Small World News just completed the first in a series of video boot camps around Libya. Our first location was the capital, Tripoli. Several trainees work for television stations and production companies, while some are freelancers. We covered the basics of civic journalism, visual storytelling, and video production. First we asked the trainees to propose compelling characters, initially a fish cleaner, teacher, revolutionary commander, Libyan Army soldier, an Amazigh elder, and a girl just one month too young to vote. After this we began focusing on the visual question. How can we tell the story of each character with visual sequences?

This is one of the most difficult concepts to teach aspiring video producers. Each sequence is generally made of five basic shots. Often trainees hear this and assume it means that any video can be produced with ONLY five shots. Often this mistake leads to videos with very little b-roll or visuals. The concept is to create series of sequences, each made up of any number of the five basic shots. These sequences are then put together, under the direction of the interview, to show the story being told by the interview subject.

Each group had to decide how to tell their subject’s story with visual sequences. Subsequent discussions led some groups to abandon their initial idea. Other groups found that their subjects, who had been receptive initially, became hesitant when faced with a camera. Others simply refused to answer their phones. This was a good lesson for all of the trainees in the importance of flexible planning on deadline.

We began the training with 20 trainees, by the end of day 2 there were less than 12. Such attrition has often been the pattern in Libya. Trainees’ work habits and commitments may be less than stable at times. When the trainees went out to shoot their stories, there were just 4 groups, of between 2 and 3 each. These groups subsequently produced 6 stories in part, completing just 4 by the end of the workshop.

The only similarity between the trainees who completed their video was an utter determination to complete their task. The skill level and previous access to camera equipment varied wildly. Two of the three tv stations represented completed a video, while the other half of the videos were produced by freelancers. Moving forward we will endeavor to provide more assistance to the less experienced and less confident trainees.

By the end of the next three weeks, and four more workshops,we hope to continue to diversify the content produced by trainees. We hope to produce videos representing a broader array of Libyan citizens, including women and conservative Muslims for example.

On to Misrata for our second workshop.