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We are full of mangoes!

We had our first day off on Sunday and we definitely needed it. We’ve been going flat out since Diego arrived and between Christian’s persistent cough and my sneezing our room sounds like a hospital ward. Diego is now, of course, feeling much better and is his sparkling self. Shooting in the slum is surprisingly tiring. It’s very dusty and the sun sucks the energy out of you. Fortunately we are eating well with plenty of fresh fruit (including amazing mangoes which up to this point in my life I have never really liked) and haven’t had any junk food since we arrived (well except Diego and has nightly chocolate bedtime snack).

We conducted our first interviews this week and I can tell it’s been a while since I’ve directed. Also the only directing I have done up to this point has been for short films and commercials so it’s a different skill set. My brain is thinking “get different shot sizes”, “did you get the reverses?” and “how was the performance?” but for a doco your coverage and way of shooting is different. Even the way you tell a story in a doco is different. Also I’m acting as the director and interviewer. The first interview I was too concerned about getting all the information I needed and didn’t control the interview enough. I knew the person we were interviewing was nervous and in hindsight I should have done more to make him feel comfortable. Fortunately we have enough time to get the interview again. We’ve just done the second interview and it’s gone much better.

cimg1562One thing I don’t have to worry about is the way it looks. I’ve worked with Diego plenty of times and I know I can trust him to give me amazing framing & composition, interesting camera set ups, good coverage and just to make it look damn good. I haven’t worked that much with Christian but he too is shooting some good footage so I can really focus on telling my story.

We’ve shot some more glidecam footage and its look FANTASTIC!  Christian and I strapped on the rig on Sunday and it’s bloody hard. We were exhausted after a few minutes. Diego has had to negotiate muddy slum roads and it still looks very smooth. It’s a credit to his skills, me thinks. We’ve all been taking turns on camera and sound and we are now a pretty slick unit and very much in rhythm. I think I’m most proud of the fact that there is no ego in any of us and we are happy to do what ever is necessary.

mind-mapTo help figure out my story, on Diego’s suggestion, we’ve created a mind map diagram. It’s been helpful as a tool to visual my story and also act as a checklist to make sure I get everything I need. Every night we capture the footage, which is great because I get to see what we’ve shot and how it’s looking. Christian has Colour on his computer and we’ve been playing around with grading the footage. He’s a good grader and we’ve been able to grade the footage so that it looks very filmic and pretty damn sexy too.

We finally got Hanne in action in the slum and she did not disappoint. She is an amazing combination of the disciplinarian and the loving mother. We’ve had some emotional moments in the slum. There is such happiness and joy at the centre but also it is such a tough life. Hanne has to be tough and to some dsc_60831it might appear she is too hard but to make things work in the slum it is absolutely the way it has to be. When you spend time in a slum like Lenana you do have to throw out your pre-conceived notions from the western world. Also, the young boy, Samuel, who I want to feature in the documentary is coming out  of shell and you can tell he loves the camera.

So still plenty to do but we are really enjoying this experience.

Until next time
Riyad, Diego & Christian

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.

christian-capturingAs 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 diego-on-nature-walkeverything 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 nature-walk-with-kids1program. 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

We are just about to get on the plane!

It’s now only a day until we depart to start our adventure in Kenya. Part of me can’t believe that we are actually going. The idea for this project tweaked in my brain in June 2007 and now January 2009 here we are. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a bit mental this week. One moment I’m freaking out and the next I’m calm and confident. Luckily both Christian and Diego, through the wonders of Skype, have been a calming influence on me. I think I definitely chose the right guys to shoot this documentary with.

So here’s the plan for the month. Christian and I arrive on Sunday evening and Diego arrives on Tuesday with the equipment. We decided to arrive a day earlier so that if there is any thing to sort out then we have some time. We’ve been able to sort out most things…permits, visas, insurances, equipment, airline tickets, driver & car & accommodation. We are still struggling a bit for cash for the film and to be honest we will be going into debt for this.  We still need to sort out post-production costs but we’ll just cross the bridge when we get to it. The most important thing now is to shoot this doco! Having said that Diego & Christian have been fantastic at chipping away at our costs and I think we’ve been able to save almost $10,000 CDN out of my original budget.

dsc00130 Diego sorted out the equipment for the month from this fantastic company Bureau Cinema e Vídeo in Sao Paulo. They were generous enough to get us a great discounted rate. Here’s a photo of the guys checking  our equipment for the shoot. These guys are fantastic and wedsc00132 owe them a huge thank you (or obregado)! If it wasn’t for people like this and there generosity there is no way we could have shot this film.

We’re going to be posting regular updates on the website so please have a regular check. I think you can do an RSS feed or something. I think its going to be a bit of an adventure so it should make for a good read.

Thanks so much for all your support. Wish us luck!!!

The countdown has begun!!!

With our arrival date rapidly approaching I thought I would use a blog to keep you updated on the project. Promise I won’t inundate you with updates though!

It looks like our arrival date in Kenya will be around the 20th of January. We haven’t locked it all down yet because we are still busy completing all the necessary paperwork and organising the logistics of it all. We will be (gulp!) booking tickets in the next week though!

There have been alot of ups and downs for us so far. Financially, we’ve had some great support from friends and family. We cannot really express how much we appreciate their support…it is truly fantastic. We are still looking for sponsors for the project so if you or anyone you know might be interested in sponsoring the project please get in touch. We have a very small budget so even $50 to $100 makes a big difference. On the downside for awhile it was looking very positive that an airline was going to offer us free flights but then our contact just stopped returning our emails about a month ago. No explanation and we haven’t been able to get a hold of him on the phone. Very strange. We’ve also been rejected by about ten funding bodies, which really does suck but in this industry is just part of the process. On the plus side between Diego, Christian and myself we have worked very hard at reducing all our costs (insurance, equipment, accommdation etc.) and are, little by little, chipping away at our budget.


Some interesting stuff, Diego has busy working on lighting solutions for filming. This has been a challenge because we can’t bring the lighting and it would cost us a fortune to rent lights in Kenya.

Plus we are going to be filming in a slum so won’t have electricity readily available. Diego has been busy Macguyvering and has come up with these great portable lights.


They resemble the lights you see hanging in mechanics garages but run off small camera batteries. Each light has 15w of power and it’s powered on a 12v battery.  Each battery has 1.3 amps and a light can last up to 45 minutes on a battery. I think they are going to be very useful when we are shooting.

In all honesty all three of us are getting a bit tired of the organisation and the logistics of it all. There is always something to do, some email to send and someone to call…it never ends. We are looking forward to touching down in Nairobi, getting out the camera and shooting something!!

Thanks for your support. Wish us luck and we’ll keep you updated…