Video Volunteers


What is an education worth?

Our friend from Fox News writes to ask what is the value of a short training course in video. “How much money can I make from it”? he wants to know.

Ironically, this discourse takes place at the same time as I am on a conference call with an organization called Video Volunteers. I am a board member.

Video Volunteers distributes video gear to some of the poorest people in the world and teaches them how to use it. They make videos both for themselves, for local TV and for the NGOs that work in their community. It is the ultimate in ’empowering’ people with the power of the new medium.

It is also a direct result of the radical drop in the cost of both cameras and edits. In these countries, television used to be in the hands of the state and the very wealthy. Video Volunteers is putting both the know-how and the equipment in the hands of the people.

I quote from their own website:

In 1999 the World Bank asked 60,000 people living on less than a dollar a day to identify the biggest hurdle to their advancement. It wasn’t food, shelter or health care. It was access to a voice. By empowering people to tell their stories, video gives a voice to the voiceless, and to the people who fight for them.

Video Volunteers believes that media can provide marginalized people with a platform for voice and accelerate social change. In collaboration with Drishti Media Collective in Ahmedabad, India, Video Volunteers is working to create a global network of 100s of rural or peri-urban Video Producers who produce and share media across the barriers of illiteracy, poverty and media neglect.

What made the timing of the conference call particularly poigniant is that Video Volunteers was founded by Jessica Mayberry.

The thing is that Jessica was first exposed to the simplicity of video production and the VJ concept when she took one of my 1-week courses at the DV DOJO. (My little DV DOJO, now defunct, was a video bar/cafe that I ran in New York’s idiosyncratic Lower East Side for two years.

Think of it as a kind of Internet Cafe, but with FCP edit stations and classes on how to shoot and cut. )

The tuition for DV DOJO was in fact greater than that which we now charge for Travel Channel Academy, but the curriculum was pretty much the same.

What did Jessica Mayberry get out of the course?

Well, she didn’t get a job at Fox News.

No, instead she was inspired to go out and change thousands of people’s lives in the developing world.

Now THAT is the real value of an education. It opens your mind and shows you how to think in a different way.


21 responses to “Video Volunteers

  1. The great thing is, she saw past the financial aspects of what she learned and started something that has more long term value than what others would have us believe.

    She’s probably thankful she didn’t get a job offer from Fox Noise.

    We can’t start thinking differently now, for to do so means we can no longer be controlled by the elitists (sarcasm mine).

  2. Giving out video gear to poor people in depressed third world countries.

    What a noble waste of time. The gear will be broken and useless soon enough. That is if it’s not stolen or sold. What little product might come back with will make a touching “poor us” video that might generate some donations. But the amount of donations will never make up for the cost of the damaged and lost investment of equipment.

    Here’s what’s going to happen. A rare few of those cameras will survive. What little material will be edited into something. That “something” will have to have additional material shot by others who actually know what they are doing just to make it watchable. Then, probably nothing except some film festival award and even less in help for the poor.

    The poor are actually being used here for someone else’s ends. It’s a short term feel-good effort that will cost more and offer no real help in the end to those who really need it.

  3. Ah
    That unique combination of ignorance + arrogance that makes Fox News both so entertaining and so worthless all at the same time.

    Yes, yes. Video is surely only for fat white men. Small brown people will find those cameras far too ‘complicated’ to operate on their own. WE will send OUR white men to YOUR country to report the ‘news’ about you. (Even if we don’t speak the language, know the history or culture or anything about the place whatsoever. Who cares? We don’t really know enough to know the difference anyway).

    Local people empowering themselves in ‘our’ medium????

    Who do they think they are???

  4. $ = stick + mud

  5. This is not about race.

    It’s about culture.

    You have obviously never left urban areas and dealt with others unless they were paying you for a class.

    Nothing my words mentioned race but, as usual, you once again are quick to reach for the race card.

    It gets old but not surprising.

  6. $ exemplifies the blinder wearing sheeple that make up the viewers of Fox Noise. He has even less credibility than Nino.

    You need to grow up min!-me – your adolescent ramblings belong over with your backslapping GOB’s on b-roll.

  7. Dear $
    Color prejudice, culture prejudice. Same thing.
    You got it.
    I have lived and worked all over the world, from coal mines in Kentucky to teaching english classes in Gaza, so please don’t even try to lecture me on “you never left urban areas”. In typical Fox News fashion, lots of invective, no facts.

  8. You sure checked your facts on that response didn’t you $ (formerly known as min!-me).

    You might want to look into to little thing called checking your sources before making a statement as being fact – any professional journalist knows that.

    And you have claimed to be a news professional with years of experience.

  9. I’ve brought this up before, but it seems to be forgotten quickly.

    Take a gander at the documentary “Voices of Iraq.” The IMDB listing (oh, thanks Michael for getting my wife into IMDB) is
    It is available on netflix.

    In this compelling documentary, (got 7 out of 10 with over 200 votes.) Well, IMDB says it better:

    “Filmed and directed by the Iraqis themselves — thousands of them, from all walks of life, all over their country. The producers, who distributed more than 150 digital video cameras across the country, condensed more than 400 hours of footage into an unprecedented, and startling, look at life in a war zone. It’s a new genre of filmmaking.”

    Hey, those poor Iraquis weren’t getting paid for that. Forsooth, they used digital cameras (though they didn’t have laptops, so they aren’t true VJ’s). They sent in all the cameras, and fedexed in 400 hours of tape.

    Wanna find out what the Kurdish Iraquis thought? What did the Iraquis living in the marshlands along the Shatt al-Arab think about Saddam draining their marshlands in order to get rid of them discreetly by drying up their water supply?

    You can find out.

    They also include some harsh anti-American sentiment so that everybody can be happy 🙂

    Hmmmm. A documentary based on CJ.

    Oh well.


    P.S. Last time I mentioned this movie, I included 2 reviews by people that thought the thing was edited as propaganda. I guess you’ll have to take that up with the Iraquis, they shot the thing.

  10. Just like those who thought they “knew” Iraq, you too make the same assumptions and head for the same mistakes through arrogance.

    It’s a nice plan which deals little with reality. Of course none of those poor who will be shooting own a television or can afford to have electricity in their homes but that won’t stop this group from making money off of them. Using them as some sort of stage prop/television crew “of the people” to generate funds for your own use.

    Just more road show on your part.
    but it is one way for you to make a living peddling VJ!

  11. Videovolunteers is a non profit organization.
    Most people in the world have both electricity and television sets, even in the poorest parts of the world. You should get out a bit more.

  12. Please! That label of “non-profit” is such a farce. People still make a salary. People still get reimbursed for expenses. Money does change hands and end up in pockets but it doesn’t get labeled as “profit”.

    Your conclusion about “most people” is charming. Once again proving you lack real third world life experience. Much like those who rush to disasters to build new homes for victims complete with plumbing and electricity, then return home so proud, ignoring the fact the poor who those homes were built for can not afford to pay for electric or water. Thus a wasted effort. But it sure looks good when you are talking to fund raisers who, like this group, love to do feel-good projects that do little or nothing for those who really need better lives.

    This is nothing but free labor, again, to produce a video project. It’s not about empowering anyone. It’s about making a buck. Period.

  13. “Once again proving you lack real third world life experience”

    OK. I spent a year hitch-hiking across Africa overland, another year crossing central Asia also overland. I spent yet another year living in Gaza, E Jerusalem and the West Bank with Palestinians. I have worked in Eritrea, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Laos, Kenya, Sudan (not visited, worked).

    I think I have some pretty good exposure to the ‘third world’. In rather typical Fox News (if you can call it that), fashion, you love to manufacture your own facts based on nothing. And now, your experience please?

  14. First 10 years doing local TV news. The next fifteen doing the network cameraman gig in Central and South America with the last three of those years in South Africa and a brief ten months in Kosovo between those two places.

    Now I’m based here in the US assigned to cover the southern US and, once again, Central and South American issues should they become interesting enough for the powers-that-be to send someone to cover them. I’m still the one with the camera on my shoulder shooting and editing but with more responsibilities that include satellite transmission as well as helping field produce assignments and translation work.

  15. Well that is interesting. Gives me a lot to think about.did you know bill gentile or alan tomlinson?

  16. I wonder if you are teaching your hatred of FOX News to your students?

    I have watched many news outlets… all of the networks. There is plenty of bias to be found at each network.

    Generalizations are dangerous, and damaging.

    Fox presents news. CNN presents news. CBS, NBC and ABC present news. Each newscast has many different stories. They also carry different opinionators (my word 😉

    There are a variety of biases coming from a variety of people at each network. I think that can be proven.

    Your constant Fox News hatred is not only getting old, but it cements your position as a biased person your self, not as an objective journalist.

    I suspect you are not pretending to be an objective journalist however. This is your blog. Not a news outlet.

    But you are teaching future journalists?

  17. Naah…
    I’m only ragging on Fox because “$” above works there.

  18. Eric – before my foray into video, I worked as a still photojournalist for a number of years. I’m well aware of the amount of filtering that occurs in news media based upon the readership of a community.

    After having watched several of the news media outlets, I made my choice about Fox based upon fact, not bias. I have seen time and time again, news stories being refuted by news outlets such as MSNBC. Keith Olberman has to be one of my favorite on air talent purely because he doesn’t mince words. He calls it as he sees it. His concise analysis of Mr Spin Zone Bill O’, Sean Hannity and others in the Fox Noise network has shown just how biased a news outlet can be. They make a token effort with Hannity and Colmes, trying to bring some sort of liberal perspective on the show, but it’s just that – a token effort.

    I made my decisions long ago about Fox Noise before coming in contact with Michael.

    And I think it’s a misnomer to believe in objective journalism. One always has a bias when reporting the news – you are either conservative or liberal, and the news will be reported with said bias.

  19. I knew Bill. I heard he’s a teacher now at some college. Thomlinson I have seen and know of but do not claim any personal contact other than respect for his work.

    I have not always worked for FOX.

    The FOX jabs don’t bother me. No place is perfect to work for. Never has been never will be.

  20. Both Tomlinson and Gentile worked for me and both went through the VJ training very early. Tomlinson won an emmy for us for Killer Virus in 1985. News and docs. Went to Kikwit to cover ebola virus ouitbreak. Gentile won an emmy for cinematography in ’98 for Trauma in Jacksonville, along with Susan Meiseles who came out of Magnum. Great people. My ex was also out of UPI Mexico City….(Not so great….but there you are)

  21. I should’t have used the word hate. Disdain might have been the better word to use.

    There is bias on both sides of the political spectrum (which doesn’t make sense because a spectrum has a number of colors.)

    But that is what I do not like about some so called journalists. They are in fact not journalists if they bring an agenda.

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