Stretch Productions PNG shoot – August / September 2017

Stretch Productions PNG shoot – August / September 2017

Stretch Productions has completed 2 filming projects and both were a success. The first project was filming over 2000 Papua New Guinea (PNGSL) signs for the development of PNGSL dictionary. The dictionary is in collaboration between Stretch Productions, Callan Services for Persons with Disabilities National Unit, and Professor Dany Adone and Melanie BrÜck from Cologne University in Germany. Key members of the Deaf community, the Director of Photography and an NZSL interpreter were also central to the project. It was challenging for the entire team to document the agreed 2000 signs on camera within 6 days. Professor Dany and Melanie spent an enormous amount of time analysing PNGSL grammar as well as coordinating the signs prior to filming them. As the leader of the project, my primary role was to ensure the shoot was conducted in such a way as to maximise the number of signs recorded within the time we had. It was a pressure cooker situation, but it went remarkably well.

The Sigma Kills and Love Heals documentary shoot was also successful and we captured all the footage needed for the project. The production team, including Michael Lulu and James Knox from Callan Services, travelled extensively across PNG, including Port Moresby and the Highlands, visiting places such as Lae, Kassam, Goroka, Simbu, Fatima, Banz, and Mt Hagan. We had to endure thousands of dreadful potholes from Lae to Mt Hagan, often in stifling heat, which was a real challenge as well as an adventure for the crew. It was fascinating to journey into the Highlands and witness so many of the unique cultures found in villages deep in remote valleys. It was a real privilege to blend into their lives, particularly the lives of Deaf people and their families, as they have an enormous pride in their local language and culture. Local villagers are unbelievably friendly and were always ready assist the crew in any way they could. They made the job much easier than I initially thought it would be.

Although I’ve used sign language interpreters for over 25 years, I’ve learnt a whole new dynamic while shooting the documentary when using an interpreter for myself as the director and director of photography (DoP). Leila Vanderlaan, the appointed New Zealand Sign language interpreter for PNGSL signs and documentary project, was extensively involved as an interpreter every day (both on location and non-shooting times) for almost 4 weeks. It was a unique challenging role for Leila.

Obviously, all qualified interpreters must adhere to their code of ethics in terms of confidentiality, impartiality, accuracy and so on, and that was observed during the course of the documentary. However, as the interpreter is essentially part of the production team, Leila’s role and particularly her level of ‘invisibility’ was challenged due to the nature of the job. Leila was with the team every day for 4 weeks often on location for long hours and it created a unique challenge balancing the personal and the professional particularly for non-shoot hours. These hours included breakfast pre-shoot preparation meetings, social activities, travelling in between locations, and dinner time. During these periods of time, it’s often an interpreter is required to allow the director and DoP to discuss film-related issues as well as having a social chat. The interpreter is part of the team rather than being ‘invisible’.

If the interpreter were to strictly adhere to prescriptive ethics for this particular project, I believe the role would drastically affect myself as the director trying to communicate with the DoP whether it’s work or social related interpreting context. There has to be some degree of flexibility to ensure the interpreter is part of the production team as well as interpreting for the director and DoP. Should the interpreter decide to adopt his/her ethics as per their usual job, one must question if it will benefit the team and the overall dynamic. To have a positive and functional team that is able to deliver the best results, it’s imperative for the interpreter to be flexible to ensure the team is glued together and can achieve the larger goals. There has to be a mutual agreement between the director and the interpreter in terms of the interpreter’s flexibility or otherwise the relationship between these 2 could be strained: negotiating this new terrain with Leila was an interesting and ongoing conversation. She is planning to present on some of the ethical dilemmas and decision-making at a Connect professional development evening in the next month.

The PNGSL dictionary and documentary will most likely be launched at the same time in Port Moresby in August 2018. The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea will be invited to the special occasion. There is absolutely no doubt I will be present at the launch and the main aim of the documentary is to improve the lives of Deaf children, their families and members of the Deaf community around PNG.