Hi everyone, here's an account of the WAVE training we had recently with 50 women representing every state in India living and learning together in Panjim, Goa for 11 days:
T minus 1, Friday November 27
We finally meet most of the 50 girls attending the training, whom we had talked to and emailed with for over a month, at Lar de Estudantes, a lovely dormitory in the pretty Altinho hill area of Panjim. I felt a mix of emotions -- that of elation, seeing the diverse faces in the group, mixed with pride from accomplishing the task of recruiting from every state in our vast country. The girls were very quiet as we briefly introduced the team and answered some of their immediate questions, which worried us a little, but we chalked it down to the girls being tired from their long train journeys. As it turned out days later, this was certainly the case because once the girls became more settled, we never ran short of conversation.
Day 1, Saturday November 28 (OVERVIEW)
We had start-up tech problems setting up the projector, as Angana and I try to introduce ourselves, but fortunately the equipment worked in time for Meena Bilgi's presentation on Gender and Community Development. We were also able to show the DMLcompetition.net website and talk about our funders, as well as videos about Berkeley Community Media (where I used to work for 6 years and where I learned about using video as a tool for social change), and Angana's film about the Women's World Bank, which was relevant and inspiring.
Meena did a great job explaining our Millennium Development Goals as well as leading the girls through an interactive exercise where she would call out a word such as 'farming' and they had to associate it with a gender. She said our group was very different from others who had done this exercise because their responses were more evolved. For example, instead of associating a word like doctor with men and nurse with women, they would do the opposite.
After lunch, we welcomed Frederick Noronha, a renowned blogger, author and journalist from Goa, to talk about blogging and videoblogging. He pointed out many useful sites online and also showed a video interview with one of the organizers of the Pink Chaddi campaign, an example of a highly successful advocacy action.
Later in the day, Stalin K (Video Volunteers) joined us for a lively chat about what community really means and sparked a debate about religion and feminism!
Day 2, Sunday November 29 (DAY OFF but with first camera shooting exercise)
We decided to give the girls a day off early in the training program so they could familiarize themselves with Panjim and also explore Goa's beautiful beaches, architecture or anything else they would like to do. However, we distributed around 10 cameras in groups and asked them the shoot video of each other and do casual interviews about how their experience had been getting to Goa as well as what they thought of WAVE.
A few friends helped us give basic pointers about camera use: Donovan Zane, a professional videographer of online videos from the US and director of a Global Water NGO; Gasper D'Souza who has taught digital story-telling in Goa and started a Goan video blog; and Faiza Khan, director of incredible 'Supermen in Malegaon' documentary which was being featured at the International Film Festival of India at the same time as our WAVE training.
In the evening we watched some of the videos shot and provided some feedback about exposure, framing shots and interviewing techniques.
Day 3, Monday November 30 (PRE PRODUCTION)
The first session was with Bishakha Datta, director of Point of View (WAVE's NGO partner) who is also a well known documentary filmmaker. Bishakha asked the girls to describe how they visualize the first frame of their first video submission for WAVE, which is to be a simple video profiling themselves. The ideas that emerged struck us all with their ingenuity, sensitivity and diversity, and gave us a first glimpse into the excitement ahead working with this extraordinary group of women.
Next, Ruchika Muchhala and Faiza Khan showed a number of powerful online videos that used different techniques and then critically analyzed why they worked or didn't.
Finally, Venita Coelho, an experienced scriptwriter and long-time media trainer, explained the basics of story-telling and writing so well, that the girls insisted she return for another session.
Days 4-6, December 1 to 3 (PRODUCTION)
Kavita Joshi joined us from Delhi to train the girls in video production techniques including composition, exposure, using tripods, mic-ing, interviewing, speaking on camera, capturing sound, and lots more. The girls were glad to get practical hands-on exercises in the field and present their work in class.
Day 7, Friday December 4 (POST PRODUCTION)
Venita Coelho started the day by lecturing the ladies in the art of editing. Ashmith Kunder, a professional editor from the Hindi film industry, thrilled the girls with his editing examples from Bollywood movies and adverts. Then after lunch, I gave an overview of the recommended workflow for WAVE and the process for shortening and uploading video clips for us to edit in Goa, with the help of step by step projection showing how the software work. We ended the day with breaking up into groups and having each of the groups create a 'paper edit' visualizing the profile video of a main candidate from that group.
Day 8, Saturday December 5
We started late to allow time for the groups to gather footage, music and still images to edit into their nominated profile videos. Sadly, tech troubles from rental computers caused havoc through the day but the girls plugged on with their task of editing videos with the help of a few professional editors - Shane, Marianne and Shweta from Prudent Media, Ashmith and Gasper.
Day 9, Sunday December 6
The girls chose to take the day off mostly but most groups managed to present their videos in the evening. Angana and I tried to provide constructive criticism regarding improvements that could be made, but the overall quality of the videos was quite impressive.
Day 10, Monday December 7 (ANIMATION)
Nina Sabnani, teacher of animation at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and Cathy Greenhalgh from the London College of Communication led the girls through storytelling techniques using simple animation. Nina, who has made a few animated films based on Indian folk tales, encouraged the girls to draw storytelling techniques from the rich arts traditions of their native cultures. At the end of the day, everyone was wowed by the animated shorts presented by the girls and I was amazed with how fast the girls conceptualized a story, shot still images and used laptops to put these images in a sequence to tell an interesting story.
DAY 11, Tuesday December 8 (INTERNET SKILLS AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP)
Freeman Murray, now the director of a community art space in Bangalore called Jaaga, but also has background in videoblogging having set up what could be India's first video blogging site - Swajana.com - took the girls through some social marketing tools such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as explained Google analytics. Next, I explained the contents of the WAVE toolkit created by Ruchika Muchhala, Faiza Khan, Angana and myself. After lunch, Christopher Fogg and Beryl Nasse from Connect Goa joined us along with Freeman, for a conversation about social entrepreneurship. Christopher entertained everyone with his anecdote about managing to become a travel photographer for British Airways without a camera or previous training as a cameraman. Freeman stressed the value of putting information online from the diverse places and NGOs represented by the girls, and also pointed out this could generate an income for the girls too. After this, we took group pictures and wrapped up with a wonderful last Q&A session and Maori farewell where two people meet and say one nice thing they've learned about each other.
In the evening, we treated the girls to a farewell party on the beach at a friend's new restaurant where we danced, watched a fire juggling show, and ate delicious Thai food. It was quite melancholic as we all said our goodbyes in a large circle at the end of the night, sharing how we have changed as a result of the intensive training experience we all participated in. The group of 50 women from diverse areas like Kashmir, the Andaman islands, Pondicherry, Arunachal Pradesh, and literally every other part of the country had all become a tight-knit group of friends - dancing in the dorms, teasing Solano (aka Solanosaurus) on the WAVE team for his repeated announcements about travel reimbursements, and commiserating about eating sandwiches for lunch (sorry everyone!). I realized that the training was a huge success, not just because of all the learning that occurred but also because of the strong bonds created amongst us, a community of strong, concerned women who care deeply about empowering their communities and together, possibly make a small change in our country, for the better.