March 8, 2010

Burma VJ: How Connor made it to the Oscars!

From Plugs
Last year at Sundance I was presented with a unique opportunity. I was assigned to record the filmmaker interview series for X96's "Radio From Hell Show." Kerry, Bill and Gina were broadcasting live from Sundance on two days of the week and broadcasting recorded interviews the rest of the week. It was my job to put the interviews on video for broadcast on youtube.

Although none of the videos I made actually ended up on youtube, (I'm still not sure why) I got to fraternize with many filmmakers, actors and even some talent managers. The most important of them all however, was director Andres Ostergaard of the documentary film "Burma VJ" currently nominated for an Academy Award. The film was getting it's premiere screening at Sundance the day I met him and he was in need some some emergency services.

Before I get into the story however, if you haven't seen "Burma VJ," it's about a squadron of underground video journalists in Burma, a closed country in terms of media. Nothing goes in or out without going through a government censor. It is the job of these amateur VJ's to document real life in Burma and smuggle the tapes to the outside world to raise awareness of the oppression and violence within the country.

Apparently the festival cut of his film was not satisfactory enough for him, so Andres decided to make some last minute tweaks before the screening. Although he was happy with what his editor had put together, the previously recorded narration from the star of the film (his name must be kept secret to ensure his safety) did not satisfy the needs of the story. In other words, the images on the screen needed some explanation in order to make sense to the audience.

This is where I come in. Because we were a radio station, Andres assumed we would have recording equipment with which to record his much needed narration. We did, in fact, have the equipment he needed, but it was being used to record interviews and wasn't available. Luckily, I brought my laptop and my USB audio interface and upon hearing this, Andres and I began to look for a place to record.

Radio From Hell was broadcasting from the Harley Davidson shop in Park City, which is very open and echoey, but I managed to find a closet filled with T-Shirts that made a great makeshift recording studio. I set up my laptop and interface and gave the star of the film (The Burma VJ himself) a microphone.

Using GarageBand he recorded several takes of his new narration and I exported the files to my hard drive. Andres gave me his email address and I promptly emailed him the audio files. I'm not sure if the audio I recorded ever ended up in any subsequent cuts of the film but it was definitely in the premiere screening at Sundance which is very exciting.

Although "Burma VJ" did not win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the very fact that it was nominated and I participated in some way, however small, to the process makes me feel wonderful about the things I could do for any film from any part of the world.

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