Yida - Journal Entry 4

In the last entry, we have just landed in Yida. If you haven't read the previous entries, check them out here.

After reaching where we are staying, we learn that we need permission to film in the camp. So our leader, Mark Hackett, sets off with a few locals to get said permission. To this day I don't know who it was that he spoke with, it was just a verbal permission that spread word of mouth to others in the camp. He told us to give them the evening to spread the word, and in the morning we were free to film where we pleased.

The next morning, I wake and get breakfast. This is a big day, so we hit the ground running. First thing on the list is going to some of the schools that Yida has to offer. Our goal is to show what everyday life is like here in this refugee camp, and what a better way to start than where kids and teachers spend five days a week or more. 

When we arrive at the school, about seven hundred students are pouring out of their classrooms and forming a giant square, enclosing their headmaster and creating somewhat of a platform for him and others to speak. Roll Cameras. I'm floating with a handheld rig, Aaron is on Glidecam, Jacob is floating handheld, and Katie is snapping stills handheld. It was at this time all the children started singing us songs. What a beautiful sound, completely a cappella besides the sounds of clapping and feet stomping. Most of the songs go over my head as I'm caught up in the moment of filming and composing shots. But one song in particular stood out, especially being in english, I remember the key phrase "We are the people of today, oh the people of the country."

What a powerful statement. That sentence alone encompasses so much story in so little time. "We are the people of today..." They are the future, that is recognized in their community. School is their main priority and the children understand that education is absolutely essential to a better future. After hearing from some of the older students, who described what they felt they needed to better their education, one of the pastors that was with us taught the kids Jesus Loves Me, which was awesome to hear. All this was over the course of a couple hours, so the students went back to work with their studies, and we walked on to the second school.

The first school we got all B Roll and some on the fly sound bytes, this second school is interview time. The team and I interviewed three teachers about what they feel is needed to provide a better education for their students. Very powerful hearing these incredibly intelligent people talk about what the future can hold for these children.

We scarf down a quick lunch and then get back at it. We were told of a teacher meeting being held at the educational office not far from us. That's the location of our next few interviews. Time started flying at that point and before I knew it, that was a wrap on the first day.

A couple of side notes. Even though I had been to South Sudan once before, it's almost as if I had heat amnesia. I completely underestimated the heat as we were out in the sun all day. As you'll see in the next couple entries it started to effect the team. The long days and seemingly longer sun are brutal and unforgiving. The other point I want to make is that when I say 'schools' please don't think of cement buildings. These are clay huts hand built with straw and wood roofs. A chalkboard is put in the front and some rough wooden benches hand crafted fill the rest of the room. By benches I also mean, a long branch being held up by two other branches.

Thank you for reading along with my story, be on the lookout for the next Journal Entry in the Yida Series.

Yida - Journal Entry 3

Our Story Continues...

A trusted local and friend got us tickets beforehand for the trip to Yida. Naturally we thought, "Great! We'll just show up and walk in." Nope, the airport as usual was in complete disarray. Finally, walking onto the airstrip, we see our plane. Like mentioned in the previous Journal Entry, none of us knew if this thing would fly or land safely. As I take the steps up into the plane, a sense of unease spreads through my body with what felt like fever chills. Those moments when your hair raises on the back of your neck and you feel that something just isn't quite right. Not that I could place what it is, but something didn't feel right with this situation.

I wasn't the first on the plane, there's already a good bit of people that have boarded. I don't have to walk too far to notice that almost all the seats are full. I think back to just sixty seconds before and remember there are at least eight to ten more people outside waiting to board. This isn't going to work. I grab a seat for myself and notice Jake doesn't have one, they've already run out. Great. The flight attendant (or someone, I didn't really see) brings him a stool so he can sit in the aisle. What?? Then I start hearing commotion and yelling up front. Clearly in arabic and I have no idea what they're saying. After minutes of yelling that seemed to stretch into hours while we sit in no air conditioning in the African heat, I ask Pastor Ismail what they're talking about. He then tells me that he snuck on the plane and didn't have a ticket.

How do you sneak onto a plane with no ticket?? If he could get on here who else could have?? Safe is a feeling I have forgotten how to feel. The man eventually gets kicked off the plane and his spot is filled with a ticket holder. Next, the props start spinning and we are taking off toward Yida, leaving behind half a dozen or more people who couldn't fit on the plane. Rather than think about how unsafe we are, I say a quick prayer and go straight to sleep.

I wake up only once to get some water. The plane has cooled down now that we are in the air. Then I doze off again. Next time I wake up, we're landing. I look out the window to take in the lay of the land. There are huts and tents spread as far as my eye can see. Dozens of people and kids gathered around the landing strip awaiting loved ones coming to see them and strangers to help with their luggage.

Welcome to Yida.

In Yida - Journal Entry 4, I will dive into the production of our feature documentary. I realize this is now the third Journal Entry and we just now have landed in Yida. I appreciate your continued reading and patience, this has all been a set up and will be worth it. I assure you. Be on the lookout next week for the continued story of our journey in Yida.



Yida - Journal Entry 2

First off, thanks to Katie Barber for all the incredible photos that will be featured in this blog series. You can check out more of her work by clicking her name. Also if you're about to read this but haven't read Yida - Journal Entry 1, please do so by clicking here. These will definitely only make sense in order.

Picking up where we left off in Yida - Journal Entry 1, we had just said goodbye to our loved ones and boarded the first flight of the trip. We stayed overnight in the states for a layover. This particular blog will get more detailed and a little bit nerdy at one point.

Here we go:

Last night we had a layover in DC, it was nice having a separation between all the flights. As I got up, a sense of excitement finally started to pour in. The first step of the many-step process to get to Yida has begun.

Our bags were mostly packed already, throwing in the few final things we had taken out the night before doesn't take long. The taxi pulls up, a few minutes later we're back at the airport and boarding a flight to Ethiopia.

It's an interesting feeling flying internationally. Trying to sleep when you know you need to, but losing the sense of when you need to because it's still light outside. It seems like a whole day has skipped passed us because we're traveling 8 hours in the forward. Think back to being a kid, looking out the window as the trees fly by, that's what the sun felt like on this flight. Traveling back, imagine the sun a distant skyline that no matter how fast you're going, it still seems to keep up with you. Daylight stretched an eternity.

A specific Lord of the Rings quote from Gandalf came to mind during all this, "Fly you fools." Don't you worry Gandalf, we did. 14 hours later Ethiopia is floating beneath us, a short layover welcomes us with open arms, then it's time to board a flight to Uganda and then finally, Juba.

The Juba airport is one of the more interesting places I have ever been. It is hectic, it is dirty, it is scary, yet it gives me a weird sensation of familiarity. I wish I could show you pictures or video, but cameras aren't allowed and we weren't about to risk using our phones. As I walk into the dilapidated building, the exterior dry heat turns into a rush of humidity and body odor. It rushes into me like sticking your face into oncoming waves. Again, familiar.

I walk up to the "Non-South Sudanese" window to show the officer my passport and visa. We exchange a few friendly words and he allows me to move on. I show my passport to one more individual that allows me to go to baggage claim (by baggage claim I mean the other side of the same room) where I start to collect the teams bags while they clear customs. Most of the team joins me in being surprised at how smooth things are going. I look around and wonder where is my brother, my fellow freelancer, my friend? Where's Aaron? Just then, Jacob walks up and tells us they aren't letting him through. 

Turns out, he didn't have proof of his vaccinations and the officer was pressing him by saying things like "What are you going to do about it?" "You're going to have to go back and get it." This fear started rising inside me, we JUST landed. Thank God, we are traveling with a highly respected Nuba Mountain Native. Pastor Ismail walked up simply to see if he needed to translate, and the officer allowed Aaron to move on without a second thought. Exhale. I was later informed he likely wanted a bribe. (If you want to read his own personal account of this situation, check it out here. It's crazy.)

After a short drive in the chaotic streets of Juba, we arrive at the compound. This is where we'll be staying until we fly to Yida two days from now. It's already mid-afternoon so we all gladly take the time to rest after what seemed like endless hours of flying. 

The next day, my favorite day before a shoot, Camera Prep. We go through all our gear and make sure we're as organized as we can possibly be. As Jacob and Katie prep their cameras, Aaron and I talk out how we're going to shoot and what filters we are going to use. Here's the nerdy part and what all we landed on.

Yida was shot on:

  • Cameras: A and B Cam Sony A7sii, C Cam Canon 5D Mark iii
  • Lenses: Canon Primes
  • Filters: 2 Sets of ND .9's and ND 1.2's (we ended up staying stacked a lot of the time at a 2.1, 7 stops total #AfricanSun)
  • Picture Profile: SLog2
  • ISO: 1600, 3200
  • FPS: 24p, 60p, 120p

The full Camera Prep, including shooting a mock interview, took the full day. What a great peace of mind though, now I feel much better about the rest of the shoot.

The next day, back to the airport to fly to Yida. Again, nothing but hectic. No lines, no real rules, the flight is overbooked and 3 hours late. Finally, we start walking towards the plane. I take a look at the plane and that similar fear rises again. Sitting in front of us is an old beaten down prop plane with russian words peeling off the side. I'm literally scanning this thing looking for the super glue sticking out of seam points, because I'm fairly sure that's what's holding it together. I look at the rest of the team and we're all thinking the same thing.

"Will this thing even get us off the ground, or worse, will it land?"

Yida - Journal Entry 1

Two years ago I had the opportunity to go to South Sudan to film a documentary, Lost Generation of Sudan, with my good friend at Operation Broken Silence. A lot happened on that trip and looking back, most of it is a blur. Recently taking a trip to South Sudan again, I told myself that I was going to journal the important events, that way I wouldn't forget any details.

I have decided to share my journal entries with you. This was a very trying experience that tested our physical and emotional limits, and I plan to include as many details as I can. 

Let's start at the beginning:

Today is the day, May 22, 2016. It's Sunday morning and I feel like all the anticipation and nerves have accumulated to this point. We're about to fly out of America to the world's newest, and one of the most fragile, countries. I've been through this once before. 2014 to be exact, but things are different now. I've gotten married since then, and when that happened priorities shifted. I can't willie-nillie throw caution to the wind as a young, single, dumb dude without worrying what will happen. All that being said, leaving this time was much more difficult.

Saying goodbye to Bekah, my wife for those who don't know, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. It was one of those moments where the last hug couldn't have lasted long enough. I know what you're thinking though, "Come on bro, it's only like two weeks apart." Well, you're right. But it isn't the time apart that was the hardest thing, it's where we're going and the extreme possibilities of what could happen while we're there. Having limited communication while we're there doesn't help either. Pretty much the only communication we'll be having is daily checkins with a GPS Pinger that says "We're safe." So yeah, maybe I acted like a pansy, but there were very real tears and it was a very hard moment in my life.

We have an overnight stop in the States and then tomorrow morning we fly out internationally.

Next stop, South Sudan.

Yida, South Sudan | Camera Department | Josh Boyd, Aaron Baggett, Jacob Geyer | Photo Courtesy of Katie Barber and Operation Broken Silence

Yida, South Sudan | Camera Department | Josh Boyd, Aaron Baggett, Jacob Geyer | Photo Courtesy of Katie Barber and Operation Broken Silence

Force Wars: A Star Awakens

The new Star Wars movie. Let’s talk about it.

*Some spoilers*


Hands down one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time (ago in a galaxy far, far away). This movie has everything needed to make a lasting impression on the film industry: Solid acting, incredible camera work and image quality, sound design and mixing that basically floored me, and a fulfilling story that still leaves things open ended. The title of this blog will make sense I promise.

Once in awhile films will come out that you just have to see in theaters, this is one of them. It’s the type of art that has the audience applauding, laughing, and crying all at the same time.

First, I want to dive into things I personally noticed and loved about the movie. Then don’t worry tech nerds, we’ll go into the cameras and lenses they used after that.

Force Wars

My wife and I binge watched all six of the previous Star Wars films in a week in preparation of going to see this movie. We had seen them plenty of times, but never watched them with such attention to detail. One thing that caught my eye when watching Episodes I-VI is that the force seems…belittled. That will probably get a few people upset, but hear me out. The ability we have with visual effects and sound design these days allows the force to be captured in such a raw capacity. The first display of the force when we see when Kylo Ren stops a laser blast mid air had my jaw dropped. Between that and when he stops Rey in her tracks, the power of the force was truly represented well in this film in a way that didn’t happen before.

The scene where Poe is in the interrogation chair has to be brought up too, it's super intense and struck me right in the feels. This shows a force we've never dealt with before. 

The other force moment that has to be mentioned is The Force War, that’s what I call the interrogation scene with Kylo Ren and Rey. Huge kudos to the editing and acting of that scene, with zero words it was completely portrayed the feelings and struggles happening within these two characters. Confidence, pain, fear, and a back and forth attack and defense of the force. EXTREMELY well done.

A Star Awakens

Daisy Ridley, Rey, and John Boyega, Finn, blew me away. Yeah, yeah it was good seeing Ford, Fisher, and Hamill, but new stars were born with this film.

As the saga continues I think they will become beloved characters we as a generation will get attached to. In particular, Ridley’s performance I feel is worth mentioning twice, she is a powerhouse on the screen and comes off completely believable. We aren’t given much background of her character and I’m hoping as the movies progress some gaps will be filled in, but I would definitely call her a star for the future.

Tech Stuffz

Nerd alert, in case you have access to my blog but not IMDB, here are some interesting things about the cameras and lenses at play. In summary, this movie is totally killer and I encourage all of you to go see it.

 Budget estimated $200 Million

Worldwide Gross (as of 1/7/16) $1.5 Billion

Shot on:

Imax Msm 9802, Hesselblad Lenses

Panavision Panaflex Millennium XI2, Panavision Primo, C-, E-, G- Series, Atz and Awz2 Lenses