When WFC began operating in 2008 the idea that young people could make viable films in cell phones was considered laughable. However, four years later WFC has shown that cell phone films not only enable access to communities and stories that have previously been hidden from view, they are also technically exciting with no barriers to broadcast. Finding ways to turn the technical limitations of the cell phone into assets by using more close-up shots for greatest intimacy, filming spontaneously, and capturing footage informally in environments where subjects would feel intimidated by a traditional camera crew, is a process WFC has been engaged in over the past four years. This was shown most powerfully during the filming of the Do You Want To Know Me episode on crystal meth addicts, when WFC film makers captured three hours of footage in a shack in Khayelitsha township while young addicts were taking the drug and explaining its effects.
With continuous exploration undertaken principally by WFC Founder Member, Nidal Atrash in Bethlehem, WFC has found ways to make cell phone films suitable for cinema screens and convert files so that footage can be edited on free editing software. With the donation to WFC of Nokia N8 cell phones that shoot in High definition quality (the standard for all broadcast media), barriers to the dissemination of cell phone films have been removed.
Mobile phones are taking an increasingly central role in young people’s lives across the world. From video and texting through to social networking, on-going advancements in mobile technology serve to keep young people continuously engaged with their peer communities. Mobiles are easy to access, low cost, and can be used by anyone in any setting, enabling WFC to work with some of the hardest to reach young people in the world. The power lies in using young people’s own tools and technology, to re engage them with learning and further life opportunities.
Our film tutors
To date, WFC has trained 33 Tutors across its four programme countries, employing at least two and often three Tutors per training programme. WFC works hard to find talented local film makers who are passionate about nurturing raw creative talent and have the expertise to support and guide these, often challenging, young people. WFC Tutors are required to demonstrate a number of key skills. They must be professional film makers in order that they can inspire the young people and pass on the necessary technical and artistic expertise to make viable films. At the same time, they must also be able to create the artistic space for the youth to develop their own ideas and styles. The WFC methodology places an emphasis on outcomes. To this end, WFC Tutors must strike a fine balance between ensuring the students deliver to deadline, whilst also making sure the process enables these young people to grow.
So far, two WFC training graduates have gone on to be employed as WFC Tutors. Both were highly skilled and selected because they were able to connect with the students with whom they were working in ways that other Tutors, from outside the community, could not.
WFC’s training programme combines classical film making with the stylistic and technical requirements of making films on cell phones. The aim from the beginning has been to only use equipment that the young film makers will have access to after the training had ended. Cell phones and free editing software provide the solution, as both are available and accessible within the young people’s communities.
Overcoming obstacles such as the capturing of sound, the limitations of light and distortion of frame due to the basic design of the phone is a process that WFC has been going through over the past four years. The outcome has been a comprehensive manual for making films on cell phones, developed in partnership with the young people, that includes techniques as simple as using Blue Tack to secure the handset while shooting. Where no solutions have been found, WFC and the young film makers have devised ways to embrace these limitations, turning them into assets and using them to best advantage.
Over the past four years, WFC has come to realise that film distribution is a key part of the film making process and increases the opportunities for these young people to make money from gathering audiences around their films. WFC is currently developing a module in Digital Distribution, working with these young people to understand and exploit the business models available in the burgeoning digital media space.
WFC supplies the phones for training. However, it also encourages students to use their own handsets, working with them to achieve best results. Films made by WFC’s production arm, Mopix, are shot in high definition on Nokia N8 handsets, ensuring broadcast quality films.
All film makers become a ‘Member’ of WFC and have access to the tools for film making and digital distribution, as well as the pastoral support that underpins the training, taking them out of risk.