This October for the second year running, we joined forces with the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme and a team of international documentary trainers to provide a unique narrative filmmaking workshop opportunity for filmmakers across the Pacific, this time in Tonga

The project began in 2013 to support emerging Pacific talent and was designed to build the capabilities of a new generation of digital content-producers in the Pacific. The course also included a legacy element – a pan-Pacific peer group of digital storytellers who will be able to work together and support each other in the long-term, bringing island stories to the global media stage.

After an intensive selection process, 12 participants from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu came together for the 10-day intensive workshop in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. Phil Cox, course director, said it was great to see so much Pacific talent come together: “Each participant is looking to build their confidence in digital storytelling, and we expect to see this materialise in some powerful short films, made by authentic Pacific voices, produced during this period.”

An ocean of stories

Amando Leingkone from Vanuatu sets up his shot

The participants had various hopes for the training; Victoria Lepou from Samoa said that for her it was about adding perspective and variation to the content produced: “The Pacific including Samoa has so many stories to tell.  Putting those stories in perspective would be my absolute mission to accomplish at this training.  Today’s technology would greatly enhance those storytelling to connect us with the rest of the world by making it more appealing to the communities rather than fact-based style.

“The ideas I have learned here are going to help me a lot in the future in my own work and I will pass on some of what I have learned here in my own teaching, added Malani Wolfgramm from Tonga, “It would be great to be able to continue to develop this network that is being established here, and to continue to be able to feedback with each other on our projects.”

In pairs, participants focused on local stories, and guided by the team of documentary filmmakers, learned about experimenting with cameras, pushing the boundaries of cinematography and different editing sequences and formats.

Future perspectives

The editing begins

The end of the training saw the completion of six short films. The documentaries featured Tongan characters and offered a new perspective on storytelling and ways of covering important issues in Pacific life. Each had been directed, produced and edited by the filmmaking groups, touching on topics such as disability, relationships, non-communicable diseases, sport and gender. Breaking away from conventional news journalism and allowing the filmmakers to experiment with creative storytelling resulted in some beautiful cinematic content, ready for broadcast.

I want to put new faces, new kinds of images into my stories

One of the participants, Benjamin Kedoga, reflected on the results: “I am really hoping I will be able to put into practice what I have learned. I want to put new faces, new kinds of images into my stories, and not just make news-style pieces. I want people to see from my perspective as a PNG man and say ‘this is something different that I didn’t know before.”

The films premiered at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre in Nuku’alofa to a large and enthusiastic audience. They will be broadcast across the Pacific – disseminating creative local content and contributing to a filmmaking legacy in the region.

The training was a partnership between the Public Media Alliance, Pacmas, ABC, Macquarie University Australia and our project WorldView, in collaboration with our member the Tonga Broadcasting Commission.

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