University of Miami students personify United Nations Millennium Development Goals in documentary project “My Story, My Goal”

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In an effort to give voices to those targeted by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, executive producers Rich Beckman and Tom Kennedy sent 14 young journalists from the University of Miami around the world with a mission to encapsulate arguably the most complex and ambitious humanitarian feats of our lifetime.

With only two weeks in the field to adequately document the situation, seven teams of two Miami storytellers partnered with students at partner universities to collaborate on the research, filming and translations of each story for the project, “My Story, My Goal,” which was funded by the Knight Center for International Media.

“This was a truly international cooperation of students of all ages coming together to tell what they as native citizens believed was an important story in their home country,” student Lauren Santa Cruz wrote me.

In January, the students began researching the story topics to determine their game plan such as shooting techniques and strategies. The filming took place in March and the post production consumed the last three months.

“The most challenging part was definitely the language barrier and having to translate and transcribe everything before editing the piece for English speakers,” Lauren said.

Tom, former managing editor of multimedia at The Washington Post, served as an editing coach during the post production.

“The obvious challenge was to determine if the material was good enough to tell the story that they were trying to tell,” he said.

He admitted that a lot of post production edits had to be made “on the fly” to rearrange scenes and even change the fundamental character in one story. Of the seven videos, Tom liked several different ones for specific reasons noting that those shot in Sierra Leone and Nigeria had the best quality footage, whereas those in Thailand and Hong Kong had the strongest story lines.

In addition to the seven individual stories, several students integrated all of the footage into a nearly 27-minute documentary. One student who helped produce the feature-length film, Nick Maslow, emailed me saying that “the documentary was by far the most challenging, rewarding and eye-opening project I’ve ever attempted.”

My personal favorite was the story “Where Every Pregnancy is a Gamble” by producers Lauren Malkani and Ami Vitale. I also really enjoyed the feature-length documentary, and was surprised at how they were able to seamlessly integrate seven drastically different topics from opposite ends of the globe into a tightly-edited narrative. That, in my opinion, proves the importance of a strongly written script.

During the post production, web designer Nick Harbaugh perused countless websites to determine the right look and feel for these stories.

“Our desire was to build an experience that would really give you the feel of having been to these countries and heard the stories with your own ears,” he wrote.

Nick said that the programming and design of the site was “slow going at times” since they had to learn many of the programming concepts needed in real-time.

I like how they played up the photos large on the homepage and fit all of the navigation around the edges of the screen. One room for improvement, though, would be to use more descriptive headers for their content rather than distinguishing it just by media type (video-graphics-photo).

As Tom heads to Syracuse University to begin teaching and Rich continues to build his multimedia community in Miami and around the world, it excites me to know that regardless what happens in the media industry these types of large-scale student projects will continue to inspire us. I hope you can find some time to watch a story or two from this site – you won’t be disappointed!


Home page photo credit: Lauren Santa Cruz

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  • World10

    The story produced by Lauren Malkani and Ami Vitale offered the most detailed and seamless narrative of the forgotten struggles that women face in that part of the world. Bravo.

  • World10

    The story produced by Lauren Malkani and Ami Vitale offered the most detailed and seamless narrative of the forgotten struggles that women face in that part of the world. Bravo.

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