Ecovisions in Malawi


In June 2021, Spectacle had the opportunity to work with Dr. Michelle Nicholson-Sanz and provide video training for the participants in her innovative Young Ecovisions project

Dr. Nicholson-Sanz is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London . 

During the pandemic she launched a call for young people around the world to share their ecovision – an idea for how to improve their environment and engender greater sustainability in their community. Four finalists were selected, two from India, one from Malawi, and one from England. 

Fanny Chidoola from Lilongwe, Malawi whose Ecovision was selected

Dr. Nicholson-Sanz reached out to Spectacle as the second half of this ambitious project began: developing the ecovision of the finalist from Malawi, Fanny Chidoola. In order to realise Fanny’s ecovision, she partnered with Malawian forestry science student Khumbo Matemba. Fanny and Khumbo would be mentored by Dr Nicholson-Sanz to stage a theatrical performance to encourage the stakeholders in their area to realise the changes needed. The performance would be filmed and this material, as well as further footage collected by participants, would become a final short film detailing the ecovision and it’s progress.

As Dr. Nicholson-Sanz lives in Kent, England, the actual filming would need to be done by the participants on the ground in Malawi, and with a limited budget the participants would be making the most of the camera they already had in their hands in the form of a smartphone. 

Participants were able to upgrade the capacity of their smartphone with tripods and additional memory cards. 


Spectacle has been developing a training programme for just such remote smartphone based video research projects. Anyone who has tried knows, it can be difficult to achieve good quality videos on a smartphone, and even more difficult to record footage which can be easily edited. Through a series of participatory workshops, Spectacle worked to upgrade the capabilities of the participants’ smartphones affordably, and offered clear guidance on best practices and filming techniques. 

Participants such as Fanny Chidoola learned to film interviews
Demonstrating how to achieve good exposure using a smartphone 


By the end of the workshop series, the participants felt ready to use their smartphones to record the performances, instruct others on how to get the best results from their smartphones, and already had recorded a good bit of quality footage of self interviews, location footage, and interviews with other stakeholders on the ground. 

Khumbo Matemba reviews framing and technique of a self-shot interview 


We are very excited to see the final short film from Dr. Nicholson-Sanz’s Young Ecovisions project when it premiers. 

If you are running or considering starting a participatory video project, consider the possibilities of Spectacle’s training workshops for your participants or yourself. We conduct our training remotely, in almost any timezone, and using any equipment available from smartphones to camcorders. We have worked with hundreds of academics, researchers, and community organisations and received very positive feedback on our approach and the results that our trainees can achieve with their cameras after just a few workshops. 

Participants such as learned to film location and action shots in their town

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Collaborate on a Participatory Project

 

Participatory Training & Production Hybrid 

Are you an NGO or Community Centre or organisation looking to include your participants in the making of compelling videos addressing their interests and concerns? Why not engage them in a participatory video project? Spectacle has successfully adopted collaborative documentary making models for over 40 years, including award-winning participatory documentaries that have been broadcast on national and international television. We can design hybrid training-production programmes which will give you the best aspects of a collaboratively-directed film combined with professional quality production. 

We offer:

1) Training in shooting and editing film for you and/or your participants

2) Our professional shooting and editing services 

3) A final short film and a fast turn around participatory project 

Why Participatory? 

Because every community is different, there is no single participatory process model. The goal is to create a space which is open to equal participation, sharing, and creating for a community. By giving artistic and editorial control to non-professionals, the final results are vibrant and multifaceted. The participatory video process centres the lived experiences of many people. 

The benefits this can offer from a research standpoint are obvious. Whether you want to understand people’s experiences or just build community, a participatory project can be a joyful experience of co-creation and co-authorship of knowledge and art.

Spectacle has a long history of participatory work. From Germany to Colombia and across the UK we have led, co-led, and facilitated participatory film groups and workshops both in person and online for groups of all shapes and sizes. 

Why Spectacle?  

For over 40 years Spectacle has worked with groups that want to begin participatory projects. From setting up community video groups to facilitating ESRC funded participatory research projects. Further we’ve run workshops for people around the world online and in person and trained hundreds of people in our methods. 

Spectacle is an award winning independent television production company specialising in documentary, community-led, investigative journalism and participatory media. Spectacle’s documentary work has been broadcast and exhibited internationally. We have produced work on commission for clients including Amnesty International, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Howard League for Penal Reform, Council of Europe, Groundwork, the London Health Commission, the NHS, Big Local and the Wellcome Trust.

As well as undertaking productions, Spectacle runs short, sharp, affordable training courses and community based media workshops. We believe our courses are the best around, largely based on the exceptional feedback we have received from the hundreds of people we have trained over the years.

We are a small, socially-minded company, our training and commissioned work income supports our unfunded community based work. 

How do I begin a participatory video project?

We are offering a bundle of services that will guide your staff through a specifically designed programme of training and production based on your video project. There are many options for how we could design your programme together. We can accommodate any time zone where your participants might be located. 

We can offer practical workshops on video making. These bespoke training workshops can be tailored to the needs of the client including: a variety of cameras including smartphones, DSLRs, camcorders, etc; visual storytelling including storyboarding or idea generation; filming techniques guaranteed to generate quality footage.

We can teach you how to teach your participants to film, and how to run your own participatory project. 

Travel permitting, Spectacle can assist you in your real shoot. You will have complementary equipment (second camera, audio recording, lights) and extra crew if needed. 

We can train you on how to effectively use video editing software, sitting together in front of your project to get the editing process started. 

If you want professional editing, we can finalise your video with the possibile option of drop-in editing sessions.

Finally, we can guide you through uploading and promoting it on your social networks and media platforms.

We can facilitate this entire process from beginning to end, give you the skills to run it yourself, or any hybrid in between. 

Read more about our participatory model and past projects.

Contact Us

For more information or to chat about your project and ideas email us at training@spectacle.co.uk 

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Spectacle Master Class on Participatory Video

Spectacle has been invited to give a Master Class at the Italian National School of Participatory Video and Documentary Cinema.

This is the second year this School has run. The School consists of five intensive online weekends from February 26 to March 27. The public is welcome to join online film screenings. For those that sign up to the school the films will be followed by live debates on different facets of participatory video making. These courses will walk viewers down a path of shared audiovisual production practices, and seek to find together new ways to show reality.

The school will gather over 70 passionate documentary makers who embrace participatory tools and methods. Tutors will include Angelo Loy, Aline Hervé, Marco Damilano, Andrea Segre, Stefano Collizzolli, Davide Crudetti, Martina Tormena, Lucia Pornaro, Aline Hervé, Sergio Marchesini, Alberto Cagol, Sara Zavarise, Giulia Campagna, Maud Corino, and Chiara Tringali

Following a screening of The Truth Lies in Rostock, Mark Saunders and Michele De Laurentiis will discuss the film and invite participants to think about how participatory video can be a journalistic tool for community led investigative documentaries. 

The film will be screened live on Facebook and you can find a link here. 

The School is run by ZaLab is an association of filmmakers and social workers based in Padua, Italy. ZaLab promotes advocacy campaigns aimed to spread democracy and minority rights, especially through a grassroots distribution network.They focus on promoting their documentaries through independent and non commercial distribution.

Remote Participatory Video in Medellin, Colombia

Spectacle has been at the forefront of Participatory Video (PV) practice and community engagement for more than thirty years. We continue to innovate and during the last 9 months we have developed a model for delivering Participatory Video workshops remotely.

Reinventada, a participatory video project for LSE

The Project

Spectacle is currently a partner in a research project developing a groundbreaking remote PV method. The research project Reinventada is funded by the London School of Economics (LSE) Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund (KEI). It investigates the condition of displaced and migrant women, especially mothers and heads of household, living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Medellin (Colombia).

The Garcia sisters, Celmira and Elicenia

The research was initially planned to produce a participatory documentary on women’s ‘right to the city’ in Medellin. However, as soon as the pandemic crisis exploded, being well aware that women are amongst the most affected groups of people during emergencies and disasters, we were able to create a remote participatory project that investigates the impact of COVID-19 on participants’ everyday lives in poorer areas of the city. 

The Beginning

Started in May 2020, the project was originally planned to be conducted face-to-face, but was forced online due to the pandemic. It is led by dr. Sonja Marzi, the Principal Investigator from the Department of Methodology at LSE, as well as supported on the ground by two Colombian partners: Maria Fernanda Carrillo, a sociologist and filmmaker, and Lina Maria Zuluaga, anthropologist.

Dr. Sonja Marzi, Principal Investigator of the project

The aim of this research project is to create a documentary filmed and edited by the women themselves to depict their daily lives during the pandemic. 

Online Participatory Video

We began initially by training the participants on how to best use web platforms and available technology. We set up weekly ‘Zoom’ meetings that served as an online space for workshops on filming techniques and how to use their smartphones to capture high quality video. Zoom meetings became the workshop space where all production and editorial decisions were discussed and made in consensus. The production meetings are chaired by participants on a rotating basis. We discussed film content, planned shoots, reviewed and critiqued the footage together, and collaborated on editing the final documentary.

Demetria, chairing a meeting

The groundbreaking project has successfully adapted Spectacle’s Participatory Video methods and techniques to an online environment. The short documentary Reinventadas was released at the end of 2020 and premiered in film festivals in 2021. 

Collaborative editing process

Visit our vimeo channel to see examples of Spectacle’s past PV work.

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