The main memory I have from ballet class (not when I was little– it was a beginner’s adult ballet class!), was how it allowed me to express emotions in a new way. There was such a difference in the freedom I had to respond to music and to communicate nonverbally.
Or there was the hilarious moment when our stunningly elegant ballerina teacher encouraged me with the words, “within Katie’s abilities, she works wonders!”, in a tone of voice that might be used for someone with a severe physical or mental disability. (I’m a wee bit inflexible…)
Also I remember how hard it was for me to remember the steps and see in the video how I am obviously trying to remember what move comes next, after 9 months of practicing the same choreography. Umm… I work wonders?
But what struck me most when I watched the video of our performance at the end of the year, for ourselves, before the mirrors, was– I look so hungry. Not skinny. I wasn’t skinny because I didn’t have money to be skinny. I ate beans and white flour and eggs and bread nonstop because those were the cheapest and most filling items I could find. Even after a year of ballet and walking everywhere to save money, though I lived kilometers from the city centre (because the rent was cheaper), my legs look chunky. The skin on my face was constantly peeling and I couldn’t figure out why; it stopped the moment I had job with a salary and ate fruit every day. I know how blessed I am. What is reality for so many people was seemingly just a passing phase in my life. But I learned so much.
Maybe I’ll be desperate again in the future, but it won’t be the same the next time around. Through losing, I learned what is most important to me. In our desperation, we daren’t sell out our vision. Desperation passes away; the One who loves all the lost and desperate ones stays the same. That’s the dance that’s deeper than words, with the One who works wonders.
The tagline of Sarajevo Jazz fest: “the best jazz is where you least expect it”. Isn’t that true of so much in life? I went to two beautiful concerts. (My experience of “nistagram” in the countryside didn’t hold true in the city; Sarajevans all have those huge Samsung smartphones and shamelessly filmed whole songs, blinding those of us behind them…)
Even though it’s old, Pristina feels like a young city, spacious, built from scratch, made to order. I’ll have a couple of big hotels, with a side of promenade and broad wide-open squares to go.
It’s been so hard for me to figure out what to write about my experience facilitating voting in the 2013 Kosovo local elections. Maybe just to say that the democratic process is a messy business. Or that international actors are prone to communication failure in a complex environment. Or that the Great Game goes on and on… I wore a helmet and flak jacket. I learned how to set up a polling station and drive in long convoys. Our ambassador, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH, a great gentleman (and fellow Tiger!) Fletcher Burton has been writing in his diary every day for almost 10 years, and he shared his gracious and measured perspective on the days leading up to and following the election.
Finally we reached North Mitrovica, which reminds me so much of west Belfast. Or maybe it’s the murals. We were here the day before the elections. The boycott campaign (topic of all the posters below) failed; in retaliation hooligans broke up some of the polling stations. On November 17th, the elections in those three polling stations in north Mitrovica were successfully repeated.
We started out in South Mitrovica. The atmosphere of the town center reminded me a bit of Istanbul, the openness towards street and sidewalk life.
I spent 4 days in Kosovo and I am so full of impressions… I’ll be sharing more photos for the next week or so. You’ll be sick of Kosovo by the end of it hehe! I’m totally fascinated. I stayed in a rundown hotel in the middle of nowhere to facilitate elections in a small polling station in a little town…
Somehow I’ve been travelling so much these days in buses. I feel like a bus expert! Last weekend I took an 8-hour bus ride, to Kosovo, with 80 of my colleagues. The bus journey itself felt like a huge part of the experience. Strategy– which snacks to buy? Contact lenses or glasses? which comfy clothes to wear?? The view was lovely. Especially going by Visegrad, whose bridge I had been longing to see. Maybe one day I’ll actually get off the bus and walk across it! I love the washed-out, soft look of photos through the bus window. They remind me of watercolors.
A few years ago, a friend of mine asked if I’d make a video for his band’s new song. At the time I was frustrated with video reportage as the overall look is so hard to control– you don’t stage anything, but rather capture life as it happens. This was my chance to make a “beautiful” video. Mise en scene! Enough time to adjust the white balance! I took on the assignment. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you are shooting a music video.
1. Make sure you are working with an artist who shares your aesthetic.
My dreams of a hipster-tinged, quirky aesthetic were derailed by a group of teenage boys on a strict media diet of unironically-kitchy low-budget Balkan music TV channels. I wanted to add offbeat scenes of urban life– an elderly accordion player, a skateboarder, graffiti, a plastic bag a la American Beauty! However, the band insisted on only the most touristy, pretty-pretty parts of town (far from the truly gritty neighborhood where they actually live), while simultaneously projecting a gangsta vibe. They also wanted their faces to be in every single shot. “Hey guys, what adding some interesting shots from the city? Or creating a video story with a character?” I had so many ideas. “No, we want all the shots to be of us.”
2. Location, location, location.
You might consider not choosing to locate your shoot at a tourist attraction in the height of the tourist season. Or in one of the sunniest cities in Europe during the sunniest time of the year. Just a thought. We got up at dawn so that the shots wouldn’t be totally washed out and to avoid the tourists. Shooting a teenage boy hiphop band at dawn over multiple days in the middle of summer? After the third day they told me, “This is too much work!” Make sure to factor location and timing into your work plan.
3. Work around your technical limitations.
We were low tech; they lip synched to the song while we played it on their cell phones. One of the tripod legs was broken and had to be duct-taped, but the tape kept melting in the heat and sliding off. Sometimes one of the technical limitations is the talent. In that case you need a wingman! Setting up for one shot of the river, with the sunlight reflecting on the water, the singer objected. “My stomach will look fat if you set the camera like that!” Luckily one of the other band members came to my rescue; “No, it’s a great shot, you’ll see! Your stomach looks totally fine! I promise!” Finally, a friend of a friend kindly agreed to toss on a filter in post-processing to even out the washed-out tones of my filming.
Okay, this post is a bit silly. The main thing is that everything boils down to people. The people you futilely try to brainstorm with, suffer early shoots and blinding sun with, the people who endearingly carry the broken tripod leg around for you, even as they drive you crazy. Sometimes even when a music video shoot itself doesn’t achieve what you wanted it to, it can still be a great memory. That’s my bonus tip. (See also: What I learned from TV Production)