Building Skills and Baguettes

Keith Hajovsky has been the chief communicator from Tchey School in Siem Reap. He provides updates via Skype or email to make sure we get the gist and many of the details of what’s happening in the class. If I had to guess, Keith and the team there seem to be going nonstop and are probably getting much less than eight hours of sleep a night. But not one of them mentions being tired or overburdened; they are  just fully engaged in a project.

Kim Smith teaches shot sequencing for their video

Last we left off, the class had reviewed video-making skills with Diana Gross and had viewed a video one of their classmates had made a month before. Then using a Photoshop green screen and plug-in Kim Smith had taught them to do professional-looking “keying.”

Their first project was “I Travel…by Green Screen,” through which they journeyed to places such as Austin and other parts of Texas as well, as Phnom Penh, where they have never been. Seeing images of themselves in different places captured their imaginations so much that they started to experiment with this technique on their own.

Diana teaches storyboarding

The class then learned how to brainstorm stories they could to prep for filming their videos. Though opening up to self-expression was a bit of a cultural challenge for them, Diana brought along some handouts to gently coach and coax out their ideas. And using the questions on the handout for each topic, they started thinking about what they would actually need to video and photograph to tell their story. Could the photography and filming actually be completed in a few days? Where will they need to go to film and photograph these things? And who would they need to interview?

The students found that it was one thing to choose a topic and quite another to choose a topic that would be doable under the circumstances–so the real lesson was how important planning can be in the process. Having chosen a topic, they began to storyboard and construct their “shot list”— the photos and videos that would make up their stories. Keith said you could see the wheels turning faster and faster as the activities progressed.

To help those wheels turn a bit more, the WOWi team started bringing snacks for the students during their break each day to help them concentrate. One day, the team brought a special treat–40 baguettes, a diet staple from the French colonial days, and four cans of condensed sweet milk. They opened the baguettes with their fingers and poured the milk in the middle, and lots of it! They devoured them! Keith had one himself and thought it was pretty tasty. The next day they had baguettes again, but, this time, with canned fish.

Baguettes with condensed milk

Stay tuned for an update on the filming process as the students begin to shoot their movie!


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