I try to do one big project a year, usually a documentary, and this one for 2016 happened quickly and very unexpectedly when Conroy Cupido phoned me while I was on another shoot. I was also tempted to blog this story earlier in the week, but I decided to wait a few days. Make no mistake I really enjoy blogging; I find the production process and tools I use absolutely fascinating and I love writing about things I have a passion for. But something about this project just wanted me to wait until I could see the view count on YouTube climb until I penned it. I knew from the beginning this was going to be great, but I was curious to wait and see what the rest of the world's reaction would be. And I wasn't disappointed. 


2016 has been a great year for music doccies and promos so far: WFIMC happened in June. Then there was Musikhane as part of the Community Engagement series and now there is this: the story of a group of music students who took Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro outside of the lavish comforts of an opera house to the dusty simplicity of a township community hall. Watch the movie, I need not repeat the story here. What was great about this project was that I actually had people to help me...most of the time I'm all by myself when I work on these projects. So thank you Ferdi, Chris and Wikus for getting tired, sweaty and dirty with me to get the filming done, and thanks again to Yolanda and Jaco for sending me another overnight, flawless voice-over recording. Much appreciated! Thanks also to Conroy, Shirley, Robert, Jaco, Santisa and the students at the NWU's School of Music for allowing me into your world and giving me open access to make my doccie work. 

Technically getting this done required some effort. Essentially we'd be doing two productions alongside each other - a documentary about the stage production, but also capturing the two hour stage production itself. Added to the mix was another little challenge I had in that this would be shoot no. 3 of three different projects I was juggling that specific day. I shot the rehearsal one afternoon, filmed the show the next evening and then filmed the remaining sit-down interviews the day after.

Post took about five days and again I'm enormously grateful to have Media Composer's updated multicam tools that allowed me to effortlessly sync up four camera sources and cut a two hour multicam stage performance, of which portions had to seamlessly go into the doccie itself and be fully editable before we reached the final version. 


Yes, I used my GoPros again and yes the footage made it into both videos. Never leave your GoPros at home! My FS100 and X70 proved again that they are the perfect combination for the types of projects I'm currently required to do.

Op-ed: doccies as a way to inspire others and create awareness

My first big break after leaving a steady job of eleven years was a big documentary project. For three weeks I had the privilege to learn the art of finding a hidden story in a mountain of random, seemingly insignificant footage from a master storyteller himself - veteran actor and director Nick Ellenbogen. I have to be honest I was absolutely terrified of Nick before the project. I was still a kid and he was this legend who had produced feature films and performed on stage for the Royal family. To my relief he didn't act like some of my university lecturers and try to prey on my inexperience and break me down. What I learned from Nick by simply observing him during those three weeks, I've been applying ever since to everything from little news clips to documentary projects like this one. I am eternally grateful to that wonderful gentleman with the grey beard for the wisdom he shared with me: go find the story in everything and then tell it visually.

The weird thing is that, with the exception of the first one, most of the documentary projects I worked on dealt with the power of music in uplifting underprivileged people. These projects will probably never be big budget jobs that will make me a rich man. On the contrary, most of these projects are break-even jobs or worse. And to be brutally honest that is the way it should be. Like everyone else I need to earn a living, sure. But doing these projects are about much more than money. To capture the process through which someone struggles to master a performing art and then apply that talent to entertain underprivileged people for an hour or two, thereby enriching their lives, is incredibly special and inspiring. I am in the wonderfully blessed position to be able to share this with the world and I will keep on doing that for as long as I am given the opportunity and the privilege of working with folks who are passionate about what they do and eager to accept and accommodate me as part of their creative effort.

Having said that I also want to drop a bomb that will probably make me even more unpopular/despised/hated among members of a certain campus establishment than I already am: why should projects like these that a) empower students from poor backgrounds and b) benefit local township communities have to literally scrape together funds to pay a videographer to get their story told, when R1.2 mil (that no one budgeted for) is spent on sending a solar team to Australia and individuals end up being a disgrace and shamelessly plagiarize someone else's work for personal fame and glory? I am sorry but that is a crying shame and just wrong on so many levels. And you are most welcome to hate me for saying that.

Check out the video on YouTube and please share on social media. South Africa needs more of this.