Saturday, June 22, 2013

2013 Films are Coming Along...

The 2013 Navajo Oral History project films are nearly complete.

Since the Winona State University students returned home to Minnesota, the team members have met with their Diné College counterparts via interactive television and video conferencing. They've edited their videos, tweaked the scripts, an added still images or b-roll footage.

Groups have spend time at Professor Tom Grier's home with Grier and Robbie Christiano, the grad student teaching assistant for the class, going over every second of each film. During this arduous process, the film-makers look at each frame and listen to each sound. They've edited little clicks and background sounds and tightened transitions between scenes.

They've added narrations and title slide transitions between "chapters" of each film. And, they'd added credit slides at the end and music at the beginning and end of each film.

Every step takes time, both in deciding what to use and how to use materials to engage the audience-- also in waiting for software to catch up to decision-making. In many ways, this is the most important work of film-making. Of course, gathering materials in the field is important. It's in the editing phase where narrative structure is built and put-together so the story flows for the viewer.

The work is amazingly good. It's fun to watch the students using tools and terms confidently and making decisions like seasoned pros.

The films will be great. Two of the groups have turned in all three parts of their film projects. The other teams are working and should have their projects complete by the end of June. The three parts: Oral History - the full interviews with the elders; Living History - a 15- to 20-minute film about the elder's lives; and Media Feature - a 5-minute film on one main story of the elder.

The projects will be mastered for DVD duplication and sent to have discs professionally burned and printed along with DVD box inserts. This takes several weeks. The finished projects will be back by the start of fall semester, and will be available at the premier-reception events planned in September.

The first reception is scheduled at Winona State University on Friday, Sept. 13, beginning at 5 p.m., in the Science Laboratory Center Auditorium. The Diné College students and faculty involved in the project will be in Winona for this event and will also visit a few WSU Mass Communication courses and enjoy some local tourism while in Minnesota.

The second reception is planned for Monday, Sept. 16, at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, at 5 p.m. (location to be determined). The WSU students and faculty will travel to Arizona for this reception. At this event, on the Navajo Nation, the featured elders and their families are invited. It's quite a moment for student film-makers to watch the elders view the films for the first time.

Both reception events are open to the public. The Navajo Oral History project team hopes family members and friends of the participants will attend to see the films and join in the celebration and appreciation of the student's hard work.

Following the reception events, extra copies of the 2013 DVDs will be available for sale at $20 each... and all the proceeds go directly to a Diné College scholarship fund.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Post-Travel Class #1

The 2013 Navajo Oral History project students came together today (Monday, June 10) via Interactive Television connection between Winona State University and Diné College.

This was the first meeting since the WSU students left the Navajo Nation and returned home. Many said it was nice to see their classmates again, via ITV at least, to stay connected and continue working on their journalism projects.

During class, each group presented a portion of their documentary films and everyone watched and offered constructive criticism.

The projects still have a long way to go, but they're starting to shape up nicely. There's a narrative structure to each and the beginning stages of organization and story flow are coming together. The students will meet several times this week in individual groups via internet conferencing. The updated drafts will be viewed again on Wednesday morning, and then again Friday morning.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ahee'hee' and Hagonee

Wednesday, June 5, was the day for the 2013 Navajo Oral History project participants to say goodbye for now and travel back home.

In the Navajo language, the words "thank you" translate to Ahee'hee' (pronounced like: Ah-heh-heh). Navajos don't really say "goodbye." It's too final, and doesn't fit well with the circular feeling of Navajo spiritual life. Instead, they say "hagonee" (pronounced: Hah-go-neh) which doesn't perfectly translate to English, but roughly means something like: be well until I see you again.

As the Winona State University participants in the Navajo Oral History project prepared to return home, many of their Diné College counterparts dropped by the dorm building Tuesday evening for one last visit. There was much laughter, fun, and some sadness.

Many of the WSU students have said something like: "I’ll be very happy to be home again with my family and friends, but I'll really miss the special feeling of this place and the Navajo people."

On Wednesday morning, the WSU group packed the two vans to the ceilings, literally, with journalism gear, camping gear, luggage, and human beings, and headed east, leaving the reservation, toward Albuquerque and waiting airplanes.

The group stopped in Gallup, New Mexico, for a few minutes to gather a bit more B-roll video that may be used in two of the documentary projects, since that reservation border town is so inter-connected with Navajo Nation life.

At the airport final hugs-- and a few tears-- were shared as the students headed in to the airport and the two faculty members, Tom Grier and Robbie Christiano, left to return one rental van and then to drive the other one back to Minnesota.

Robbie and Tom drove about 15 hours and stopped in a small town in northeastern Wyoming for a good night's rest. If all goes according to plan on Thursday, they will make the exciting drive across South Dakota and arrive in Winona late. On Friday, then, the students can be reunited with the rest of their luggage and gear.

The travel portion of the Navajo Oral History project is over for now, but the documentary journalism work goes on. The students will be working on their films about Navajo elders over the next two weeks, and will meet with their teammates via Interactive Television and internet conferencing to make edits, adjustments and improvements to the films.

Once the films are complete, they will be professionally duplicated to DVDs that will be distributed to the families of the featured elders, and to the student filmmakers, in time for the fall receptions at which the films will be premiered to the public.  There will be two premiere and receptions events: one at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, on Friday, Sept. 13, and another at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona, on Monday, Sept. 16.

We hope that all friends and family of the student journalists, and lots of relatives of the featured elders, will be present to celebrate and congratulate the students on their hard work.

This blog will continue to be updated from time to time during the ITV Classes and the rest of summer.

For now ... Hagonee.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Last Class Day - Just Move It

Tuesday, June 4, was the last full day of the field-work portion of the 2013 Navajo Oral History Project. The students met for class in the morning during which time all five documentary journalism groups showed their projects so far and received constructive criticism.

above panorama photo of the classroom by Brett Gustafson

After class, a couple groups had some B-Roll shots they wanted to get so they headed out in the vans. Other students stayed in the dorm and worked on narrations for their film projects. A make-shift sound booth was set-up in one of the bathrooms in the dorm building so narrations could be recorded with clean sound quality.

In the evening, the whole WSU group participated in a Just Move It event. This is a 5k walk that is done all over the Navajo Nation to promote fitness and health. It just worked out that the Just Move It event for the Tsaile area was at Diné College on the last night the WSU group was in town.

The group registered for the event, then participated in warm-up and stretching exercises.

Then, it was off to the fitness trail around the Diné College property for a 5 kilometer walk-- a little over three miles.

At the end of the walk, each participant received a Just Move It T-shirt.

In the later evening, the students were packing up their stuff and getting ready for their return to the Midwest. There were hugs and tears as the WSU students said goodbye to the DC students who stopped by. There will be more tears in the morning as the vans leave Diné College and head to the airport.

Bonds have been made between people and the land. There's no doubt the WSU students have been changed in many ways by this journey. Certainly, they have improved their journalism skills, which was one of the main goals of the project. More than that, they have become open to diversity, more sensitive to the feelings of others, and more compassionate and caring to those who need help. In some situations, they listen more than talk, and observe more than act. 

When they get back to their homes, they'll have a few days to rest, relax and reflect.

Then, the class starts up again on Monday, via Interactive Television to view drafts of the documentary films and continue to tweak them into finished products.