We sent some questions over to the director of Ya Wooto, Jenny Cartwright and asked her about the experience of shooting the documentary in one of the 5 most poorest countries in the world, her thoughts on working with limited resources and the Canadian doc scene. Here’s what she got back to us with:
I love documentary filmmaking and collaborated to many professional productions in Montreal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Israel and France. From research to video editing, I have worn many hats over the years. I started shooting, somewhat by accident, my first movie as a director while working as a humanitarian volunteer in Ouagadougou.
I am used to working with limited resources. It is no coincidence the film was shot in true DIY fashion: I am a punk.
The best part of your experience with making this film
March 8 is one of the biggest holidays in Burkina Faso – people had been talking about it for weeks while we were there – and I was eager to see the party, especially the dust ball. But we soon realized it would be impossible to film at night, because the bar had little or no lights: Ya Wooto was a complete accident and we had nothing else than a cheap DSLR, a tripod and a sound recorder to shoot it. While people danced, we asked the only man who owned a car if he could turn on the headlights, which allowed us to take a few shots of people celebrating. The shots turned out to be some of the best footage we got. More importantly, it was my best moment in Burkina.
Overcoming complications during filming of Ya Wooto
In the best conditions, the camera could only film five minutes shots. But it could not withstand the heat (average temperature were between 35-40 degrees) and would often shut down after a 30 seconds. We then had to wait for the camera to cool down. At the end of an entire day shooting in the “buvette” we rarely had more than 10 minutes of footage. In these circumstances, pressing the record button was almost a solemn moment! We shot Ya Wooto during three months and came home with less than 6 hours of footage. More than a sixth of it made the final cut. But the real work starts once you’ve finished shooting.
Ya Wooto is a self-financed film. I cannot stress that enough: I made it with my own money. I edited the film even though I had not edited professionally for 10 years. I am lucky enough to have this set of skill: maybe another filmmaker would have had to dish out even more money or learn video editing from scratch. I consider myself a fairly good director from a technical point of view. But I cannot expect to be an expert editor, an expert color-grader and an expert sound engineer all at once. In order to take your movie to the next level, if you want to make a film that meets professional standards and has a chance to be screened in film festivals, at some point you will need to work with professionals and that means finding money to pay them. You also need to find the time to actually get the work done. When you are already working full-time on financed documentary productions (underpaid of course), finding time for your own project can be quite a challenge.
Your thoughts on the doc scene
Stop the cuts!
Even though the genre is more and more popular in Quebec and Canada – our documentaries are winning awards around the world and filling festivals such as Hot Docs, RIDM, TIFF and many others – documentary production has been declining significantly for the last few years, with thousands of jobs being lost. It has been facing recurrent cuts, and relies heavily on broadcast licences given by a handful of large ownership groups. In Montreal, the prior provincial government has closed the only documentary program and the new one – elected only a few months ago – has already made hurtful choice for documentary filmmakers… as well as other artists.
Cuts to the arts hurt us all: documentary filmmaking has always played a predominant role in improving our knowledge of the world and is now one of the most neglected cultural forms of expression.
Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) published in 2013 its 5th Volume of Getting Real: an Economic Profile of the Canadian Documentary Industry. According to the data in this report, since 2008:
• Documentary production volume decreased by more than 21% or $105 million by 2010/11
• The number of documentary projects dropped 23% from 591 to 457 projects by 2010 / 11
• The total number of documentary hours declined to 1,445 hours—a drop of 555 hours – by 2010/11
The full report can be read here:
Ya Wooto (Burkina Faso)
Ya Wooto (Burkina Faso) will be screened at No/Gloss Film Festival 2014.