By Amy Dodds Wong

‘Just get out and film!’ – That was the message that stuck with me as I left the three-day documentary film making workshop organised by KOMAS and supported by The Goethe Institut on 22nd January 2016. It was refreshing I felt, not to feel too bogged down by technicalities, but granted the freedom to explore my creative capabilities.

The workshop itself, run by acclaimed German filmmakers Marcus Vetter and Georg Zengerling, brought together an amazing group of people from a diverse range of backgrounds, all interested in looking at filmmaking from a social perspective. Former journalists, human rights lawyers and activists, joined already established filmmakers and technical experts to provide a truly enriching three days. I myself, have a background in human rights and am a photography enthusiast, so I felt it was an opportunity to finally match the two.

None of us realised that by the end of the workshop, we would have formed the ‘Freedom Film Network (FFN)’– a collective of filmmakers dedicated to capacity building, development, production, impact and sustainability of social filmmaking in Malaysia.

Each day began with a screening of a documentary by Marcus Vetter and his team and with it a new perspective on filmmaking. I was particularly touched by the third screening, ‘My Father The Turk’, which followed Marcus as he documented his meeting with his estranged Turkish father after years of separation. The first time he met with one of his sisters was bravely in front of the camera.

“Sometimes the initial meeting is the most revealing, if you miss that, you cannot recreate it” he told us. Again, the idea of ‘getting out there and filming’ was reinforced. You can never recreate a moment once its gone, it will always appear forced and if you want an audience to believe in your story, then it must be truthful. I also learnt that scripting need not be done in advance. It is a documentary after all and you can never be sure what will happen on the ground. That freedom allows you as a filmmaker to be spontaneous and adapt to your surroundings.

Of course, there was a technical aspect to the workshop, which I enthusiastically soaked up. I nervously tried out KOMAS’ new camera equipment and learnt the art of audio and editing. So, now its just up to me to ‘just get out and film’. Which I plan to do next month!

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