A Magical Place

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Raj Yagnik

Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

The Muppets


What motivated you to make this film?

Education taken for granted and under-appreciated in richer countries. We wanted to make something upbeat about education, about the way it transforms the lives of those lucky enough to access it. It is magical.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Canon 5D mk3 – we were a small crew and we were also taking stills.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your impact video to help tell your story.

We had seen the popular videos of Zach King on Vine and Youtube. We thought that using these kind of camera tricks might be a way to reach an audience who would not normally engage with the subject matter.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

Because of the nature of this film we had to storyboard everything carefully before departure and test all the camera tricks. It was therefore all the more problematic when our number of shoot days was halved on arrival in South Sudan due to security concerns. We had to cut down the script to film everything in four days.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video. 

This was a difficult shoot. In the area we were working there was an acute food shortage and children at the school were sleepy-tired, and the teachers were hungry too. Whilst it was rewarding to successfully complete the project despite the time constraints, we had very little time to get to know the children we were working with, and it was clear that, although a working school was a huge step forward.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Be clear about your message, try to reach beyond the obvious audience.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Seeing ideas realised on the shoot. Collaborating with amazing people like Shona Hamilton my DoP.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

A dark sense of humour, it is always needed.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

The film was about UNICEF’s ‘Back to Learning’ initiative, which tries to ensure access to education for all children. This is a massive challenge in South Sudan.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

The script was developed over months over patchy Skype conversations, and sporadic emails with an overworked UNICEF office in Juba. When we arrived, not only was the schedule cut down due to security concerns, but our location – chosen for ease of access and greater security – was now in an area without cattle farming. One of the key scenes involved a camera trick where a girl is transformed into a herd of cattle. This was always going to be fiddly, but was suddenly more difficult in an area where only 4 cows were to be found. Suddenly we found ourselves trying to wrangle cows in front of a green screen and keep an angry bull at bay, whilst trying to keep our extras happy and in position. The scene was rescued in post by our great after-effects work, which involved rotoscoping and compositing cows.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

Appreciate school. Understand what education does. Donate to UNICEF, and help more people have access to education.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

Why is school important? Who is missing out on education? What are the results of this? How can we extend universal education?


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Sadly the area around Ayii, where we shot the film, is currently in conflict and the school is closed. I have not been able to get up to date information about Eunice and Nelson who starred in the film.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Support UNICEF. Share the film. Appreciate education. Advocate for aid for universal education.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:




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