“A Diamond Being Polished”

Well that’s another film finished.  Just a short 12 minute production on young women in politics in Cambodia for CPWP (Committee to Promote Women in Politics). This was a bit of a change from my normal work on the environment and was quite an eye opener, even for someone who has been here 12 years.

girls walk1

Garment factory workers

This has to be the biggest rush job I have done yet, just 1 month, including Christmas, to film, edit and finalise the film. Thankfully I had the full cooperation of  Mehrak, an Iranian lady whose report the film was based on. Not having any relevant B-roll was a huge concern going into this project. Normally I am making environmental films so I have a huge library of footage to call on to fill any gaps. With this film I had nothing and I was very concerned, given the time frame, that I would be able to do a good job. In the end we got there but it was not easy as with the holidays there were no events, such as meetings, seminars or other appropriate activities I could film. We tried to get permission to film in a couple of schools but did not have time as the responses were so slow, this left just trying to film the various interviewees in various settings, offices, café, work place. I spent a couple of days trying to get some additional footage of garment factory workers, students and young women at work but this proved frustrating at times with security guards often moving us on.

meetThe film is very simple, I settled for using a speed-ed up shot to introduce each interviewee which I think works quite well although that wasn’t without it’s problems. While filming in a small village I discovered that there were virtually no people left in the village as they were all out on their farms. This meant getting a 2-minute long shot with lots of action in the background was not going to be easy. Even the local market was dead. We managed to rustle up a handful of people including our driver and my assistant and had everyone wander in and out of shot repeatedly. It just about works and with the effect I put on the clips you can’t tell it’s the same people.

Another issue was Khmer time keeping. I am used to people being late, it’s a cultural thing, but one young girl was a nightmare. It took 4 attempts to get 1 shot. First time she simply didn’t turn up; 2nd time she was 30 minutes late so we could only do the interview and not the B-roll; third time she was an hour late, which meant it was too dark to get the one shot I wanted. Aghhh!

I managed to find some great new music to use in this film and am very pleased with it. Getting the right music is so important and I think the 2 tracks I used work very well. For anyone who is interested they came from ccmixter.org, a great free resource for music.

Garment worker

Garment worker

While politics is a new subject for me I have always been aware of the lack of opportunities women have here. They really are treated like second-class citizens and girls are always the first to drop out of school to go to work when families have financial problems. What really surprised me was how society and in particular women themselves, help to maintain this mind-set. From an early age girls are taught by their mothers to be subservient and always accept their fate. Thankfully this attitude is slowly changing and young women like Monyvan and Chantha provide great hope for the future.

Despite some small problems the whole project went very smoothly and in the end I am very pleased with the final outcome. I would love to have had a bit more time to get some more varied footage, but needs must and overall I am pleased with the film. Hopefully this might open up some other work opportunities in the future, as things are getting very tight once more. The film will be put on Youtube in the near future by the NGO and I will post the link when it’s up and running.


About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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