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  TELL IT BETTER

THE PROJECT: “TELL IT BETTER”
A STEPS INDIA Project

Every year, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of different kind of videos and short films produced in India for so called educational/informational purposes. These NGO/ institution/foundation videos deal with crucial and important issues like: human rights, water & sanitation, urban development, violence against women, inequality, health, education, sexuality and so on.  Most of these videos are produced because there is a need for behavioural change, by providing information that enables people to have tools to solve their problems.

Unfortunately, very often these videos do not achieve their original purpose. They are not distributed because the funding organisations do not find a real use for them. They are not seen because people are not interested in seeing them. They do not create debate or actions, because the films purport to provide complete answers to very complex problems. They do not leave space for the audience to develop their own opinions, questions or conclusions. Of course, often they bore the audience to death.

Why is it like that?

One reason of course is the explosion of information. A large quantum of information in different forms is now reaching even slum dwellers and the villages. In itself, information is no longer something new, challenging or interesting.

Another reason is that the forms in media have changed tremendously: the rhythm, the aesthetics, the images in advertisements. In comparison, the so-called educational videos often seem to belong to the past, to history.

But, the foremost reason is that the audio-visual techniques of spreading information for behavioural change are still based on didactic concepts in the belief that the sheer distribution of information as such is enough.

In reality, experience and research show something quite different. To effectively adopt information for attitudinal change, there is a need to create a holistic experience, where emotions and reason are together. In practical terms, it means, that when you see a film, you, as a viewer, are part of the creation of the final result of the film. Your mind and emotions need the space for emotional and intellectual dialogue with the film.

Steps successfully implemented a first-of-its-kind project in this direction. It produced 37 ‘real films’ in Southern Africa that were non-didactic, touching the souls and minds of people, yet attempting to achieve the goals of the so-called didactic informational films. These films were produced by directors from the region supported by international professionals during the production process. In each of the 37 films, the issue was HIV/AIDS. Yet they were more. They were films about the moment when you face death and discover that…actually, life is a beautiful thing. (www.steps.co.za)

Until now, these films have been screened at 174 festivals and telecast in more than 20 countries. Over 30,000 copies are in use in the region in Africa and nearly 1,000 people have been trained to use the films and be facilitators during the screenings.

Partly because of the experiences of Steps For The Future, a new initiative, Democracy, was launched a few years ago. In October 2007, 27 broadcasters around the world will show ten long films on democracy. There will be 15 short films supported by the website ww.whydemocracy.net, where columnists like P Sainath from India and Kunda Dixit from Nepal will have regular columns.

Additonally, the methodology of Steps has been used in the Changing India project by Steps India (with six films under production at present) and in Another Finland (www.toinensuomi.net).

Now Steps India is beginning the process for ‘TELL IT BETTER’ in India. The purpose is to work together with selected film makers, NGOs/Foundations and projects to undergo a series of workshops. Again, the aim is to use the best professionals in the world alongside the film-makers to develop practical examples and models of how NGO/Foundation films could be produced and what kind of methods can be used in reaching ‘didactic’ goals.

At the international level, Steps India has discussed or is discussing the project with organisations like Steps For The Future in South Africa, EsoDoc in Europe, Sundance in the USA, the Danish Film Institute among others.

Different individuals like Don Edkins (Executive Producer of Democracy), Marianne Gayuseck, Theresa Mayer all from South Africa, Erez Laufert (Israel), Thomas Balmes (France) Menno Borema (Netherland), Jennifer Fox (USA), Karoline Leth ( Denmark) are among those who have expressed their willingness to work in this project.

The seed money for the project comes from the VIKES Foundation in Finland, which supports new media initiatives in the world and the Finnish Embassy in Delhi.

In India (and from Nepal and Bangladesh) Steps India is looking for directors, producers and NGOs/Foundations who are ready to go forward to make really challenging, risky, even provocative films to achieve the most important goal of the films: depicting important issues in a way that people will react.

For this purpose we are looking for:

  1. completed films that have the potential to be re-edited with a limited amount of re- shooting
  2. projects in the process of production at the end of year 2007
  3. projects at the first stages of conception to be shaped and focused through discussions

Our plan is to have the first gathering of some of the production companies/individuals and NGOs/Foundations in Delhi in July 2007 and another in September/October in Bangalore. This will be followed by 5-day workshops for selected projects in December 2007 and second phase of the workshop in January 2008.

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