Filmmaker’s thoughts on making Journeys – the documentary

The co-founder of El Shaddai Charitable Trust, Matthew Kurian approached me back in 2014 regarding a documentary film that would encapsulate the work of the charity.

I had been associated with the charity since 2003 and had seen the organisation grow. But more than that, I had seen the children grow and develop into fine human beings. Some architects, others in the hospitality industry. But most importantly, I had seen and heard from the children themselves, the difference El Shaddai made in their lives.Documentary Editor - Portrait

Matthew says in the film “I didn’t know what I was getting into” referring to the start of El Shaddai as a slum school in 1995-6. The same would be true for me, setting out to create the documentary. But right from the start, I knew this could not be a story of an in-animate organisation. I was sure I didn’t want to make another “NGO/Charity” film. El Shaddai is its people and that had to be the core of the film.

Production on the film began in August 2014 and over the course of several visits between then and February 2015, I shot at the different homes, shelters and the school in Assagao. During this time I interviewed a number of children, staff, volunteers and supporters. Each of these shared with me their journey and how El Shaddai has been a part of their journey. Then in February 2015 the amazing team of Teatro per Caso from Italy came visiting. The result for the “Journeys” performance by the children of El Shaddai, trained by Erica and the team.

Journeys-Stills-001Post-production work on the film began in June 2015. Looking through the hours of new footage, plus a whole lot of archival footage that El Shaddai provided me, in still images and old videos, I began piecing the bits together. And the more I looked at it, the more the theme of journeys popped right back out of my monitor. Once I had this, work went on at a brisk pace. I knew I had found the heart of El Shaddai – its people.

The surprise for me was Matthew’s personal story. I had not heard that before and his account and the manner in which he opened his heart out to me, moved me immensely. You see, there are many organisations doing great work. To me, what’s special is the personal stories of the founders of the organisation. Not just how they started the organisation, but also what came before. Because what transpires in their lives long before the idea of the organisation even germinates in their mind is the key to the core values of the organisation.

So, without giving away too much of the film, I’d just say Matthew’s personal story became a key in my story arc. Should it come at the start? Or at the end? And how do I depict it visually? These were my concerns. I had several iterations of the edit and invariably the account either lacked punch or resulted in a film that was too long. Finally, in one day of creative inspiration, I do not wish to take credit for this, I realised how intertwined Matthew’s story was with the Fantasia performance and the rest of the characters. I hope it works for you – the audience too.

Film Edit SuiteWe had the first test screening with Matthew and his associates in November 2015. They liked what they saw. Our next task was the music. I sourced test tracks from Musicbed.com that looked like they’d work. That’s when Matthew approached Price Mulla in Mumbai. Prince composed and produced the entire music specifically for the film and the wait was worth it!

I’m happy with the way things turned out. Aside from the music, the audio mixing and color was done by me. Of course I’d have liked to give it to a professional sound mixing and color correction studio. But for a film where budgets were limited, its important for the film editor to step it. I learnt along the way, helped by friends, like Vince Costa who gave me a crash course in audio mixing.

The film was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CC and sound in Adobe Audition CC. I must say Adobe has given us indi filmmakers the tools formerly only with the big budget production studios. In fact, a number of big Hollywood films are now being cut entirely in Premeire Pro. So that feels good!

The film will be available on DVD and digital download. I do hope you enjoy it and it throws up questions of your own journey in your mind. That’s what this film did to me and so, thank you Matthew for approaching me back in 2014. I’m sure this was not what you had in mind, neither did I.

But that’s what journeys tend to do to us. They reveal the unexpected.

– Gasper DSouza, Feb 2016

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