First, we tackled the challenge of compressing the massive story of Refugees United from the founders interviews in New York by shooting 3 different camera angles while interviewing them in our studio. This allowed us to make the difficult cuts needed in post to compress and combine different parts of their story to make it a seamless and compelling narrative.
We chose to present the interview footage of the founders in black and white in the final piece. We felt this gave us the separation needed between the character vignettes of the refugees and the story of the organization itself.
Working in transcripts in post was also an extremely vital part of putting this piece together. Heavy organization of interviews on the front end allowed us to go line-by-line and make a succinct, compelling narrative out of the massive amount of interview footage.
Managing the various gear required to shoot this caliber of footage on the 5D Mark II in the harsh conditions that Africa presents took careful planning. This was accomplished through a hand held rig created out of various Red Rock Micro pieces, most importantly being a handle that attached to the top of the 5D Mark II with various carbon fiber rails that allow for the compact mounting of audio gear and a monitor.
There were a few other vital pieces of gear that made this caliber of footage possible. One is a screw-on variable neutral density filter. This allowed for using large apertures in the lighting conditions that Africa offers, giving the sought after shallow depth of field that the 5D Mark II is most known for. It also allowed for versatility while moving in and out of different lighting conditions that so often plague documentary shooters with a simple twist of the front ring.
Second was an HD monitor with a hood
from Small HD that helped in nailing critical focus while using large apertures. This specific model has great peaking and focus assist features that were vital in getting focus while working on the fly.
Lastly was having a sturdy but light-weight, portable tripod with a good fluid head. The Miller DV20
performed flawlessly and packed down small enough to fit in a suitcase. Its carbon fiber legs made it light enough to sling over Gershon’s shoulder and carry all day.
The final product is a short documentary that combines character vignettes of two refugees from Uganda who are currently searching for lost loved ones, two sisters that have been reunited through Refugees United, and the story of Refugees United told through the perspective of the founders and other key players.
The piece captures the intimate, emotional stories of the pain and turmoil these refugees face while also telling the story of Refugees United and providing hope through the tools and platform they offer.
Refugees United has developed a web platform and mobile tools that drastically streamline the family tracing process for both NGOs and individuals.
This digital infrastructure not only fosters greater collaboration and promotes unhindered sharing of information among Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) agencies, but it also gives refugees the ability to become directly involved in their search for missing family via an anonymous, safe forum; easily accessible tools; and an ever-expanding, user-driven family finding network.
Refugees United, a fully independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed in 2006. The organization was born from the founders’ highly personal journey helping one young Afghan refugee trace his missing family.