A Proper Location Shoot

By Zara Balfour, Jacaranda-Barclays Citizenship Award filming team

We are in the midst of post-production for the Barclays Citizenship Awards – this year producing 72 films. The Citizenship Awards celebrate outstanding Barclays employees that have brightened the lives of their communities worldwide with volunteering activity. From the moment that the Barclays finalists are announced we have 7 weeks in which to complete the production process, which includes arranging shooting in – and despatching film crews to 30 locations in 14 countries worldwide, getting them and their footage safely home, and then editing, creating graphics and finally delivering all 72 films hot off the press to the Awards Ceremony.

Our brief is to film each Barclays finalist as well as the charity and community projects that they have supported. Working to the very tight turnaround period, our production approach has to be aerodynamic in its efficiency, whilst highly sensitive and friendly as the stories we are documenting often involve vulnerable and disadvantaged people. Our production team have ten days in which to create a rapport with all the Barclays employees, charitable and community projects and NGO’s involved so they can work out how best to film each story. Simultaneously they plan all the logistics of travel, before they and accompanying directors take off to start shooting.

This year finalists were chosen from countries as diverse as Portugal, Spain, South Africa, USA, Canada, Nepal, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Switzerland, Egypt, Japan and Ghana. The extremely talented Marcus Stephenson and I, Zara Balfour, traveled to film finalists in the Asia Pacific region; first stop: Nepal.

Arriving in Kathmandu we met the finalist team that, whilst working at Barclays in Singapore, had set up a charitable foundation to build schools and volunteer in rural Nepal. Over supper we learned more about their vision, enabling us to get further to the heart of their Himalayan story.

Next morning we traveled together to see the schools and meet the schoolchildren they’ve helped. Getting there was by no means easy. In rural Nepal, there are few roads and fewer vehicles. It is common for a child to walk 3 – 4 hours each day to get to and from school. Some children live so far from their nearest school that they have to stay with family friends from the age of 7 or 8, often not able to return home to see their parents until they are in their mid-teens. Hence there is a desperate need here, in one of the world’s poorest countries, for more school building to be funded.

Our journey into the Himalayas saw us crammed onto bench seats in the back of a jeep, clinging to its roll-over bars as the vehicle literally bounced its way up death-defying mountain passes. The roads are made of dust alone, meaning that the jeep had to be swathed in black plastic and we had to wear face-masks to survive the dust clouds that still managed to eek their way into the dark interior of the jeep and our lungs. We couldn’t see outside, it was blisteringly hot and we could barely breathe. The jeep was jerking suddenly and violently and throwing us passengers into each other every few minutes. We felt like illegal immigrants in a hostage truck.

This ‘torture’ more than paid off when we stepped out of the truck several hours later. The view was heart-stoppingly beautiful: the verdant valley stretching for miles with a lazy winding river at the bottom, perfectly carved crop terraces clinging to the mountains that surrounded us, their corn swaying in the warm, gentle breeze and some of the world’s highest snow-topped mountains reaching to the horizon beyond.

The final part of our journey had to be made on foot as we had reached the end of the roads. We arrived at the Future Village School, which was to be our home for the next few days as there are no hotels in this part of the world. Nor is there any electricity or hot water. It was beautiful in its simplicity and the most peaceful place we had ever been. And then came the moment we’d dreaded – checking whether our camera equipment had survived the dust and bumps. Happily it had, thanks to Marcus’ clever packing and kit streamlining, and we were able to start shooting the sunset.

Whilst staying together in the school and eating supper under a night sky lit only by stars, we created a bond between crew and Barclays finalists that meant they could relax when the time came for their on-camera interview. Likewise we were enabled to represent their story truthfully and accurately on film.

The next day we awoke with the dawn at 5am to get the camera kit ready. At 6am sharp, the mountains above and valleys below came alive with small children in colourful clothing wending their way across the tiny single-file passes towards us at the school. The walk to school may be long and tough but even children as young as 3 skipped across the passes with the assuredness of mountain goats, arriving at school eager to learn and star in their first film.

Apparently the people of this region had never seen a foreigner until the Future Village School was founded 8 years ago; at that time the younger children had been so scared by the unfamiliar-looking face that they cried. Thanks to the Barclays volunteers that have been teaching them English since, they greeted us with a big smile and a “hello, hello, hello”.

We all agreed that life in the “Kingdom of Mountains” was undoubtedly hard and underprivileged but nonetheless the people were some of the friendliest and happiest we had ever met. Thus we began to understand why a popular expression in Nepal is: “N-Never, E-Ends, P-Peace, A-And, L-Love”.

Next stop on our itinerary – and to be the next instalment in our blog – Mumbai, India…

Original article from Jacaranda’s blog: http://jacarandamimosaifolia.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/a-proper-location-shoot/

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