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May 31, 2013

By Kara Koch

Bangladeshi Filmmaking Program Teaches Kids to Teach us

Kara Koch is the Production Coordinator in Sesame Workshop’s International Creative department. She works on co-productions in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Israel, South Africa, and the Gulf.

Screening and dissecting videos. Writing treatments. Operating a camera, microphone, and light board. Taking written and oral exams.

You might think these are things only college students would be doing in an advanced film course, but if you are a 12-year-old kid in Bangladesh’s Rural Live Action Film Program, they are just the sort of skills you will learn to master in just a few months.

The local team behind Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, has developed and refined this seven-month training program since its inception in 2003. Students are selected from regions all over the country and, with the cooperation of their parents and schools, they are given the opportunity to experience filmmaking in a way often reserved for industry professionals.

After demonstrating their creativity and storytelling ability by way of written questionnaires and in-person interviews, about 20 students are selected to participate in the full production process. They begin by learning how to pitch a story and move on to studying camera angles and shot composition. When the day comes to get out on location, each student literally calls the shots as the director and camera op for his or her film. The rest of the students work as a team and assume on-set responsibilities such as lighting, sound, and props manager. With the help of Sisimpur editors, the students round out the course by learning post-production techniques during a visit to the city of Dhaka.

Drawing on their own backgrounds and personal experiences, these students have created unique films on topics such as craft making, caring for animals, and a variety of cultural foods, festivals, and music. Over 160 films have come out of this program in just 7 seasons of Sisimpur. Every film produced is broadcast in at least one episode of the series – an impressive credit for kids who haven’t even reached high school!

Some filmmakers have even brought the process full circle by returning to help train the next season of students. At Sesame we spend a lot of time trying to tell stories for kids. The Sisimpur team has found a remarkable way to showcase stories by kids. By training and encouraging the next generation of storytellers, it’s no wonder our “longest street” continues to stretch out ahead of us.

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