I started out in radio. Living and working in a cafe/gallery in Liverpool by day and by night making little radio features that went out on the local radio station.
Many of the stories I recorded would be of the customers who came into the cafe. They got me noticed and within a couple of years I was making radio documentaries for the BBC. After ten years of doing that, including running a charity for the BBC in Ethiopia, I decided to set up duckrabbit. The initial idea was to work with still imagery and documentary audio. Something we called photofilms. But slowly I got sucked into making films. Our big break was a major TV campaign for OXFAM shot in Zimbabwe and a 3D campaign we shot for Doctors Without Borders in the Congo. Since then we've not looked back.
Heartfelt, intensely personal storytelling. When you watch a duckrabbit film you should get a sense that the person has really given something of themselves. Topped with a bit of visual bling. But really, story is everything.
Telling the stories of people whose voices might not otherwise be heard. Young women like Daphine in the film we made for The International HIV and AIDS Alliance.
There's this moment when the person you’ve made the film with watches it back. It's really exciting but it's also terrifying. When you get it right and have done justice to their story, that's magic.
A good storyteller. Who is open and honest and surprising. In film a strong visual element really helps. Interesting action. But most of all someone that makes people laugh or makes people cry.
People are more important than films. Tread gently and kindly and you'll be fine.
I think you can get uniquely close to someone by looking into their eyes. From being thrown into their world, and out of yours, if only for a moment. That’s very special.
A couple of years ago we were asked to make a film for one of the Queen’s charities. We were working in Northern Kenya with a Eye specialist called Dr called Rono. He has helped develop a smartphone app that can be used to diagnose eye problems in remote places where there's no easily accessible health clinics. It was such a buzz to film people diagnosed with the app, taken for surgery and then the next day witness their bandages coming off. I’ll never forget the smiles of people whose sight was returned to them by this amazing doctor.
When he started at the hospital he worked alone with just one nurse, treating fifteen people a day. But slowly he built a team and last year they treated twenty thousand people for avoidable blindness. For me Dr Rono is a great example of how by caring about the people around you, being motivated and working hard, you can have an incredible impact in this world. I came away inspired and I keep a photo of him next to my desk.
Make friends with other filmmakers and collaborate. It’s the quickest way to learn. Get yourself a really good pair of shoes. Finally, dream a lot.
Last year I went on the filmmaker Werner Herzogs Rogue Film School (a man who claims he never dreams). It was very intense and eye opening. Herzog is a great. His passion comes through in everything he does. I think his most important mantra is 'Do The Doable'. I printed that out and stuck it on my desk.
See more of Benjamin's work on the duckrabbit website.
After cycling from Alaska to Argentina, Gregg landed in Bogota where his love for film, photography & storytelling led him to starting up his own visual storytelling agency. We caught up with Gregg to learn more about what it takes to become a great visual storyteller.
Award-winning documentary filmmaker Maranatha Hay shares her experience shooting in Managua, Nicaragua as well as her tips for budding documentary makers.