This blog was featured in UK’s Documentary Weekly – a digital magazine for documentary filmmakers, production companies, writers and events.
a part or portion of a larger amount that is divided among a number of people, or to which a number of people contribute.
have a portion of (something) with another or others.
Sharing comes naturally to me and many others, where I come from. We are just used to sharing our food, our space, our life and we don’t even think twice about it. So much that lately I have started feeling that it has made us value certain human virtues a little less. Over 10 years of my news / content producing career I had sort of started taking people for granted. And I say this with deep regret !
The first world doesn’t operate on the same principles. Here the space, the food, the time is sacrosanct and exclusive of any friendly or non friendly gestures.
It was my very first outdoor shoot in country side Canada. I was still naive to the sensibilities and temperaments of the people here. And just like any other place in the world the sensitivity and sensibilities vary in urban and non urban spaces. We were filming in the outskirts of Fort McMurray on the First Nations reserve land of Treaty #468. Making a documentary film will make you pull over any roadside, be it a highway or an avenue road. We had spotted some aesthetically beautiful patch of charred trees on the side of a the highway … Blazed memorial of the unfortunate wildfire that had caused heavy destruction and displacement in the May of 2016.
Being a producer I always look for a clue to make random conversations. You never know what can spark up a great story idea ! As we pulled into the roadside I saw a board that said ‘Tresspassing is prohibited.’ It was followed up by a 6 ft guy in a worn out t-shirt jeans approaching me with a question mark on his face. I walked towards him. His demeanour suggested that he was the owner of the property. I immediately put my best smile on and started to talk as I walked towards him. ‘We are filming a small documentary here. It’s a small crew.’ I went on. It’s always a good idea to undersell your project while shooting guerrilla style. You never know how much would you have to shell out to get rid of an unforseen situation. He smiled back and welcomed me into his property. He was clearly not worried about trespassing I figured out.
As we walked through his huge frontyard I was trying to spot some clues to his lifestory. A broken car, a worn out tool house, or even a rusted BBQ set, I can literally make conversations on anything I see to get a peek into the person’s life. But there it was his newly constructed house which he proudly built all by himself. I wondered if that house could get me a story. He insisted on me coming inside his house and meeting his girlfriend. I readily agreed. As he made me sit on his porch, waiting, he estactically went in to get his girlfriend to meet me. A film crew in that small township was probably the biggest news of the month!
Stubbing her cigarette she met me with a curious look. What is a girl from India (Asia) doing here in a remote town of Canada! I replied with a smile and asked explained the filming project I was working on. It always a good idea to throw in a bunch of names you are in touch with in the town. It helps gain the trust of the person. When she heard that I was interviewing someone she knows, she said, “it’s been so long I met her. Take the fresh goose meat that we have with us. You can show it on your cooking show..” She rushed into the kitchen and brought out a feathered goose !
Now I had never seen a goose meat in that stage at all. And with a few feathers still sticking out of its hind legs, I was wondering how am I going to take this with me. Since childhood I have seen fresh meat and fish being cleaned and cooked in the house. So a little bit of blood here and there doesn’t make me faint.
In India if someone offers something to you that you want to accept, you initially say ‘No’ and after a lot of insisting from the giver you finally take it. So the initial ‘No’ is considered a polite gesture, or just being humble. It doesnt work the same here in the first world i guess. If you want it, take it. If you don’t want it, say no. But don’t just say no assuming that after a couple of NOs and a bit of insisting from the other person you will finally agree. Complicated but true !
So I readily took the meat that she nicely packed in a cooler bag. I was happy that I could score a something unique on my very first stint in a new country. But the documentary producer in me is not satisfied with the food. I wanted her story. I tested my luck and asked her about her house. She told me that this house was burnt in the wildfire of 2016 and they have painstakingly rebuilt it and are still struggling to finish the same.
In my head I was happy that I had got the story I wanted. And instantly assumed that since she has been so friendly to me …she would definitely like to speak on camera. ‘What’s the big deal ?!’ I thought. And that was my mistake. I started off in my usual style, that how by speaking up and sharing your story you will be doing larger good to the society, etc etc.
She patiently listened to it all. Then took a drag of her ciggeratte and said, “I shared my food with you, I dont want to share my story.”And in that very same sentence she educated me about one’s right to their story, which we journalists and producers at times take so much for granted. !