Loose ties towards the end.

I had intended to step into Yeoville with one mission- complete shooting and get all the multimedia I need for the documentary. But Karma would not let it be. My main character seems to be having an obvious case of frustration with me because I have been so persistent and demanding of his time, and at some point he alluded to the fact that with all this help he is giving me, there really is nothing in it for him. 

Which as much as I resent, I completely understand. He has been postponing a lot of our appointments because he has been busy. I’m starting to wonder if this was because I rejected his proposal, because that couldn’t be helped anyway. For our final- appointment we went to his salon, and did not find him. After several calls he said that he was on his way but we ended up waiting for 45min and decided to leave because we had other duties for other group members multimedia work.

Needless to say he didn’t call back or show up. I left Yeoville having not fulfilled anything I set out to do but I also left knowing that I am not going back for anything. Really, there is only so much Yeoville a human being can do and needless to say I am painfully exhausted. It has a lot to do with the fact that the finish line is sooo near. I have decided that I will work with the material I do have and improvise where I fall short but I am effectively emotionally checking out of In-depth. The fact that I have started editing represents the finish line for me. 

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Edit is Ruthless

My feature, after my second re-worked draft, was about 3200 and while I was well aware of the fact that I was above the limit by 1200 words I felt relatively unperturbed because I really liked it. Now obviously my attachment to my feature was bound to set me up for some writer’s heartache. Granted, I was prepared. Ok, I suppose not really. So I sat down with my mentor to do what I thought would be modifying my work, not slashing it down so violently to 2060 words.

I guess there’s something to be said about conceptualising a story, going out to find it, finding it and sapping all the necessary juice out of your subjects to get the story and sitting down with the realisation that you have the power to construct it the way it will have the most impact. All the motions leading you to that final full stop really get you attached. So, according to my mentor, my quotes were too long and a bit complicated. So we had to reduce them to one-liners that hopefully conveyed the substance of my subject.  I guess as a writer, (haha! I just called myself the one thing I really don’t feel like after this week, alas) I am over-indulgent and somewhat sympathetic to whoever will read my work. I mean communication is a sign of respect, I want to write so I am understood and maybe possibly felt.

Anyway Kenichi kind of “felt” my metaphors a bit too much cause he said my metaphors make him want to “curl up in a foetal position”. Okay so I am willing to admit that my metaphors can be a little “overcooked” sometimes but there has to be a human interest in the feature right? Anyway from 3200 to 2060 something words, I guess editing is a miracle worker when done right. From all the editing endured this year, I can’t say I am too precious about my work. Also the burnout right now just makes me really eager to get to the finish line by any means necessary.

I am mostly grateful that my work could be edited to the required word count without completely losing its essence, at the end of the day as long as I’ve written so that I was understood, I will be better for it.

Rockey street rocked by the popo!

Today was quite the eventful day. Luke had been helping us so much with our videos and we have been grateful for his resourceful skills that gladly came in handy throughout our shooting. It occurred to me though, that Luke has been so instrumental in helping us, I haven’t seen him shooting any of his material and after a normal tough day in Yeoville the normal procrastination will be that he will record his stuff the next day. So I didn’t know if he has done enough. So we set out to help Luke.

When we arrived in Rockey street, the cards had been dealt for us to have a great day to shoot some raw and real material. Luke’s video is focused on police raiding on Rockey street and the many grievances that foreign nationals had. And almost as if the universe was listening, such a raid was happening today. We arrived just when it looked like it was simmering down and tried to extract some information from the people in the street and they were not willing to talk to us, let alone appear on camera. There wasn’t much action then and not enough police visibility so it seemed like a poor visual. We went back to brainstorm in the car. And in about 5minutes, more police cars and vans rolled through and there were suddenly lots of cops infesting every shop on Rockey street. It was a blue sea of cops searching shops and wearing gloves for the hygienic purpose of searching peoples genital areas for any hidden drugs or weapons. Intense.

While we were in the thick of activity, suddenly from a distance there was a man running towards us fleeing for his dear life. He was half-running, half flying and was sadly caught in mid-air as it looked. A swarm of police were all over him. In the moment we pulled out our camera because the action was too sudden for video footage but luckily Luke got some really good material and seemingly after the raids, people were shook. Apparently this happens in Yeoville every so often. We were shooting for about an hour and half and got really got raw material and authentic live action that could not have been recreated. So many photos and interviews were done and suddenly people were willing to talk, it was mostly venting.

I had intended to wrap up my video footage today. But my character was missing in action cause he had apparently left his refugee papers at home and if he was caught without them, he would be in jail. There is only so much Yeoville a person can do and Lawd! I am tired hey… there is just too much sizzle in those streets. I would have loved to have completed my work today but I am glad that I got to help Luke.

Team work cliches are true.

Today our group of four was missing a vital member especially since we are all shooting and trying to get enough footage for multimedia. It is no surprise that because of Luke’s AFDA education and photography knack, we have kind of relied on him to help us produce quality  visuals for our multimedia. While we felt his absence today, also because we also didn’t have the comfort of a ride, we had to maximise what little skills we cumulatively have and the products were actually good.

Having not done TV or photography as a mid-year course and all my videos this year receiving fair criticisms never made me feel too confident about how I would tackle multimedia, so I resigned myself to being the sound person. I mean all I had to do was hold the pole and be still. Today, beyond directing, I was behind the camera and managed to solve a problem we had that many videos that were not focused and clear enough. Zaheer did say that this obvious flaw in a video would lead to a fail. We spend most of the day reshooting Palesa’s multimedia and we did some of my multimedia as well. I feel like the closer to the end I get, the more angsty I tend to be about whether I have enough footage or not. Although today was a productive day, one wonders how much is enough, more than quality can I be able to visually tell someone’s story with the authenticity it deserves.

Its weird to be so neurotic and still need so much “woosah” time but as tomorrow is the last day of shooting, it makes sense to push myself the furthest.

Matters of the heart! urgh.

So following my consultation with Zaheer, the video mentor, he recommended I follow my character to his home to see how he lives and get a scene of him in a different setting. This was initially met by resistance from Luc, my main character, and his reasons were not lucid enough but nonetheless I understood the possible sensitivity in that. However after another consultation with Zaheer and an inability to think of a different scene that would represent his life authentically, I had to give it one more ask… because a No! really isn’t that worst that could happen.

I called Luc and his response was a lot more positive this time around although it had a condition that annoyed me and threw me off. Luc told me over the phone he’d been thinking about me for a while now and he thinks he might be in love with me. I tried to act stupid like “what does that even mean?” but the man was adamant with his declaration of love and he said “if you come to my place, than you have to be my wife!” uuuhhhh creepy much? men are so annoying. Now at that moment, I found it hard to remember him as this man with a harrowing compelling story about his fall and fall (because no rises yet). I am not a pretentious person at all, I wear my emotions and intentions on my sleeve. So my annoyance was obvious.

I didn’t know whether to play along because this is the last week of shooting and I need him to just participate one more time so I can wrap up my footage, or just be straight up vocal and possibly alienate him while I really kind of need him to complete this. I decided on neither, I decided avoidance would be my best bet. I had to shoot him today and I couldn’t hide my discomfort. He’s looking at me differently. His is a good person but the dynamics of this partnership that have changed for him annoy me and I have no patience. I suppose shooting him at his home will most certainly have to be a team effort cause my instincts are no longer settled around him. And they say trust your instincts- cliches are true.

I suppose someone saying they feel a certain way about you isn’t the problem, it’s that he’s a person from which I didn’t expect that compromise because he is so smart and wise and gathered and has been really helpful and above board. He is almost paternal in a way you would respect your elders and uncles, so that dynamic is all kinds of creep suddenly. You know? okay either way… I can’t wait to be done with this here in-depth.

Trust Issues.

Feature writing for in-depth is going quite okay i’d like to think. That is a necessary disclaimer because thinking you are on the right track does not necessarily qualify that you are doing the right thing. It has dawned on me that even for the written feature I need some multimedia in the form of still pictures to tell the story visually. My main subject, and he is by virtue of being so open and accommodating.

But our trust relationship now needs a bit of growth, I have realised that I havent seen where Luke lives and how he is in his natural habitat and that seems important for the purpose of delivering his story effectively. For the visual element of storytelling I need to infiltrate his personal space, in reasonable bounds ofcourse this was met with much apprehension from him. I guess telling your story as a fall from grace is easier than having the explicit details of your survival mechanisms so bare to be seen. I can appreciate that and to a certain extent I understand why he would feel that way.

Almost makes me feel selfish for me to want someone to open up their lives to me uncomfortably so that I can have a good in-depth feature. I guess journalism has an element of narcissism that cannot be denied, I mean surely it’s not meant to be self-serving but when your name is a byline of anything it is in part a reflection of you. Anyway ;Luke said he’d get back to me about letting me into his home. Him thinking about it is perhaps the best I can hope for.

I hope to do as much shooting as I possibly can tomorrow and make up lots of ground with my multimedia material. I think with enough focus, I can do so much in a day.

Treading on dangerous ground!

My interview yesterday had me feeling like a Carte Blanche journalist with no formal contract, which means I shouldn’t be so overzealous to tread on dangerous grounds. I actually found someone who is part of the illegal ring of arranged marriages that foreign nationals engage in to get the correct papers and legitimise their prolonged stay in South Africa.

I knew it was the good stuff when he said: “My sister, I will talk to you, but be careful because what you are investigating is very dangerous and this business is big.” I was so intrigued, but the way my life is set up right now I can’t be trying to save every evil or be pulling a Carte Blanche investigation. Me and my subject, who refused to be named for obvious reasons of confidentiality and protecting himself, huddled behind a salon in the parking lot and he sang like a bird.

There is so much that is wrong with our country, and after that interview as much as I’m willing to concede that not all foreigners are bad I will say that ambition masqueraded as the need for survival can be a dangerous thing. Also, money truly is the root of all evil. He shared with me that there are many successful South African women who are in Life Partner Unions with illegal foreign nationals and get paid every month for using their IDs to legitimise this process. Now the obvious targets you would think are unemployed women, and while that may be true, it is not just the struggling women that are easy bait but the women who appear to be well-off and have their lives in order. I guess we could all do with the extra buck, and maybe the attitude is “fuck marriage, it’s an outdated institution anyway”, but surely though some things should still preserve their sanctity.

Alas, ambition is rife and we are a nation deeply corrupted to the bone as my subject shared that this ring of facilitating illegal marriages works its way up all to the government. So I have decided that my feature will not only be about academics from Africa struggling to manifest their potential in South Africa but how other academics are clearly making the means, illegally so, to overcome the challenges stacked against them. Therefore my feature will lead into the aspect of illegal marriages between South African women and foreign nationals and the dynamics thereof.

Worthy to note that my source holds a Masters degree in Physics and Geography. One word: LIFE!

The confusion, the clarity.

Clarity and confusion are the conflicting ideas that came to the fore with regards to this in-depth which almost had me feeling out of my depth. Perhaps the obstacle is relaying my ideas effectively and not that there isn’t enough clarity with my vision for this project.

I headed to rowdy Time Square, possibly the most conspicuously dangerous place in Yeoville. That can easily be attributed to the fact that there are mainly bars and drunk men filling the square. I was interviewing a woman named Elysee who holds a Masters degree in Economic Science from Congo but instead of pursuing a career there, she left that prospect to follow her husband in South Africa to have a family here. Quite an interesting and refreshing angle that her circumstances were not influenced by politics but the pursuit of love and happiness. I also met a man called Lama from Congo (starting to find it strange and maybe ominous that all my academic subjects are from Congo). Anyway, I will be interviewing him tomorrow, looking forward to that cause he is so charismatic and full of ideology- makes for an interesting subject.

Some headway was made with finding a subject for the arranged marriages. He didn’t want to divulge much over the phone but was willing to talk and meet with me with the condition of no camera. Clearly, visually my idea of profiling arranged marriages may not be visually strong and appealing. I can relax that pursuit as long as I can find a way to filter it effectively into my feature. It is an important story to tell.

I got a lot of insight from Zaheer, videography mentor. I watched a couple of videos today to help clear the focus on how I can illustrate the journey of Luke Mabiala from academic to barber and the trivialities of his life between.

Camera, action!

I started shooting today. It felt like a good progression, cause I am giving multimedia the necessary attention it demands. It wasn’t very extensive and most of it was B-roll material but I feel confident about what I have so far. I inquired with Luke Mabiala (my main subject and character) about reaching out to his acquaintances who have married South African woman illegally to gain citienzship. Obviously, his appeal to them to speak to me was met with much apprehension and in some cases just downright refusal.

I understand their fears and since they have went so far in efforts to stay in the country they would not risk jeopardising a future they have toiled so hard for. On my side however, I feel that pursuing these people for my multimedia package would be such a great angle. For privacy purposes I would be willing to conceal their faces, and use pseudonyms to protect their identities. This is an important story to tell and I really want to do it- foreign nationals who buy South African identities masquerading it through the institution of marriage. More interesting would be to get hold of the South African women in these desperate economic circumstances to engage in these deals. I have been thinking about the potential dangers of pursuing such an angle,I am not perturbed enough to give up on it just yet.

I have also realised that for the purposes of my feature and multimedia package it would be important to acquaint myself with the immigration laws of South Africa, which I have neglected up to this point. I have also decided that instead of a video, I want a multimedia package, I am still brainstorming the best way to do this creatively and in the meantime I am watching old in-depth multimedia to get an idea.

Yeoville is fast becoming quite familiar to me, in ways I didn’t imagine but I suppose you hang around for long enough and the research location will breed a sense of community in you.

Day 3: Visually Speaking.

Today was still progressive as far as contacts go and getting the right people to speak to. Suddenly though, I realised that in-depth is a lot more than just the feature writing, in my mind I had totally neglected the multimedia aspect of it. I think partly because I know that the digital and technical aspect of this course has not been my strength. It has been a concerted effort every time I’ve made a  video and while I have learnt each time I did, I don’t feel as confident as I would like to be.

So I have been fumbling with ideas on my multimedia piece. I am hoping not to reduce it to an  interview style type of documenting. I want to capture the vibe and sizzle of Yeoville and illustrate how a life of big dreams can be reduced to ends-meet and mediocrity. I plan to start recording this weekend even though I am jaded. But I hope to wing it as I go along which I know can really be problematic with no clear plan in sight. However, I figure starting with simple interviews will be helpful. In my interview with Luke Mabiala, he spoke about the trade that happens between Nigerian men who find foreign nationals South African “wives” so they can gain citizenship. The immigrants pay R1500 initially and a sum of R250 every month for this privilege.

This is an angle worth exploring but difficult in the obvious sense that this trade is illegal and finding subjects willing to talk to may be hard. I am following this train of thought because I think it’s not impossible to pull off. I am apprehensive about the safety issues though. In the meantime, it’s worth finding a plan B and possibly C as well for the multimedia piece.