It’s been a week!
It’s Sunday afternoon and our first day off since we arrived. It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been here a week because everyday is an experience.
Up until last week nothing about this project felt tangible. Yes all three of us worked very hard to arrange the equipment, insurance, accommodation etc but it didn’t actually feel real. But when Christian arrived in London last week it was the first step towards actually shooting this documentary. When we left very early Sunday morning it brought us closer and closer to our goal.
For Christian arriving back in Nairobi has been a homecoming. He lived in Nairobi for 13 years and we are staying at the German School where he went to school. It has been a strange experience because everything, of course, is familiar to him but he no longer has a home here.
As I said we are staying in the boarding house of the German School. It is a great location with a shopping plaza across the road. It is in the “posh” area of Nairobi, close to the United Nations but we are getting a fantastic price. Our room is a good size and we’ve set a cool little production office for ourselves. We even have different shelves for camera, lighting and sound.
Christian and I arrived on Sunday evening and the next day we went to the slum to shoot some footage. We only had Christian’s small HDV camera but we wanted to ease ourselves into shooting in the first week. The kids in the slum absolutely love having their photo taken and we knew that it would take a few days for them to forget about the camera. So we thought a couple of days with the small camera would prepare them for big camera. As well, for our own safety we wanted to the slum to see us in the slum on a regular basis and interacting with the residents.
Diego arrived on Tuesday night from Brazil with all the equipment. It was a Herculean effort. Diego flew from Sao Paulo via Johannesberg and he was awake for 24 hours. It definitely showed in his face and he was exhausted. This is probably the reason he’s been suffering from a cold the past four days, which he has now generously passed onto Christian and I. He still had enough energy to join us for a beer that night and when the three of us toasted “cheers” it was the official start of the documentary.
The next day, in spite of Diego feeling like hell, we headed out to start the first day of shooting. We haven’t worked together before and we knew it would take awhile for us to get a rhythm but I was happy with the footage we shot, particularly for the first day. We’ve had a few minor issues though. We had some sound issues the first day but this is mainly down to the fact that none of us are sound recordists. We did sort it out the second day and everything is sounding clean. We also had a problem with the gain on the camera. We are shooting on the Sony Z1U HDV camera onto HDV tape. It’s a camera we chose because we are all familiar with it and it is a robust little camera but for two days when we shot in darker locations the images were very noisy. It looked like the gain was on and we thought it was off. After playing around with the camera we realized that even though it appears as if the gain is off it needs to be shut off manually. A bit annoying but we’ve solved the problem. Despite all the problems the footage looks amazing and we have now really hit our stride. On Friday we brought out Diego’s glidecam and those pictures are incredible.
In our short time we’ve already learned a few lessons about Kenya. Through his connections Christian has been able to arrange quite a few things before we arrived. But we’ve learned that if you think you’ve negotiated a final price and a deal, you probably haven’t. It’s a bit frustrating, particularly for Christian, and we’ve had to renegotiate a couple things that have resulted in a slight increase in our costs but I think this is just part of shooting in Africa.
In only a few days all three of us have fallen in love with the children at the HHF centre. They are so unbelievably cute and are really thriving under the program. We all have our favourites and they are all teaching us a bit of Swahili.
So one week down and three more to go. So far it has been an adventure and we are looking forward to the next three weeks.
Until next time
Riyad, Diego and Christian