By Nancy Farese
I was certain there was no way that I could eat such a big piece of cake. Nancy presents us with a large fluffy triangle of Bavarian Cream, almost a quarter of the round. Huge. Sitting in her cramped tiny trailer, I promptly eat the whole thing. As she beams I notice that her face is perfectly lit by the lightbox; the single light source is filtered through soft curtains allowing us an exposure of f4 at 1/60th and 1250 ISO. Her daughter is the nice foil, sitting off to the side quietly reading, ignoring the chaos of flour, salt and sprinkles. Nancy’s kitchen is a low-saturated green and her apron a vibrant purple; a photographer’s dream composition. She models efficiency and self-reliance as she creates product for Bake my Days, her new baking business.
We are photographers, videographers, sound techs and bloggers on a workshop with Phil Borges and Stirring the Fire. Nancy is a smart woman living in poverty in San Diego, an engaged and capable mother, and an entrepreneur with The Foundation For Women (FFW). FFW is a nonprofit that offers microcredit and support to local women, helping them lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Phil has composed a team of people with complementary skills who are working and learning together over nine days in San Diego to produce a book and multimedia piece for FFW. I come in as a photographer, comfortable shooting still photographs for nonprofit advocacy pieces, curious to learn more about multimedia production, and daunted by the task of integrating video and audio into my work. Others at the workshop include writers, audio techs, and video editors with the same intention. Phil gives us some lectures, inspires us with his powerful work, then leads us into action.
My team’s story assignment is Nancy, who became a mother at sixteen, saw her husband deported shortly thereafter, and lives in very meager circumstances in suburban Vista, California. We interviewed her looking for body language, articulation and backstory. We think we understand who she is, though as we head into the field – her trailer park – she begins to defy all our stereotypes.
She is productive and focused, effectively using the $250 initial loan from FFW for baking pans and more cooking classes. Vista is a cohesive and vibrant community where no one locks their doors and the community library is packed with summer reading groups. Nancy’s mother is a successful businesswoman herself. Nancy’s husband is a hard worker and steady partner in raising three impressive young girls. She easily gains our admiration.
We shoot, we post and we record, collecting media piled higher than those Bavarian Cream Cakes. We debate the merits of Final Cut X vs Premier Pro, the sound quality of the lav on the Sony vs the Canon SLR with a mic, and the tempo and reveal of Nancy’s story, which Phil is clear must be “cut to the bone.” By the end of the week we seem to have found a thread leading to the needle in the haystack of our media piece that will tell Nancy’s story. This thread will also tell the story of FFW, and hopefully generate more support for women like Nancy.
All of the participants at the workshop are there because we believe that visual media is an effective storytelling tool for community-based organizations, and is important in any effort to drive change at the local or global levels. It is a privilege to learn about multimedia storytelling through Phil’s lens. Over the course of the workshop, through our own lenses we peer into a life that could be our own, and try to capture it in a way that will resonate in the hearts and minds of those who will see our finished video pieces. It has been a privilege to work with and learn from Nancy, an entrepreneur extraordinaire!
All photos by Nancy Farese.