DAY 5: Taking on the Role of a Filmmaker

It’s day 5 living in Ecuador, and it’s our final day in Quito for now. It’s bittersweet that we’re leaving such a cultural and welcoming city, but we’re excited about our future adventures at Ecuador’s magical cloud forest in Mindo.

This morning todos los estudiantes woke up exhausted from a night that was fun-filled and memorable. Some students went to the restaurant Ananke with the professors, and had great Ecuadorian food while experiencing a scenic view of the moon, while another group decided to immerse themselves in the Quito nightlife at a bar called “Quito Pub Beer.” Even though we were exhausted, it was nothing that Sierra Madre’s breakfast couldn’t fix! The special that morning was plantain balls, yum! After breakfast we made our way to the school Ilades at 9 AM for a video storytelling workshop, either taking a taxi or enjoying a morning walk to school.

Plantain balls that we had for breakfast

At the beginning of the workshop, we began our day by reflecting on the beauty of El Centro and la Plaza Grande. We were so amazed with how helpful the Ecuadorians were, and how beautiful their culture was – we had never been accustomed to something quite like it before. David Tames then introduced our first video project that we would focus on while spending the afternoon in El Centro. It was a city study, where we would go out and analyze either a person, place, or process. His goal for us was to get 10 to 20 minutes of video recordings from different angles and perspectives, to give us plenty of room to cut and edit. For many of us who had not taken a video recording class before, it was important that we looked at the environment in a different way by reflecting and observing. After, David put us in groups of three where each of us would be assigned a role while shooting in El Centro. Our jobs were either being a person who was shooting, recording sound, or taking on the role of security. All three roles were substantial to provide safety and efficiency while shooting.

Soon after, David familiarized la clase with the importance of sound in videos. It conveys emotion and dimension, which is composed to work with the picture and story being told. Next, David gave out recorders to each group of three that would allow us to record and utilize the built in microphones. For students who were technically disinclined, like me, learning how to use it and understand it was outside of my nursing realm. During the lecture, one new term I learned was the “limiter.” A limiter is in the recorder that records levels that are too high, and squashes peaks so they won’t distort; it’s a very fast attack compressor. We then as a group, practiced sound recordings: 1 ambient noise and 2 sound effects. For example, an ambient noise would be 10 seconds of listening to moving traffic, compared to a sound effect like clapping hands.

Meghna holding the recorder to capture sound effects.

Before heading onto the bus, we finished off our lecture by watching a documentary to set the tone of what our afternoon would bring. The Field of Vision – “Above” by Kirsten Johnson was a journalistic piece that was 8 minutes, which focused on a blimp surveillance that flew over Kabul, Afghanistan and Aberdeen, Maryland. While watching it, it allowed the audience to come to their own conclusions and created a sense of people being watched. Once it finished, we were itching in our seats to start shooting, so David left us with an open question to think about before heading onto the bus: What is a documentary?

Once we got to El Centro, my group, which consisted of Skye and Meghna, were fixated on shooting. La Plaza Grande was full of energy and bustling people, so we couldn’t wait to get started. We got a quick lunch at a local café, and discussed our ideas. We first started shooting Skye’s video that was focused on a live musical performer. Being the security guard, my main job was to watch our surroundings; it was hard because I was antsy to take full advantage of all the photo opportunities. However, Skye was like a gazelle, she was very active and got all the angles and perspectives of the Ecuadorian band and of their audience through her camera lens. Skye’s project was also a perfect opportunity to use the recorder while focusing on the instruments and interviewing the band. By the end of the video recording, the band was so intrigued by us that they wanted to get a photo with us. It was a great end to our shooting.

Skye, Meghna, and I posing with the band performers we video recorded for Skye’s project.

For my project, I wanted to incorporate my love for children by taking videos and interviewing children throughout the city. The idea brought some obstacles along the way because I needed to get permission from the parents in order to take a video of their child. I got many mixed reactions: parents and children asking for money, saying no, or being excited and approving the idea. I didn’t blame the parents for all of their concerning reactions, who would want their child to be video recorded by a tourist? As I searched and found kids to shoot, I was able to interview kids and ask them questions in Spanish (with the help of Meghna and Google Translate) of them and watch them play. It was very fun and interesting to compare the interactions I had with the Ecuadorian children and the child population I work with at Boston Children’s Hospital.

A little Ecuadorian girl playing on the streets of Quito.

Lastly, we shot Meghna’s documentary that was focused on birds. She has a fear of them, but wanted to overcome it by making them the protagonist of her video. To accomplish her video, we visited the Cathedral of San Francisco, where we shot the pigeons that flew around its entrance and the parrots in the courtyard’s garden. We had a great time shooting, as we shot and played with kids as they were running through the crowd of pigeons and laughing. I’m surprised none of us got pooped on!

Skye is running through the pigeons with a recorder to capture the sounds of them flying and eating.

Following the completion of our video recordings, we then reconvened with our class to head back to the hotel. Everyone was reflecting and sharing their experiences shooting, and it seemed like everyone individually had such unique and creative ideas for their documentaries. For instance, Eva videotaped a street performer who dressed up all in gold. I can’t wait to see the final products! For our final meal, our class decided that we couldn’t stay away from our favorite Mexican restaurant named Frida. There, all sixteen of us were able to kick back and relax with some very refreshing margaritas and mouthwatering tacos. At dinner, we reminisced on the past five days and the adventures it brought and how far we had come since getting off the plane in Ecuador. Excited to see what the future held and tired from the long and eventful day, we headed to Sierra Madre for one final sleep.

A group of us after a long day shooting for our “Video as Studio” project.


Here is a Snapchat selfie of our group heading to Frida for dinner. Even though we have been together for only 5 days, we have already gotten close.

Thanks Quito for introducing us to the wonders of Ecuador, it’s not goodbye its see you later:)