Photo © Katrina Greeves

Marissa on assignment in Tanzania

Our 2018 Travel Film Scholarship winner travels from her home in Costa Rica to Tanzania to go on assignment with professional filmmaker Brian Rapsey.

Marissa shares with us the lessons she learned while filming the communities of Tanzania. 

As soon as the plane landed in Tanzania, tears ran down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe one of my dreams was about to come true. Everything was so familiara clear sky full of stars, the wind blowing in my face, the dry weather, the scents, the people’s warmthexcept for one thing, the experience I was about to live.

When I met Brian, it was late at night, so we didn’t have much time to talk. The next day, I confessed to him that I was frightened and stressed out about the documentary. I didn’t completely apprehend the idea of the story, nor did I have much experience as a filmmaker.

There were so many technical concepts that I did not understand, after all, everything I had learned had been through trial and error and YouTube tutorials. Brian looked at me and said, “The reason you’re here is not because of your technical abilities, it’s because you know how to tell a story and have the passion to make other people connect to it too.” 

Marissa filmming a woman making clay pots
Marissa filming at Safe Water Ceramics, an Anza supported start-up. Photo credit: Katrina Greeves

Lesson #1: Passion is key

It wasn't until this moment with Brian that I had understood the first of many lessons. Although I had not studied filmmaking, I knew I had the drive for telling stories. Techniques and visuals are important, but they are nothing without an appealing story. You can have high-quality visuals, but if you don’t have a story, you really don’t have anything.

Lesson #2: Practice makes the master

The second lesson appeared on the third day. Brian’s mentorship went beyond my expectations, it was an actual hands-on mentorship; nothing I had ever witnessed before. He showed me how to get different shots from various angles in such creative ways. When I wasn’t getting the shots I wanted, Brian told me "you get the shots you want with practice".

We all start from the bottom and as we grow, we eventually get to the top after a lot of effort, practice and determination. If I wanted amazing shots practice was going to make me the master.

Marissa asking a woman in a pink top questions while Brian films
Marissa and Brian interviewing Victoria from Datasky, an Anza supoorted start-up. Photo credit: Katrina Greeves

Lesson #3: Connect with people

The third lesson was persistent throughout the entire scholarship. I realized the difficulty of conducting a real and sincere interview. I was asking questions in an intense and journalistic manner, but Brian explained the importance of connecting with the people and genuinely feeling and understanding what they’re saying.

Sometimes we forget to listen. Connecting with others is about being "all ears" on the subject. There were moments when Brian and I were interviewing someone, and we caught each other’s eyes and laughed because we knew we had obtained such a genuine and beautiful answer.

For me, one of the most beautiful moments of the scholarship was meeting and connecting with the locals, understanding their culture and listening to their stories. It makes you empathetic and humane. Everyone you meet in life has something to teach you and the best part of the journey is the people you meet along the way.

Lesson #4: Pole pole

The most important lesson I learned was pole pole (meaning “slowly” in Swahili). When I heard the meaning of pole pole during my first time in Africa, it made a huge impact in my life, and this time I had to apply it quite a lot for the editing process. Editing was one of the best, yet most frustrating experiences of my life.

I had to surrender to the idea of a slow-paced process. Even though I wanted the final product, I had to go through all the stages of editing to get to where I actually wanted to be, and the comprehension of this lesson was pretty pole pole for me.

Marissa sitting in front of a laptop and monitor, editing her film
Marissa editing in Tanzania. Photo credit: Katrina Greeves

Lesson #5: Learn to fall in love with the process

Everything in life is a process and it can be frustrating, but just as you embrace the laughter and knowledge, embrace the frustration and confusion as they come. Although I thoroughly enjoy editing, there were days when I was completely fed up with it, but with Brian’s constant support I learned how to fall in love with both the tedious and exciting parts of the process.

No matter how professional we are or how much we think we know about a topic, we never stop learning and that makes us grow both personally and professionally. At the end of the day, life is an unknown path and a non-stop learning process, we just have to learn how to enjoy the ride.

Marissa filming as a group of people look on
Marissa filming with Kate from OneSeed Expeditions and Katrina from World Nomads. Photo credit: Brian Rapsey

Lesson #6: Live in gratitude

I am beyond grateful for World Nomads, Brian and his constant support, the whole production crew, and the great friend of mine who tagged me on the scholarship’s post. This experience taught me more than any course could have. I feel more confident and prepared as an independent filmmaker than ever before.

To anyone out there reading this and wanting to apply, don’t hesitate. I honestly never thought I’d actually win, but I applied because I knew I had nothing to lose. Before applying I remember watching the 2017 winner’s interview and reading his article at least 10 times (Jigar if you’re reading this, I’m a fan of yours). It gave me so much motivation to apply because deep down I thought there was a tiny possibility that I could win too

Even though I didn’t have much experience as a filmmaker, I knew this opportunity was for aspiring filmmakers and I definitely was an aspiring filmmaker eager to learn. If there’s one last lesson I learned, it would be...

Lesson #7:

Find your passion and hold on to it, because with hard work and effort, dreams do come true.

Could you be our 2019 Travel Film Scholarship winner? Learn more about the opportunity.