By Photographer Michael Costa

Would you be brave enough to allow a complete stranger to come into your life and film your everyday events? Ms. Ngan, our first hero for this project, has done just that.

Ms. Ngan

Once finishing the initial interview with Ngan, we began to create a strategic plan of how we are going to film her daily events in a three-day period and most importantly how are we going to illustrate her life through video, still photography and audio. With the interview you only get a tiny look into their lives, but once you enter their home the bigger picture begins to unravel, the scenes and the sounds start to unfold and that is when the magic begins.  But it really isn’t as simple as magic–poof! you have story and film–it takes the eyes and ears of everyone involved in the production to be present and to dissect the needs of the story line.  The wonderful thing is that you never truly know exactly which direction the story will go, so in a sense it is like living with eyes and ears wide open.  I know this almost sounds obtrusive, but it is what needs to happen when you are under a time and culture restraint.  It is the embracing the fear of the unknown that truly matters and once you allow that fear to subside you are a richer and stronger person because of it.

STF team interviewing Ms. Bich’s son

The process is almost like a stage production where all the actors go to into their prospective roles, but what you don’t see is the film and audio crew, who are more than just rolling credits.  They are the eyes and ears of the production, diligently working out the kinks and looking for new avenues in which tell the story. Bouncing ideas off with each other is where the real learning experience begins.  From my perspective the experience has been very hands-on and the rewards are endless. Not only am I immersing myself in a workshop gaining one-on-one knowledge from Phil Borges and his Stirring the Fire (STF) staff, I am also learning the fundamentals that go into creating a strong social documentary piece. What I find amazing is the amount of hats one wears while working on these projects.  No one has just one role–one moment you are preparing for an interview and recording, the next you may be shooting stills or scouting for B-Roll, while praying that you are not missing out on an amazing opportunity else where.  I feel that during a production you truly get in tune with your instincts and become fully aware of your surroundings, which is very important to do in order to effectively convey the feelings and emotions to your audience.

STF team with Ms. Ngan and family

But again I think the real question to be answered is why would an individual would be compelled to invite us into her home and allow us to film her everyday life and every move.  The reasoning behind this is that Ms. Ngan is a strong women with a story to tell, so after three days of filming a bond begins to form and each day you chisel at that form creating and designing until you have a finished product. In our case that finished product is a film that is engaging and compels others to learn while also raising awareness that we are here on this earth not merely to take of ourselves but to break down the barriers and walls of judgment that may have been passed on from generation to generation. This is the true benefit which occurs during a production and once that happens, the true story unfolds.

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