mesh well together. It's the directors job to get each student excited to make his or her film and to make sure that each kid knows how the individual pieces will fit in with the whole. Tangentially, the students need to be taught how to properly use the cameras and how to effectively combine multiple images with a narration to tell a story. Once shooting begins the director functions as a guide, watching what each student filmed the day before and then encouraging him or her one way or another. The director is also responsible for editing the students' narration with their video clips to form the final stories.
  • Why don't the students edit their own films?
    • To answer this, we'll refer back to the original goal of the project: to enable storytelling. Working in an area without electricity--and on a project operating with a limited budget--it is not feasible to provide editing computers for the kids, teach them the programs, and troubleshoot for days on end as they learn to edit. The goal is to get their stories made, not to train them as professional filmmakers. Remember: the student writes and records the script (narration) that ultimately determines the shape of the final story--which is built completely from footage that they shot.
  • Interested in more? Learn about the narrative film inspired by these stories.