New Project: The IRC in Tucson

I’m starting a new project about the International Rescue Committee (the “IRC”) in Tucson, Arizona. The project is a documentary on the work that the IRC does, and will involve filming a Bhutanese refugee who now lives in Tucson.

Here’s a concept board that I put together after speaking with the IRC last week (click image for a larger version):

In an introductory meeting with the IRC, we spent some time discussing the project, what points were important to highlight and which elements we could omit or minimize. I resorted to my low-tech method of writing ideas on post-its as we spoke, and then slapping them on a large foam-core board. We then moved the post-its around, took them off, grouped them together, rearranged, etc as we homed in on our ideas. It’s low-tech, but effective. To bring things back to the Twenty-First Century, I snapped a photo of the final post-it arrangement on my iPhone.

The above sketch is what I developed after looking back over the final post-it arrangement. Interpretation:

  • The story will span past, present and future
  • Much of the drama occurred in the past: the 2 “journeys” that our protagonist experienced (from home to a refugee camp, and then after some years in the camp, from the refugee camp to Tucson, AZ). But these journeys will not be the focus of the project.
  • The focal point of this project will be the protagonist’s 3rd journey, which is more of an emotional journey than a physical journey. The protagonist has arrived in a foreign land (the desert vs. the mountains of Bhutan), amidst a new culture, surrounded by a new language, strange people and new customs. His challenge is to adapt to his new homeland.
  • In effect, the final journey is his effort to “return” to the comfort and familiarity of his old home — by building a new home in Tucson, AZ. The protagonist will need to replace strange things with familiar things, piece-by-piece, as he moves from the present into the future. The IRC tells me that many refugees find this final step of replacing their old lives with new lives the most traumatic of the three journeys that refugees take. The IRC’s program that I’ll profile helps in that effort by “returning” the refugees to their identity as farmers working the land together as a community, growing food.
  • At the bottom I’ve began laying in ideas about how I’ll communicate the storyline in imagery and sound. More on this later.

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