On this trip, I changed my approach a bit. I was unable to recruit medical professionals for this trip due to the timing. I always knew I wanted to take a film student with me at some point and I suppose the universe was telling me this was the trip to explore this option. My first choice was Jan Kohler. I met Jan when he was 14 or so on the Cape CARES documentary project a number of years ago. He was a young teen who enjoyed photography. I mentored him over the years (from afar) and now he is a college student ready to begin his studies this fall in a media production program at The Hague in the Netherlands.
Go big or go home I always say, so I threw Jan into the proverbial deep end of the pool as my Director of Photography. I am sure my colleagues are cringing right now as anyone who has worked with me cannot imagine me giving up the reins on a project. I knew it would be challenging not only for him, but for me. This would be good for both of us. (I hoped!)
Looking back, it was a tall order for a young inexperienced film student, but I was completely confident in his abilities. My plan to train him step by step in every aspect of documentary film making worked brilliantly (IMHO). Jan did not squander this opportunity. Keep in mind, he, as everyone else, was a volunteer traveling on his own dime. He was shooting, logging, reviewing, planning and whatever else was needed when he was sick, exhausted and hungry. There was not a peep of whining from him. I was impressed by his dedication. I finally had to put a note on his camera ordering him not to shoot a sunrise while he suffered from illness.
My benchmark for Jan was set very high and I expected him to stumble at times but Jan enthusiastically grabbed the role full force and without fear (Well, maybe a little at first).
Towards the end of the assignment, the day came to let Jan direct a shoot without me as his safety net. He was going to fly solo two hours away in Kutamba where he not only had to manage a crew, shoot an interview and b-roll, but he also had to direct the drone shots in an area that is not flight friendly, to say the least AND get back to the office by deadline. This was a lot easier said than done. The crew encountered a few serious issues, but his cool head and problem solving skills helped him guide the team to get what we needed.
Jan has a great future ahead of him as a cinematographer and perhaps some day as a director. I am honored to have been able to help him in the early stages of his career and cannot wait to see what he does in the future.
Next week: Meet Emily Jones aka “Super Circle Girl”