It was 3 a.m. in the morning. I hadn’t slept the entire last two days… and yet for some reason I had more energy in my bones than I would have had on any other day.
Tell me 1 month ago that I would be in the middle of Eastern Europe, surrounded by a classroom filled with Croatian-speaking high schoolers, and I would have never believed you. And yet, through a friend of a friend, a last minute door swung open to work alongside Outside the Lens and the Mediterranean Film Festival to bring a film workshop to the kids of Hercegovina.
26 hours traveling to Croatia. 2 hours drive from Croatia to Hercegovina. The moment I showed up after my journey - literally didn’t even have the time to put my bags in my room - I was thrown on the first panel of the week to judge pitches that the students were giving to see what film we were going to develop over the following 8 days.
Yes, that’s right. In 8 days we had to take a film from concept, to being premiered on the main stage at the Mediterranean film festival. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind.
After pitches, the first day was spent writing, location scouting, prepping actors and project files… and most importantly for me, interviewing and selecting 2 teen editors who would help bring this project to a reality.
Although many of the kids were passionate about learning to edit, almost none of them had experience editing or using the software we would be cutting the film on. Needless to say, my role over the first two days was training these 2 kids - Colin and Patrick - everything they would need to know about an editing workflow. They learned software such as…
And man was I blown away at the speed with which these kids learned. Below you can see a couple test videos from our practice with these mediums. We tried to utilize our offload/export time by learning some clever techniques that we could use in the real film such a masking, transitions, and even some special effects.
As the footage started pouring in… the scope of our work was really taking shape… and in all honestly, was a mound that seemed like we would never reach the summit of. Editing a film in general is hard in 2 weeks. Typically one would have about that much time for a rough cut of a 12 minute film.
Then add on to that the fact that I would be directing kids on how to edit a film in a language that I didn’t even speak. It would require a new level of attention to story and detail on my part… It really pushed me to not only trust the kids in their process, but to force myself to engage in every conversation so I could make sure I knew what was going on in the story.
Patrick, our Hercegovinian native took it upon himself to just smash through all of our dialogue scenes, while Colin took over more of the montage sequences and finding other assets for us: music, SFX, graphics…. etc.
It was such a blessing to see these two really begin to take the edit into their own hands over the next few days. Even late into the night, they were both dedicated to creating something bigger than themselves, with the help of about 20 other students who were equally as sleep deprived trying to get this story out.
I definitely have never allowed myself to get as tired as I was in some of those late night sessions. What can I say, having multiple all-nighters in a row is not natural for the human body… However, when I was in the thick of it… I hardly noticed because I truly felt like I was in my element, fulfilling a part of me that has always been a passion of mine - helping kids to find, use, and raise their voice. You can imagine how special this week was for me. I’ve never wanted to be an educator… but I do strive to help people find empowerment through art… and I think in a lot of ways, we were able to open that doorway a bit for these kids this week.
You know, when I was younger, growing up in a farm town, opportunities for artistic expression were rare, if they even existed. I remember participating in things like the Missoula’s children’s theatre, or watching motivational speakers stop in our town for an assembly or two... and I always wondered what it would have been like to grow up in the big city from where these people often came - I wondered what it would be like to be able to learn the art forms that they displayed for us so brilliantly.
But I have never been one to ask for a pity-party... I don't believe you should define yourself by your situation. Define yourself by your opportunity.
That is why I think giving the opportunity, leaving a door open for kids to see into a world... to experience a reality... To find the next step in furthering their education on a topic - on art... That is worth it. That is empowering. That is why this week was such a blessing for me to be a part of.
In our final days, we were able to pull together the entire film by some incredible feat.We screened the film in front of thousands at the Mediterranean Film Festival; and in the end we left Bosnia with quite a few more friends. With quite a few more filmmakers.
Listening to the kids talk about their own growth throughout the week on my last day reminded me that I need to continue fighting for these times.
Times when aid trumps ego.
When process trumps outcome.
I'm looking forward to showing you the film. It should be out soon.