Fortunately, YES! Anna Ashford is the same young woman the HHC volunteers encouraged me to meet. She also happens to be the daughter and niece of volunteers I grew close to during filming of Hearts in the Himalayas.
Although Anna has no film production experience, it turns out, this aspiring law student moved to South Africa for a year to volunteer at an HIV/AIDS clinic. I knew she would be an asset as our profile organization’s purpose is to not only educate AIDS orphans, but also bring awareness to the community about the disease, prevention and treatment. I did not know initially what role she would have, so I assigned her to be my production coordinator. She quickly became invaluable. Apparently, the universe decided I needed a bit of order for this assignment. Oh okay, A LOT of order. You see, Anna is extremely organized which, is absolutely perfect for production coordination.
Within the first hour of being introduced, she asked very thoughtful probing questions about the project and it was obvious she had done her research. During the shoot, we quickly discovered Anna's British accent was extremely helpful, as the people we interviewed understood her better than me with my Texas accent. She was able to dig deeper during the interviews because she intuitively knew how to navigate sensitive questions.
Anna's razor sharp organizational skills and attention to detail came in handy for developing my digital workflow to manage the footage and the transcribing of interviews. You cannot fathom what a mess this can be if not kept in order. She also did a great job keeping all of us well organized and on schedule and I have to admit at times I rebelled. (Sorry Anna)
I eventually promoted her to Field Producer since she pretty much was doing that job anyway. I'll have more on that in a future blog. Needless to say, I am so proud of her and impressed with her work ethic. Anna exceeded my expectations ten-fold as she worked tirelessly and effectively sun-up to sundown even when she was sick and exhausted. Note to Anna's parents, I did EVERYTHING I could to make her rest outside of tying her to her bed. I think next time I will hide her pen box and notebook..but that may not work since she..oh never mind.
I have been fully producing CFTWF documentaries for over 8 years and after working with Anna, I can’t imagine doing another one without her. To be frank, I can't believe I have been able to pull it off all these years without her. I know her future is in the legal field, but my industry certainly could use someone like her, although it does not deserve her. Hopefully, I can recruit her with a large supply of chocolate for a few more projects before she graduates.
Without a doubt, Anna will be my first call for my next project. (Sorry Jan, surely you understand!)
Next week: Anna chimes in on her experience with CFTWF.