Watch “Profit(a)bottle” on TERRA
Gillian Benjamin is interested in the how visual communication (design, photography and film) can be used for social change. She currently works at the Cape Craft & Design Institute in Cape Town. Before this she ran her own design studio, Make Content. The studio specialized in creating visual communication for the NGO sector, creating infographics, publications, web documentaries, posters and fact sheets for various clients. The company was founded on a desire to use design as a tool to advocate for social issues. Clients included Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition, the African Media Initiative and Google. Gillian studied graphic design at AAA school of Advertising, followed by a Social Science degree in Anthropology, Earth and Geographical Science at UCT.
Noriko Sugiura is a New York City based filmmaker and multimedia professional. Her aim is to make films that raise awareness and empower people by focusing on subjects such as humanity, culture, and the environment. She produces films and multimedia for NGO, NPO and educational institutions in England, Italy, India, Japan and the United States. She holds an M.F.A. in Documentary Film Production from the City College of New York.
Gabriella Willenz is interested in asking questions and telling stories through theater, film or visual arts. She has written, produced and directed various plays in New York and Israel and made a couple of short docs. She has recently started to investigate photography and video art as new mediums for her work. She is currently in her final year of studies in the Arts and Humanities Excellence Program at Tel Aviv University.
TERRA: How did you first get involved with the Solid Waste Management Team in South Africa?
Team: We decided we wanted to make a short film about something connected to waste. At first we thought about the wastelands but we were also looking for an interesting leading character. Through a non-profit Gillian knew in the area we learned about the Solid Waste Management Program and it was suggested we talk with John whom is one of the leading team managers. We did so and were moved by how very down to earth, full of respect, and empowering this program is, which we believe is also due to the personal values John brings to it.
TERRA: Give us a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what life was like in the field.
Team: We stayed at a lovely agricultural farm so we weren’t really living in the field. But most of the filming we did was in very poor townships in the area of Cape Town, South Africa. The houses are actually shacks and are very small and crowded and the land is dirty and polluted with tons of garbage, so it was quite disturbing at fist. People were generally nice and cooperative, and didn’t mind us filming. But we also never would walk around alone or stay out in those areas after dark.
TERRA: What surprised you the most about working on this film?
Team: What surprised, or rather inspired and excited, us about the film was to meet the waste collectors and hear and see how this program made a true change in their lives, on the financial level but even more on the personal level. Having someone trust in them, who wants to help and promote them, it seemed to give them the strength to see this in themselves.
TERRA: What types of equipment did you use? Do you have a favorite piece?
Team: We mostly shot with the JVC HD camcorder and for some shots the Canon 5D mark 2. We loved the quality of the image the Canon gave.
TERRA: Did you have any particularly rewarding or dangerous moments in the field?
Team: One moment that was quite rewarding was when we shot the sunset time lapse. We sat on the roof of a shack for about 2 hours, and from there, while the sky was changing colors, the township looked enchanting and even pretty. We had some cold drinks and snacks and felt like tourists at a viewpoint.
TERRA: What are the 3 things you’d never go into the field without and why?
Team: 1) A notebook - to write story ideas and extra shots you suddenly think you might need and don’t want to forget.
2) A hat - because you often find yourself wandering outside in the sun while looking for someone or someplace.
3) Someone local - it always really helps when working in a place and with people you don’t know.
TERRA: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Team: First of all it’s about telling stories in a visual way. Secondly it’s about bringing forward people, places and subjects that it’s easy to forget about.
TERRA: What would be your dream project?
Team: I would love to make a full length project about a place in the world were there are two very distinct communities (different religion, culture, color and language) who manage to live not only peacefully together, but in a way that takes advantage and celebrates each others uniqueness. Does any one know of such a place?
TERRA: What’s your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
Team: I love making (or trying to make) beautiful compositions. I love it when I can make even garbage look good.
TERRA: Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on and why?
Team: I worked on another short documentary in Clarksdale Mississippi, USA. I delved into a whole new rhythm or music, people and way of living. The film was about a somewhat strange but lovable artist and spending time with him. I really felt like I got a unique peak into the community which you couldn’t do coming there as a tourist.
TERRA: If you could be any African animal which would you be?
Team: A lion – they lay around so calm and gracefully but they are the strongest there is.
TERRA: Anything else you’d like to add?
Team: Africa is a continent and as such it’s made up of many different countries, cultures, peoples and flavors so one can’t say anything about it as a whole with out being stereotypical. But taking that risk – I would whom ever hasn’t yet been anywhere in Africa must make it his next destination.