Training Week 3, Final project research and pitch reel production

It was a typically challenging mid-training third week.  Students had to face the realities that the actual shooting of films, as Werner Herzog famously said, is “athletic not aesthetic.”

The trainees are in the throws of final project pre-production, research, planning and aesthetic decision making.  And, depending on how things are going, they are realizing the strengths and weaknesses of their story intentions.  Their final project is a story determined by them but we have established economic development as the theme.  A few have had to have the perseverance required by documentary filmmaking to start over with their research and character search as story ideas failed to materialize as hoped.

This week we talked further about story structure, watched more segments of exemplary films and reviewed their shooting on additional construction and interior low light assignments. There was a lot more time spent independently researching story ideas and preparing treatments.  Each student worked one on one with me and the other trainers, Mehdi and Jawed, discussing and debating their story ideas.

There were many long days, as they were asked by the end of the week to shoot material for a pitch reel on their desired final project story and to work on editing it with our team of Afghan editors.   For a few there were days of typically exhausting production in villages outside Kabul, at the end of which, as for experienced filmmakers, they felt like their story was untellable, their production work weak and their plans a mess.  With a night’s sleep and morning review and encouragement, each and everyone have done an incredible job of pushing their skills and stories forward.

On Thursday, the last day of the six day work week here, cold air arrived bringing strong winds and the resulting dust storm that obliterated visibility in Kabul. After a demanding week a dinner out was well deserved. Starting tomorrow students will work in pairs on their final projects – each with two days to shoot their own stories.