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  • judysellner 12:36 am on August 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Summer Internship Reflections 

    In light of the close of the summer, I’d like to reflect on my work this summer.

    My travels with PADF and the OAS this summer were amazing and enlightening.  This was my first actual “business trip” so I learned a lot about business trip etiquette.  I only traveled with my supervisor to one of the four different countries that I visited with PADF and the OAS this summer.  I have to say, it’s a little unnerving to sit on a plane with your boss for six hours at a time.

    I traveled to the Dominican Republic and Trinidad completely by myself.  This is the first time I’ve been abroad completely alone, and I feel very proud of myself.  Of course, I learned about the culture of all the places I visited.  I think that by now, I’ve pretty much mastered the kiss that many Latin Americans use to greet each other.

    I learned about some of the misconceptions of the places that I visited.  For example, I didn’t have the best impression of Colombia prior to actually visiting the country, particularly after having to get a security clearance and training in car bomb protocol to get there.  However, while I was in the Colombia, I felt safe the entire time.  I spoke with some Colombians about the issue and every local I spoke with said that they felt that Colombia is completely misrepresented to the outside world.  When most people think of Colombia, they think of drugs, cocaine, the FARC, and violence.  But that’s not the case.  Of course Colombia still has its problems, but they are not nearly as widespread and intense as the media makes them out to be.  I actually saw a commercial for Colombian tourism that actually made light of this misconceptions.  The commercial said, “Visitors to Colombia are risk… of wanting to stay.”

    I also improved my interviewing skills, in terms of asking the questions and setting it up.  I often had to improvise questions on the go, in Spanish.  One of my interviews in Colombia was with the director of the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas y Ambientales (the University of Applied and Environmental Sciences) in the capital city of Bogotá.  The director was a very imposing man and it was kind of overwhelming interviewing such a high profile person.  The interview was conducted in his office, and I asked in my mediocre Spanish if it was possible to move some of the furniture around to get the best shot.  He answered “Todo es possible” (“everything is possible”).  When we walked around the campus grounds so that I could shoot b-roll of the campus, everyone we passed stopped what they were doing to say “Buenos días, Director.”  It was a great educational experience, albeit intimidating.

    My stamina has greatly improved.  Some of my shooting schedules were back to back to back from very early in the morning to very late at night.  I was often very tired.  Sometimes my filming schedule felt like running a marathon.  A lot of my film schedules were very hurry up/wait, which was often very frustrating for me.  My supervisor quoted his friend’s advice who had been a foreign correspondent working in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lay down, and never be awake when you can be asleep.”

    One of the cultural differences that I experienced is the sense of time.  This was particularly evident in the Dominican Republic, which operates on “island time.”  For example, my guide would tell me that he would pick me up at 7am, so I would be waiting in the lobby all packed by ten of, and the guide would roll up around 7:30 and then ask if I wanted to stop for breakfast.  This was very frustrating for me at first since I am a very Type A person who likes to operate on a very well-structured schedule.  After a while, I was able to relax and realize that this is just part of the culture.  I did, however, pad in an extra hour when I had to leave for the airport to go back home.

    There was also quite a bit of walking and hiking involved with my travels to film on location.  I had to hike up the mountains of Colombia, in the rain, humidity, and high altitude, while trying to get a good shot with good sound quality.  There was even a point when I had to cross a make-shift bridge over a raging river that was made of a few bamboo planks that was slippery from all the rain.  I had to film, try not to slip, and protect my camera from the rain.  It was difficult, but extremely rewarding.

    I went with the philosophy of “shoot everything.”  The more film you shoot, the more you have to choose from in the editing process.  You can’t really have too much film.  I found that just holding the camera out the window of the car while driving across country actually produced some good landscape b-roll.  One of the in-country staff actually commented to me that it was a good idea to send an “outsider” to film on location because an outsider would have a different perspective on what material would be interesting to shoot; residents of the location may take some scenery for granted.

    My Spanish definitely improved.  There’s nothing quite like being immersed in a culture to help you learn a language.  I was also able to pick up some regional slang and colloquisms.  I had some difficulties understanding Dominican accents in the Dominican Republic, but after I got used to it, I understood it much better.

    I knew that PADF had several other offices around the hemisphere, but I was surprised by how they work together when I actually visited some of the other cultures.  I have always had a taste for traveling, and more experiences with PADF and the OAS this summer solidified my wishes to continue doing work abroad.

    One thing that I really learned is that a non-profit organization operates as a business.  NGOs have accounting and finance staff just like any for-profit corporation.  While I feel like I am “doing good” in a humanitarian sense, I am also participating in business.  The videos that I shoot and edit are not just to expose issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, they are also used as marketing and advertising material for PADF and the OAS to attract donors and corporate partners.

    Overall, it was an incredible experience.  I consider myself very fortunate to be able to travel to so many different places this summer, and to use my video shooting and editing skills for such a noble humanitarian cause.

  • judysellner 3:20 am on August 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Back from Trinidad! 

    I had a productive and enjoyable visit to Trinidad and Tobago.

    I interviewed a recipient of the OAS scholarship (my main reason for the visit), a professor of communications at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT). I also did some interviewed for another OAS video from a different department. These interviewees were teachers who are a part of the Interamerican Teacher Educator Network, an OAS initiative to connect teachers across the Americas and the Caribbean.

    One of the teachers that I interviewed actually offered to show me some sites around that area of the country and get some local food. I got to see a lot more of the country than I thought I would be able in my short visit.

    I sampled coconut water (which you drink from a straw straight out of a young coconut). I also tried the national beer, “Carib.”

  • judysellner 6:41 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Off to Trinidad! 

    I’m leaving tonight for Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. I am working on the Organization of American States on a video to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the OAS scholarship program. The video will mostly consist of interviews with former recipients of the scholarship.

    My main assignment is will be interviewing the Director of the University of Trinidad and Tobago, a former recipient of the OAS scholarship. Since most of my filming will take place only in one day, the OAS asked if I’d like to stay in Trinidad for a couple of extra days (paying for my own food and hotel after Day 2 in Trinidad) since they are arranging the flights for me. I took them up on it since I’ve never been to Trinidad before, so I will be there for a week.

  • judysellner 3:22 pm on July 23, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    New opportunity! 

    Great news!  I was referred by the Pan American Development Foundation to work on a video for their affiliate, the Organization of American States (OAS or “OEA” in Spanish) in the Department of Human Development, Education and Culture.

    The project is a video to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the OAS scholarship program, which funds a student from an OAS member state to pursue higher education in another OAS member state.  The video will mostly consist of interview testimonials from former scholarship recipients.  Some OAS scholarship recipients are now directors of hospitals, universities, professors, and ambassadors all over the hemisphere.

    Since most of the interviewees are in Latin America and the Caribbean, my supervisors have been working to get local student film crews to conduct the interviews on location remotely (at limited to no cost to the OAS!).  Since many of the interviewees have connections with local universities, this was fairly easy to do.  Though as the producer, I will personally film at least two of the interviews myself.  One will be in Washington (the interviewee works at the World Bank, right across the street from the OAS building), and the other will require travel.

    I’m so grateful that PADF recommended me to work on such an exciting project!

  • judysellner 2:20 pm on July 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Back in the U.S! 

    The visit with PADF to Colombia was overall amazing and productive.  I got a lot of great footage and stills.  I feel like my Spanish has definitely improved.  I’ve already become Facebook friends with several people from the PADF Colombia office.  I’m very excited to start postproduction, though I’m definitely going to miss the mountains, the cool weather, and the amazing Colombian food.

    One of the video projects I’m working on (a lower priority than the Heroes of the Hemisphere videos) is CAIF (Centro Atencion Integral a la Familia), which is basically a school and family center partly funded by PADF.  I filmed classes with the children, classes with the parents, the playground, even a football game.  Part of CAIF goal is maintaining cultural identity.  Some of the children dressed up in traditional Colombian costumes and performed a traditional song and dance.  This was one of the most challenging parts for me to film only because the kids were so adorable that it was difficult for me to hold the camera steady.

    This is a picture from CAIF overlooking the football pitch and the town of Popayan.

    • Jessie Landerman 4:43 am on July 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Judy-I’m looking at American for my MA and really enjoyed reading about your experience! Any chance I could find out more about how you feel about the program? I need to decide between the MFA and International Comm programs, your opinion would really help. My email is jlanderman@gmail.com, and I’m planning on visiting the school next week. Hope to hear back from you!
      Jessie Landerman
      Durham, NC/Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • judysellner 11:33 pm on July 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Hola from Colombia! 

    I have had an amazing visit so far.  Technically, this is a business trip and I´m here for work, but who would call shooting video up in the beautiful Colombian mountains work?!
    On Tuesday, we flew from Bogota to Popayan.  Popayan is known as “la Ciudad Blanca” (“the White City”) because all the buildings are painted white.  The city strongly reflects traditional European architecture in its layout.  Bogota in contrast, is a big cosmopolitian city with a large business district.
    From Popayan, we drove up into the mountains into Silvia.  Silvia is inhabited by a group of indigenous people called Guambios or Guambianos.  One of PADF´s projects in the region provides resources for economic development in the area to preserve the indigenous culture.  We interviewed the coordinator of the project (who is receiving a Hero of the Hemisphere award from PADF) as well as other beneficiaries.  The Guambianos recieved funding from PADF to build a mill to grind up grain.  This mill, powered by the river, was built in the traditional way- without any electricy or power tools!  The Guambianos also set up fisheries where they raise trout to sell.  I got to film all of this!
  • judysellner 3:13 pm on July 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Off to Colombia! 

    I’m leaving the States again this weekend, this time for Colombia.   I will be there for all of next week.

    I’m mostly staying in the capital city of Bogota where my organization, the Pan American Development Foundation has an office.

    I will be filming several projects in Colombia, but the main one is conducting a video interview of one of the 2010 recipients of PADF’s Heroes of the Hemisphere awards.  The Colombian “hero” works to preserve the indigenous Guambiano people of Misak by initiating profitable economic development projects.  Misak is considered to be a fairly dangerous place in the country because of the illegal drug trafficking in the area.  I actually had to get a security clearance from the country office before leaving.  I’m traveling with my supervisor this time (I went to the Dominican Republic alone), so that makes me feel a little bit better!

  • judysellner 1:32 pm on June 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Update from the Video Lab 

    I had a meeting at the Pan American Development Foundation office this week in the Organization of American States Building downtown to talk about my recent business trip to the Dominican Republic.  I had prepared a DVD of a few highlights from the footage to share with the communications department.  Everyone seemed pretty happy with the footage that I shot.

    After logging and capturing the footage into Final Cut Pro, my next step will be to send PADF the interview footage that I shot, so that we can determine which parts of the interviews will provide the strongest statements about the programs that PADF sponsors.  I also need a little bit of help with translating the interviews since I’m not quite fluent in Spanish.  PADF has an unlimited subscription to You Send It, a file and media sharing site, so I can easily send them footage electronically.

    Once I have fairly solid (and translated!) statements from interview footage, I will work to make the video into a cohesive story.  The DR video will be one of six videos that I am producing this summer for PADF’s second annual Heroes of the Hemisphere awards gala.

    If you need me, I’ll be in the video lab!

    • FB 3:38 pm on June 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I hope you share the finished product on the blog!

  • judysellner 10:54 pm on June 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Back from the Dominican Republic! 

    I just got back from a week in the Dominican Republic, with the Pan American Development Foundation.  I went to do some filming for several video projects in the country. I mostly stayed in the capital, Santo Domingo, where PADF’s DR office is located and took day trips to several cities across the country for the various filming projects.

    The first and most important project was interviewing and shooting B-roll video for this year’s honoree for PADF’s Heroes of the Hemisphere awards event.

    I also shot video and interviews of Centro Puente in Dajabon, an beneficiary organization that works on borders issues between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  On Mondays and Fridays, Haitians are permitted to cross the border into the Dominican Republic to sell their goods at a binational market.  I actually got to go and shoot the market and the border.

    Finally, I shot interviews and video about the new fire station that PADF donated money to build in Bavaro, a tourist resort area on the south-eastern part of the country.

    I was scheduled to travel with PADF to Colombia next week, but we decided to push the trip back to the end of July because of the upcoming elections.

    All in all, I shot about six hours of footage total.  Now, I have to log and capture all the footage into Final Cut Pro, and make the footage into videos.  So basically, I’ll be spending the rest of the summer in the editing lab!

    I had an awesome time in the DR and hope to come back some day (preferably to one of the beaches!).

  • judysellner 5:27 pm on June 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Off to the Dominican Republic! 

    I am leaving tonight for the Dominican Republic to shoot video for the Pan American Development Foundation.  I will be flying into the capital city, Santo Domingo, and driving to Las Matas de Farfan, where I will be interviewing this year’s honoree for the Heroes of the Hemisphere awards event.  I’ll be bringing my Canon Vixia HV40 HD camcorder with a shotgun microphone.

    The honoree, Amarilis Castillo, works to improve conditions at the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  The border is one of the most challenging areas in the country, particularly after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.  Castillo created a network of civil society organizations called Nuestra Frontera (“Our Border”) to combat poverty in borderlands.

    I’ll be back in the States next Monday!

  • judysellner 9:36 pm on May 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    New blogger: Video for Latin America 

    Hello all!

    My name is Judy and I’m an MA student in the International Media program at AU.  This summer, I am interning at the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) as a video consultant.  PADF is a DC-based non-profit organization that provides aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The videos that I will be working on this summer are for PADF’s annual Heroes of the Hemisphere awards event.  Each year, PADF awards five individuals or “heroes” from around Latin America and the Caribbean who have served as an agent for positive change in their community.  The awards gala will feature a short video documentary about each hero and the work they’ve done.  It’s my job to complete those videos.

    So far, we have footage of “heroes” from Brazil and Mexico.  In June, I will travel to the Dominican Republic to interview the “hero” and shoot the video myself.

    Stay tuned to hear more!

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