Dira Dawa, Northern Ethiopia, January 2007

Inside emergency shelter camp, following massive flooding which left thousands of villagers homeless.

09 January 2010

Why Documentaries are Cool: Special for the 7th Grade at ISU!!


Ms. Mora told me that you were now starting to make documentaries for her class, and I think that's probably one of the coolest things you could possibly be doing - -in OR out of school.

I'm a journalist (among other professions), so Ms. Mora asked me to talk a bit about this to you. You can scroll around my blog to see some of the work I do, although a lot more of my work is in other papers and websites.

Anyway, documentary-making IS A FORM OF JOURNALISM:

Documentaries are 'journals'- they are your own observations about ANYTHING you choose - and then telling the world to "see for yourself".

It's also...a lot of fun.

It could be about anything you want: a cool sporting event, an interesting fashion show, a music concert...anything YOU think is interesting or informative. It can be happy or sad.

Your documentary doesn't HAVE to prove anything either...it can and also just RAISE A QUESTION (without giving an anwer). In this way, documentaries sometimes inform people about problems they otherwise don't know about. Then they can fix these problems. (My own journalism is like that, I hope. It's also called "activist journalism").

For example -- let's say you have discovered a hole in the roof of your math class (stay with me here kids, I'm creating an example to make a point)..a hole in the roof from which the blazing, SCOURCHING mid-day sun hits you smack on the top of your head, lulling you into a heat-induced NAP right in the middle of class....EGADS!....thus prevnting you from paying full attention while the teacher is teaching the vital ins and outs of algebra or geometry!

You are the only one who knows about this utter disaster! And nobody will BELEIVE that the REASON you fell asleep in class was because of that darn HOLE IN THE ROOF! You MUST film this problem!

YOU then record this horrible problem in your documentary, for all to see.

You - as a good documentary maker, SHOW LOTS OF DETAIL:
What time of day does the sun come inside?
What day did this happen?
What's the size of the hole?
Which desk does the sun-light actually hit?
What lesson is the teacher trying to teach during this un-reported disaster?
How will this affect the students during the next test?

And, most importantly: Do the napping students DROOL in their sleep?


Often, your documentary comes with narration: You are 'telling the story' AS you film it. ("...and here is the hole. As you can see, I'm holding up the ruler to show that it's 8 inches wide").

You can write it in advance to make it easier. You can also ask a friend to be the official "narrator" if you like their voice better. But YOU write the script as it goes along. It's your documentary.

You then dilligently report this documentary to Ms. Lees - who joyously alerts the school's staff, who now fixes the hole in the roof. Your parents are called and you are welcomed as a hero documentary -maker. You get an extra portion of pie for desert as a just reward. Your report is aired on CNN. The United Nations creates a new "Emergency Hole in the Roof" force.

Your documentary has changed the world for the better.

THAT'S Journalism; That's Documentary-Making - and thats ACTIVISM.

Find a story to tell....good, bad, intersting, happy, or sad. It's YOURS - from YOUR OWN EYES. You own it as you can see it.

Be creative: Use color, different angles of shooting....music...moments of silence...different lights...HAVE FUN!

If you'd like to read the rest of my blog - feel free.

I warn you however, that it's adult stuff: News and politics.
If it's boring for you, well...sorry..but that's what I like to write about.

When you do YOUR OWN documentary, or journalism, it can be as entertaining as you so desire!

All the best..you guys ROCK. Have FUN with your documentary, and I hope to see you all when I visit later in the year! YOU ROCK!!!!

And, finally, let me share this: I love my job. I wouldn't want to do anything else (in addition to my music). But it's NOT my SINGLE favorite job. What IS my favorite job? That's easy...it's as a completely adoring, absolutely head-over-heals father to ... one of your classmates ;)

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