For the final project, I was to choose a compelling character to feature in a three-minute video story and accompanying Q&A.
My video, Nandapriyā Sikdar: Choosing the Hare Krishna Lifestyle, features Nandapriyā Sikdar, a 27-year-old Alachua resident who was born into the Hare Krishna movement and has devoted her life to it ever since. I knew I wanted to do a story that included a religious angle, and I wanted that religion to be one that I did not know much about. A peer put Sikdar and I in touch over Facebook, and she was immediately open to working with me and providing opportunities for me to visit the small farm community she lives and works in.
On a Wednesday, I spent from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Bhaktivedanta Academy campus with Sikdar and her teenage students. I had not had much exposure to Hare Krishnas before that, and I admit to have made negative judgments about them. Upon spending extended time in the insulated Hare Krishna community, I found that my judgments had arisen from a) being uninformed about what the movement is about and b) never sitting down with a devotee to actually get to know them. I found that everyone was incredibly compassionate, kind, open, warm and authentic. Although I was clearly an outsider, everyone was friendly and much more normal than what I had expected. There is only one major difference I noticed between Hare Krishnas and outsiders: Hare Krishna’s lifestyles are dominated by their spiritual beliefs, while other religious followers only let religion be a part of their daily life. I went in with an open mind and it was enlightening to receive insight into a community that is totally different from what I am used to.
I did have a stumbling block while out filming. In the morning, I was in the middle of recording when my camera stopped recording and showed a blinking question mark. I panicked a little because a) I didn’t know what was going on and how to fix it and b) I was 30 minutes away in the middle of nowhere. I stepped outside to call my boyfriend, and we figured out that my S.D. card was full. I never anticipated that to happen, but I made a quick call and deleted a bunch of video clips from the card on the spot.
With this being my last Digital Storytelling project, I have looked back at the immense growth I have made throughout my journey through this class. I started out scared and intimidated, and now I will leave feeling confident and enthusiastic. Before this class, I had no experience with immersing myself in the lives of strangers and telling their stories through media. And now, I have decided that storytelling is what I want to be doing for my career, and time will tell what that will look like for me. Before this class, I had a lot of unclear ideas of what I wanted to do with my life, but after the challenges this class has given me and the pride it has filled me with, I know storytelling is what I want to do. I want to keep uncovering the human condition, layer by layer, with the hopes that it can teach us about what it means to be human and why we are here in the first place. I know I still have a lot to improve on, but I am excited to keep learning, growing and creating.
Mana Handel steers a drone for her first time with the assistance of her former high school TV Production teacher.
We have made it to our final projects. For this assignment, I created a 3-4 minute audio story on a compelling character, plus a 750-1,000 word Q&A to complement it. The video includes an interview, cutaways, sequences, transitions, natural sound and original film footage that my subject created.
My video, Mana Handel: An Unstoppable Voice features Mana Handel, a 24-year-old resident of Brooklyn, New York who makes films and edits professionally for Mass Appeal, a media content company. I found out about her from my previous subject, Keely Lubin. She told me that Mana would be coming into town for a few days and would love to be a part of my project. I was intrigued by Mana because of how a medical mishap was her catalyst for discovering her passion for TV Production, and it provided a way for her voice to be heard. I also felt an immediate connection to Mana, as I have recently become enamored with video storytelling myself.
I was not as nervous going into the assignment as I was last week, as I went into this already having experience with video, audio and video editing. The biggest challenge was finding where we could shoot the interview with the best lighting and sound. The most ideal place would have been her childhood home, but her parents were renovating and did not want guest in their house. I respected their decision and and went with Mana’s suggestion – the park near her home. We struggled at first to find a shady spot with limited noise, and we ended up sitting on the ground on a balcony. The spot was a bit uncomfortable for both of us, but we made it work.
I had also been wondering how I could get shots of Mana working with video equipment, as that was an essential video element to the story. When she suggested that we go visit her old TV Production teacher at Gainesville High School, I jumped for joy! I also followed her to an Asian market, but I did not end up using those shots in the final film.
I truly enjoyed this assignment, and my love for visual storytelling continues to grow. I think Mana’s story is special because it’s so unique to her, and I felt like I did a good job at peering into her world with the video I made. I’m proud of what I created, as everything I have learned in this class so far to get me to this point.