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Few weeks of chats with Helen from the Open University (UK) on phone, Skype and in person, and a few days after the last one, I found myself lugging the camera, tripod, pens, chart papers and such, into her car. Admittedly, it seemed like a great break from all the books I had, otherwise, buried myself into – courtesy, literature review for the PhD. On that sunny morning, as the prints of letters and words began to fade away from my mind, while Helen drove, I looked forward to a world that’s always drawn me– one that of kids – one, I have always wondered, what would it be like to work in, in letting those little citizens’ minds go, wander and capture their world through their own, sometimes shaky, but always untamed lenses.

Day 1: Scripting

A day before that, I had sat down and planned each of the 4 hours that we had with the kids on the first day – the introduction, the ice-breakers, the camera exercises and all that’s required… I was very clear about how the day should go and what we should end with. Well, it just didn’t go as planned. When we reached there all the kids were busy doing their own thing. It took us some time till they got together and even then only few of them really seemed interested in what we wanted to do. They did sit around in a circle, talking to us – talking about their neighborhood, discussing the kind of film they’d like to make, thinking about the structure, but few of them, still remained very disengaged. This, I should have thought about. After all, how many kids like just sitting and talking? A sinking feeling started growing within me. I could already see a disaster here, coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to handle the kids as the video facilitator. Towards the end of the day, I had lost most of my confidence and somehow introduced the camera to them. I thought when they to play with the camera, they would turn their attention. They would begin to enjoy it. But no such thing happened! They remained busy going in and out of the room, jumping around the couch and stuff like that. I really felt I didn’t have it in me to handle kids.

Day 2: Shooting

Somehow, I gathered myself the next day morning, hoping for the best. We had only few hours to shoot and we needed to edit the next day, finishing a film in almost 10 working hours!!! Once there, Helen and I decided that since the group was quite big – around 10 kids, it’d be best to divide them into two groups. So, we asked them who wanted to film and who wanted to take photographs. To our delight, this was worked. The younger kids decided to take photographs and the older ones decided to film. Soon, I had a team that was all ready to go around the neighborhood with the camera and start shooting. That previous day’s sensation on my nerves crept back, as we stepped out to film – from there on, the kids had total control over the entire shooting process. I still can’t fathom how it happened, but after the first interview that they took near their shopping center, they just got totally confident, and went about interviewing people and shooting their own neighborhood. Their confidence with the camera was just quite amazing. I have trained several groups, and people are usually scared of the camera and end up fumbling. But here, these kids were pros from the word go. Looking at the film, it is difficult to believe that they shot for the first time and that too, within just 3 hours. Many of them, who were not comfortable with me earlier, started to come and ask a lot of questions about the camera. It was so different from what I had imagined, after the first day. Suddenly, it was a team, helping each other and enjoying making their video. They managed to interview various people in the neighborhood like their friends, young people and an old lady, representing views from a cross-section of people. I left happy, mostly because the kids really seemed to enjoy what they did.

Day 3: Editing

The next day was to be the real difficult one – editing! Even PV practitioners or researchers using PV, often mention the issues they face, related to editing. Since, it is such a technical process, it is difficult to train participants to do it in a short period of time – and here I was, struggling with time as well, with hardly 4 hours left in hand. What we came up with then, was to let them do visual editing – choosing the shots to be retained from the review of the footages and then the photographs, they wanted to insert in between – creating structure of the final video.. Very soon, I had the group looking at the footage, and noting down the parts they want to include. I have to mention, they got bored of it in some time. It is a very tiresome process indeed! But, I had one enthusiastic candidate, who sat with me through it. Helen had another girl with her, who meticulously chose the best pictures till the very end. Well, the editing was done! All that was needed, was to put it all in one place and get the film together. I would also have to admit that I had more control over the editing process, as I made the final version, and so had to take certain decisions on behalf of the kids. They never got to choose the music, for instance. Another such instance was when one of the participants mentioned getting bullied. Helen and I decided to keep that bit out to ensure safety of the child. But one has to remember, we were working with kids and as adults, even in a participatory process, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that, and if need be, take certain kinds of decisions on their behalf.

Watching the footage.

It’s been almost one and a half months that they shot this video. I often remember my three days there and the wonderful time I had, working with these kids.

I list out some key things that I learned during this process:

  • Working with children is not very easy, but IT IS real fun, once they get involved.
  • Do ‘real’ activities with them. This is what keeps them going. Directing their energies is extremely important.
  • They have a lot of energy, but that energy gets over sooner than adults. So, plan your day in such a way that children are involved for 3-4 hours a day and not more.
  • It is a really creative process and does enhance creativity and critical thinking in children. Carefully think about the activities and your process, and note down, how they can support the children. Make them think about the stories, how they want to shoot, what they want to say.
  • You have to let them have the control, even if you feel things are not going right. Going through this process can provide a lot of self-esteem and confidence to children. Make sure they feel responsible for what they are doing, and feel confident about making their own decisions. Let them go ahead and approach people for interviews. Let them decide on their questions.
  • You will see a lot of group dynamics as well (like in any other group actually). Try and make it positive and give roles to children accordingly.
  • Video-making needs a lot of team work and can actually be a great facilitator towards building a team. Encourage them to help each other during the production. With kids, building a team is critical, as it is related to skills they can learn for life.
  • Lend  a good ear. In a group of children, it is very normal to have small fights and arguments. Be ready to face those and resolve them. Also, be open to what they are saying and expressing. For some children, this might be their own way of communicating and they might communicate things, they do not otherwise.
  • Make your own decisions as an adult to respect their privacy and safety.
  • And, of course, have a lot of fun!!!!

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