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Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 5th

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CreativeCOW presents Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 5th -- Indie Film & Documentary Feature


On location diary from Ethiopia

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April 5th: Bill Megalos, cinematographer and documentarian, is in Ethiopia with first-time documentary feature director Nick Spark on a mission to "make a film that makes a difference." Raising money on Indiegogo, they're following Jessica Cox, a 29-year old woman without arms who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is licensed to fly planes solo (among her many accomplishments). She is an advocate for the disabled and often spends time in countries where the handicapped are stigmatized. Megalos is keeping a shooting diary for Creative COW readers of their experiences in Ethiopia.



April 5
Harar did turn out to be a lovely and exotic large town, but more about that in a bit.



Harar Neighbourhood.



Another view: Harar.


After nearly 1200 hours of operation on my EX1 over 4 years, after creating possibly 100,000 shots, I had my first corrupted file today. It was a 13 minute shot that started at our van, as Jessica, Patrick and Sala walked into a school and were, as usual, wildly received.



Welcome sign at the school.


This time, children were holding signs honoring Jessica and professing love and confetti was thrown in her hair as she walked through the gates.



Jessica covered with confetti


After that school visit, we broke for lunch and I downloaded the morning's footage, or rather, I tried to. It kept stalling on this one clip, saying there was a problem with it. I tried to copy the clip to another card inside the camera, but it wouldn't take, so I decided to split the clip, until I found the bad spot. In the end, it took about a half hour to carefully split the clip, find the corrupted section and reconstruct it in Final Cut Pro so I could give precise notes to the editor and I was happy to get away with only losing six seconds (it was probably only a frame or two, but my time was worth more than retrieving those six seconds.) I was content that our content was safe.

That wasn't the only tech issue we had today. IN the rush to get to our first location, timecode had slipped on Hilary's smart slate and we didn't notice it until an hour into the shoot. I mostly wear a beltpack with a wireless hop, but both Nick and I try to shoot her slate on every take, crucial in the case of Nick's XA10, which is just using the camera mics. Once Hilary rebooted everything, we were up and running again.

At the first school today, we put together a special session of disabled girls and had a wonderful conversation of the issues they face as disabled females. It's doubtful that any of them had ever had an experience like this. We invited only women teachers and Nick and I and Sala were the only males in the room. As these students shared their stories, it was a very emotional experience.

One of the teachers was crying as she heard the girls talk of their hardships and Jessica was very moved. She told the girls that she had come to inspire them by telling them her story but was so moved by all they had endured and how they continue to push forward that they will continue to inspire her.



At the girls only session, one of the teachers - at Jessica's left - wept with emotion at the girls' stories.


At one point we asked the girls what their goals were and what they wanted to be and they told us. I had noticed them paying attention throughout to Hilary, watching her moving all over the room, jumping over desks, pulling out her boom, catching everything, I doubt they'd ever seen a woman working that way and I asked who would like to be a sound recordist like her and half of them raised their hands!



A warm experience, as all of the girls surround Jessica for a group hug.


After lunch we went to a second school and after visiting one classroom, with younger disabled students (who had a hard time staying focused) we asked if Jessica could address the whole school out in the schoolyard. Jessica and Patrick came out in the center of the big circle and she talked about being a young girl and wondering if anyone would ever see through her disability and love here for who she is. She told them of meeting Patrick and talked about getting married, how Patrick couldn't give her a ring, but that he designed a wedding anklet for her and she showed them. Then they showed them about a minute from the dance they choreographed for their wedding. When he lifted her over his shoulder and held her at the end, they loved it.



Patrick lifted Jessica as they dance a small segment of the dance they choreographed for their wedding.


This was our final school visit. Tomorrow, we'll go to visit a young blind girl whose parents are typical of the traditional ways of thinking. They are ashamed of her disability, thinking it is either a curse or proof of the mother's sins. They have not allowed her to go to school.








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