For the last month myself and Tina have been away in Uganda teaching filmmaking workshops and making some short films for the community group We Are Walukuba. Matyda has been holding down the fort back in Manchester (She’s now on a much deserved holiday!).
So this is a quick first blog post on some of our reflections on the amazing experience of teaching a two week filmmaking course to a group of total beginners in a working class town in Uganda.
We were pretty apprehensive going into this. Two weeks was longer than any course we’ve ever done and not only that but the majority of our participants had never used a computer, never mind made a film. The obvious questions were how much were we going to be able to teach them? And what on earth were they going to make of us?
One way we lucked out straight away was by being in Uganda at all. Uganda has the best education system in East Africa (also the most corrupt – swings and roundabouts). Everybody in our group spoke at least some English. Almost all of our members were super keen. The filmmaking workshop had been the most oversubscribed of a series of workshops the group was offering and so we had some of the best and brightest members.
Still – as we began our discussed-down-to-the-last-detail first session we were very nervous. How would it go? Well, with a few hiccups, amazingly. It’s incredible how much it is possible to learn from a totally standing start in ten days of workshops.
The group was very involved in local community issues and within the first week had made two shorts highlighting issues in the local community. In the second we even had a go at shooting our own soap opera drama on the topic of drunken husbands (the group’s idea). It was a huge amount of fun and produced very good results – helped by the fact some members were really good actors.
We’ll be putting out a few posts focusing on some more details of our Uganda trip soon. But one first thought I’d share for anybody involved in teaching, or interested in attending workshops of any kind, is how this trip emphasized the importance of practical experience. I’ve done a lot of filmmaking training in the UK, and an awful lot tends to be sitting in a room as concepts like the rule of thirds are explained on a whiteboard. An approach I dishonorably replicated in the first few workshops I ran! With an audience who did not have a technical background (except the indomitable Brenda who is and always will be a star), we were forced to keep things much more hands-on than we normally work, and the results were incredible. The more time we could have the cameras in the group’s hands and offer guidance, rather than being in a classroom teaching, the better things went. Even for experienced workshop groups looking for refreshers on skills they already have I know my next workshop will definitely be squeezing every second of hands on camera time we can get into it. We even left a camera kit with the group so keep an eye out for our posts of what the group has been up to since we’ve been away.
Oh, and before we go – check out me and Tina in our awesome tailor made Ugandan clothes!