Watch Alison’s films on her website Fast On Film.
Alison Fast is a Peabody Award-winning producer who has worked for networks such as NBC/Universal, BBC Worldwide and MTV Networks in Los Angeles. As Program Director of Barefoot Workshops, she has designed and led media training workshops for more than fifty civil society organizations across Africa and the MENA region, most recently in Libya during the country's first free elections. She has innovated video formats including "video policy memos" for the President's Digital Freedom Initiative, and Most Significant Change (MSC) videos for health organizations in South Africa to monitor and evaluate program impacts. Her goal is to use media in the context of health, human rights and democracy building, and to drive bottom-up, revitalization efforts in the rural south. As a consultant, she has designed and led media training programs for U.S. Department of State, Creative Associates International, UNESCO, UNAIDS, Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) and Academic Distinction Fund. Her most recent project engages the topic of juvenile delinquency in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
AF: I wanted to give people a voice to tell their own stories rather than use traditional journalism.
TERRA: Can you describe how you found your current story (or how the story found you?)
AF: I found the story while covering the Gulf Coast Oil Spill for National Audubon Society. After I wrapped the film I was hired to produce, I stayed on the coast in the area of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, areas that were still recovering from Katrina. During those weeks when the oil was still flowing, people were paralyzed, and felt they had no role in the clean up. I wanted to find positive stories that would uplift people, and make them feel there were ways they could steward the environment. That was part of the healing that BP did not address, even in the aftermath of the cleanup. I found Sofia's story of when I went into the Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St. Louis and saw her hand sewn felt birds at the register. I went to see her teaching children to make these birds in an old garage with a local mom doing the teach-in on how to sew these little critters. It was so heartwarming. These are stories that are like medicine for communities. They don't need to reach great numbers to make a difference. That was my other learning that came from the spill.
TERRA: What has been a rewarding moment for you in the field?
AF: It was rewarding to get out on the water during the Gulf Coast Oil Spill and to be part of a pelican rescue. I really admired the professionalism of International Bird Rescue and the teams that went out from National Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. Any moment in which I witness the majesty of Nature of the miracle of life is worth the journey. The camera is just an excuse to come into contact with amazing life experiences.
TERRA: What're the three things you'd never go into the field without and why?
AF: 1) Lens Cleaner (haha!). That's the most embarrassing thing ever, to get great access and footage, and to realize back home that you have smudged the frame. 2) A Line on Story - I have at least a basic sense of my story and framing so I know what to look for and why it's important. I would not advise shooting in the dark. 3) Clean sound (professional mic) - If you have clean picture and you don't have clean sound, it's amateur filmmaking, so I always like to have a mic and backup options for audio.
TERRA: What's next for you?
AF: I will be documenting stories that can be used to drive bottom-up approached to revitalization in the rural south. I'll also be outreaching to schools and faith leaders in Clarksdale, Mississippi with a film I made last year called WILL TO CHANGE, to address root causes of violence in the community. I am experimenting with the notion of "in reach" versus outreach, inviting the subject of the film to steward their own story back into the community.
TERRA: What is an important aspect of your work?
I believe storytelling is one of the most powerful vehicles to address the deep-seated challenges we are facing in the world. Storytelling was the original currency, the source of our identity and "living narrative". We need to return to those roots and tell a new story, weaving the possibilities into our lives as activists, filmmakers and caring human beings. I think we've forgotten how essential that is to charting our future. Without a notion of who we are and where we have come from there is little hope to navigate the future.