Monday, 19 November 2012

CBC - Cindy, be courageous!

In less than a week, I'll be doing a work placement at CBC. Words cannot express how simultaneously excited and nervous I am for this opportunity.

When applying for my first work placement earlier this fall, I had specifically requested to be placed at a print journalism job, such as at the Winnipeg Free Press and the Metro. I felt print was the area in which I thrived and did really well.

So when one of my instructors informed me that I would be working at CBC, I was floored. I didn't know whether to feel happy or let down. On one hand, the idea that my instructors think me worthy enough to be placed there is quite an honour. On the other hand, CBC is broadcast journalism - television and radio - and I don't feel quite skilled enough to go there. Most of the time, I still don't.

So what do I do when I feel scared? I prepare. I prepare like crazy.

I've gone shopping several times during the past few months for some work appropriate attire.

I've started going on the CBC website more often to learn more about it.

I'm doing almost anything I possibly can to not embarrass myself.

Oh, who am I kidding. I'm going to embarrass myself regardless. But at least the amount of embarrassment will be slightly reduced. Slightly.

All I can do now is show up and be confident in my skills. I received an email from a reporter there that made me feel better. She said, "[blank] thinks you have a tonne of potential. So keep up the good work!"

If my instructors see the potential in me, there's no reason why I shouldn't.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Choosing to not remember

A couple of days ago, I read an article from the Huffington Post stating Edmonton public schools are now allowing students to opt out on attending Remembrance Day services.

It was a decision made by the Edmonton public school board. Reasons cited include personal, family reasons and religious beliefs. An example of such an exemption happened last year, according to another article from the same source, in which a mother had pleaded for her son to skip the Remembrance Day service because his dad was killed in Afghanistan.

As a child, Remembrance Day services did not strongly affect me. I just knew that on the 11th day of November at 11:00, all students were ushered into the school gymnasium where it was transformed from an area of play to a bleak room of rows and rows of chairs. We were warned beforehand by teachers to not clap, laugh, or speak during the entire assembly. Taking our seats, we silently murmured to each other of the mundane tasks that awaited us. We knew what to expect. Soldiers in full uniform, elderly people taking the podium, the predetermined moment of silence, the student choir singing In Flanders Field, and, of course, the Last Post to signal the end of the ceremony. It was just another annual routine to follow. If the same decision had passed in Winnipeg schools when I was still a school age girl, I don't think I would have cared.

I attended my first Remembrance Day service outside of school last year on the corner of Valour Road and Sargent Avenue. I have to say it was a different experience than attending a service in an elementary school. Many things about the service was similar to the ones I've witnessed. However, the most significant and frightening thing that happened that day was something that was not written in the programs handed out.

During the moment of silence, someone fainted.

I had expected everyone to cause a scene and shout for help. That wasn't the case. Bystanders quietly helped the woman up. At the most, they spoke in hushed whispers. They respected and abided by the moment of silence in a situation where I would have deemed it appropriate to screech for help.

Which proves even though I was at a "real" service, I still didn't fully grasp the intensity of this day.

It became real to me that people still relive memories of war and of injustice. Remembrance Day comes to me once a year. To these people, it's never-ending.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Be a sponge

To be an effective journalist and storyteller, you need to liken yourself a sponge.

Absorb everything your interviewee says. Soak in all the knowledge you can. Have as much give and flexibility as possible. In other words, be very openminded and openhearted.

This was a lesson I had learned this past weekend while filming more footage for my Independent Professional Project, a documentary called Stories from Cambodia.

Here's a trailer I put together recently to hint at what's to come.

It has been a slow filming process, something I had not anticipated. In fact, I thought quite the opposite. I had thought the project would go nicely and smoothly since my interview subjects live under the same roof as me, therefore I would have them all to myself for the next two-three months of filming. Boy, was I wrong.

Visiting relatives, unforeseen household chores, and urgent errands got in the way of my progress (or lack thereof). I had prided myself these past few months on being patient and understanding of these situations. But then, I had a lot of time.

Now it's the beginning of November. I am a little farther behind than where I'd like to be.

This weekend, the sponge turned into a fragile piece of plastic in which even the slightest tug would cause it to snap into two.

My dad admitted to me that he was uncomfortable talking on camera, which surprised me because he has quite a flair for drama. (When you see the end result, you'll know what I mean.) He's the one at our family gatherings telling absurd jokes and sharing ridiculous anecdotes, so it didn't make sense to me that he would clam up in the presence of a camera. Turns out he and I are more alike than I had thought.

His camera shyness alone was frustrating, leading to many takes and retakes, to his stopping mid-sentence and waving, "no, no" at the camera while shaking his head. I kept telling him that he doesn't need to be well-versed and scripted because it's just a documentary. Talk like you're talking to a good friend, I said about a thousand times.

"No, I need to do it this way, or I can't do it at all," he replied a thousand and one times.

I was getting angry. Why was he trying to sabotage my documentary, making it more difficult that it was supposed to be? There were times I had to fight back tears of frustration while filming.

But that's the job. No one said being a sponge was easy.

Your interview subjects may wring your neck and wipe you around in their mess and leave you out to dry until you're brittle and weak, but remember the sponge always regains composure and strength through time and rehydration.