With the right skills and knowledge, anyone with a smartphone is capable of producing professional video packages. But for one group of Syrian refugees who recently learned to do so, having this ability has enabled them to do so much more than simply shooting and editing footage on their mobile devices.
Imran Azam, founder of thisisREEL.co and organiser of The Art of Smartphone Filming Meetup group, taught a class of 15 Syrian refugees in Amsterdam earlier this month how to use different apps and storytelling techniques to make video packages on their iOS and Android devices.
He said that mobile journalism skills are helping refugees find their voices and tell their stories in their own words, amidst the coverage of the refugee crisis produced by mainstream media.
"There's always been a desire to want to approach the refugee community," he told Journalism.co.uk in a recent podcast.
"If you know how to use a smartphone properly, it can be a means by which you can improve you personal situation – and what better way to be able to do that than to be able to tell your story using video, the most popular content medium at the moment?"
The participants had not undertaken any video training before, so over four hours, they received tuition ranging from a step-by-step practical lesson in shooting sequences and shots with their phone's native camera to editing using apps, before heading out trying to produce their own content.
"My objective is for them to realise that to be technically able to produce stories is the easy bit – the actual difficult bit is to be able to see their stories in video form and to shoot accordingly.
"What really surprised them was going from having not ever done it to actually having filmed, edited and produced a 30-second film within three to four hours."
People in the group were paired together, and with the theme of 'Let me introduce you to my friend', they interviewed each other and made a video about their partner.
"They were encouraged to be as creative and crazy as they wanted to be," said Azam.
"Of all the groups I have taught, this group of refugees were the most focused and had the greatest motivation... I wouldn't be surprised if I start seeing content produced by these guys that really helps their situation, whether it be entrepreneurial or something for people to understand who they are."
He explained that "refugees have the tools to wrench back control", noting that if they don't tell their story, then someone else will, which may not be accurate or even the exact story they want told.
Azam will continue to travel across the UK and a number of European cities to share free smartphone, filmmaking and video content creation skills, and would encourage organisations working with refugees around the world to get in touch.
The next Art of Smartphone Filming Meetup event takes place in London on 7th September, where Imran will be discussing Snapchat Storytelling for Business.
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