The Misrata trainees have so far done justice to their town’s reputation as a hard-working, can-do kind of place, and are well on their way to fulfilling the mission we set out: to produce four videos in four days. They seemed to be satisfied with our second day spent covering production basics, as many of them have prior production experience (more on that below) but none have had formal training.
Most of the guys (they are all guys, unfortunately) picked up cameras during the fighting that ravaged their town last year and became the media arm of the uprising. Some worked as fixers for the international press. They are amateurs who have more experience filming in situations of intense stress than most professionals. But though they have proven their bravery and bonafides as war photographers and cameramen, displaying their trophies– I was shown several pictures of Qadaffi’s corpse with one of our proud trainees working a camera in the frame (pictured above)– they seem to have not quite figured out how they will transition to becoming peacetime media professionals.
In addition to their inexperience, we can add their youth and thirst for adrenaline as obstacles to professionalism. Maybe there is less glory in covering a local election than a firefight, so there’s a constant push to spice things up, to add special effects to any production. Dramatic music. Anything from After Effects: explosions, fire, wild text animation.
What kind of work will they produce? Will they take up the calling of journalism and its accompanying watchdog ethic, at least as we traditionally understand it in the west, or will they continue to produce propaganda for their “side”– their town and their Katibas [militias or brigades]– as they risked their lives to do during the revolution?
Our challenge is to temper some of their enthusiasm and show that there is satisfaction in assembling a documentary style story about real life. To that end we are pushing them to defy their own instincts and make something “boring,” maybe just to make us, the foreigners, happy. So far it’s working: all the trainees are making projects that conform to the vision we set out, showing disciplined and respectful attitudes toward what we are telling them to do (they take pride in having that kind of attitude here).
Misrata is not traditionally a media town, but the field is open for these young guys to build a professional media sector here, if they want it.