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Majestic Mountains and Goat Poo – the Highs and Lows of filming in Malang, Indonesia

Two cameras, three guys, four days and a whole bag of memories. Two Year 2 students from the Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media (DTVM) accompanied their lecturer to the Indonesian city of Malang from 26 to 30 March 2014, to film a project by SP students. They managed to record the activities on tape but the experience, complete with the smell of dung, was captured in their minds. Here’s why.

The big challenge

On the surface, their mission seemed no different from what they would have done in Singapore - to follow a group of students for a few days and film their activities. It sounded simple enough, but in practice, it was anything but simple.

Over four days, Rishiikantan s/o Vijayahkumar and Jasper Yeo filmed the activities of three groups of students in three separate locations in Malang. They were tasked to film significant events and edit the footage into video clips, which would then be uploaded to the official website and Facebook page of Singapore Polytechnic's international Social Innovation Programme, Learning Express.

Rishi said “I think the hardest part was trying to capture the right moments. We can’t capture everything that happens in Malang. We really have to pick out the moments that best capture whatever that is happening at the particular time. So that was a challenge as it is unpredictable. You have to be sharp and keep a constant lookout for anything interesting, because if you miss it then the moment is gone.

His classmate, Jasper, agrees.

“Besides that, there’s also the language barrier. We don't know what the interviewee is saying. Thankfully, our lecturer, Mr Esman, was able to help us with translation and he also guided us through the filming process.

Mr Esman Supaat was with Jasper and Rishi throughout the shoot. He also pointed out that another challenge was the travelling time from one location to another. It took longer than expected because of the constant heavy traffic and single-lane highway. Actually, the city had no traffic lights.

This is why Mr Esman’s motto for the trip was “Expect the unexpected and try to predict the unpredictable.”

For a start, the crew brought only the lighter equipment so that they can move from place to place easily .

Jasper and Rishi using lightweight filming equipment

Mr Esman said “We used a lighter monopod that was much faster to deploy. We also arranged for our own transport to travel to the three different locations.”

The real work

The three-men crew, who had worked together on a separate project in Singapore last year, joined the group of SP students in Malang towards the end of their two-week trip. The students, all from different diploma programmes, were taking part in the Overseas Social Innovation Project (OSIP). Over the course of two weeks, they lived and worked with the locals, including their peers from the local university, to come up with solutions to make everyday life easier.

The students' projects included modifying a tuber-peeling machine, as well as the packaging for a local product to make it last longer. One group also worked on ways to improve methods of rearing goats. This is why the students spent time with the goats and took in the sights and smells of goat farming.

The goat farm

Same but different

For the DTVM students, who already had a taste of SIP in school, observing the projects left an impact because it was familiar yet different.

Jasper said “Learning Express is like an outdoor classroom where students can gain experience and knowledge through hands-on practice and planning. It is definitely great as students get to interact with the locals, find out about the problems and come up with solutions or easier methods for the locals to carry out their daily work. Above all, the students get to witness what the locals go through and they can relate to them, and think out of the box.”

“I think this is pretty cool because in SIP, we merely just scratched the surface of Design Thinking by building prototypes for “problems”. But here, it’s like the real deal. You meet the people who are facing the problems, and they spend days just staying with the villagers to see things from their perspectives, which I think, is just brilliant.” said Rishi.

Mr Esman feels that all DTVM students should give OSIP a shot.

He explained “The immersion with the local villagers is far more enriching than I expected. Many students felt humbled at how the villagers rallied behind the programme and offered a lot more than what they could afford.”

Natural wonders

The takeaway for the students came in many forms. Although they were prepared for the job in terms of skills and practice, filming in Malang was just a different experience.

The students noted that the people in Malang seemed more open to being on camera. The backdrop of mountains and villages was refreshingly different.

Rishi said “The villages were so beautiful and they all had their own plantations. We also visited a really huge waterfall, which was a magnificent sight.”

Jasper and Rishi at a waterfall

Jasper couldn’t agree more.

“I love nature and being able to see some of the greatest natural landscapes such as Mount Bromo and the waterfall in Mount Semeru, is really cool. I am already thinking of visiting Malang again, as well as different parts of Indonesia, very soon!”

Rest and relax

Besides filming, the crew managed to squeeze in a bit of dining and shopping while in Malang.

Jasper said, “I have to say that the food in Indonesia is great for those who love spicy dishes.  I'm not one of them, but eating at A&W for the first time of my life was definitely a great moment for me!”

For Rishi, he had a special name for the Malang trip - “The One with the First”.

This is because he did many things for the first time.

Rishi, Mr Esman and Jasper took a selfie at
a waterfall

“From flying in a plane to having A&W for meals, it was a very eye-opening experience. Of course the trip would not have been fun if it had not been for Mr Esman and Jasper. These two guys were the best and it felt like a really cool “guys day out” kind of thing.”