For example, for a 10-20 minute feature, I had approximately 2 days to shoot, 1 day to edit and 1 night to write the script.
If you're not familiar with documentary work, that is madness. A 20-minute feature on international TV channels would take about a year (or more) to complete a story and here we are, getting everything done in under a week.
I usually end up coming home late and not sleeping at night just to meet the deadline. During those period of sheer madness, I hardly see my kids too. Thank God Mer is able to help out (had to sacrifice his working hours though).
Most recently, in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month, I did a feature on Autism. The main idea was to do a story about 'gifted autistic kids.'
I wanted viewers to be amazed and inspired by these special people while creating awareness about it. That was my goal.
I approached two NGOs - NASOM and Yayasan FAQEH.
Via FAQEH, I discovered that the founder's 14-year-old son has a special gift.
And via NASOM, it was more difficult to decide because there were a few characters shortlisted. I finally decided to feature Hazim - the 20-year-old college student who learns foreign languages solely through YouTube.
The shoot took 4 days and what was initially supposed to be a 20-min feature ended up being a full 1-hour documentary about these gifted individuals.
I must say it was a different experience doing this story because I feel it. As a parent of a special child, I learned a lot.
I can't deny that I worry about Raees' future. He's almost 7 years old and we never had a proper 2-way conversation with him. Then I found out, these individuals I featured only began stringing sentences and conversing properly at 9-10 years old.
And looking at how amazing they turn out to be, I have faith and confidence that Raees' future will be OK. It may be challenging but I know there's hope.
So did I achieve my goal with this feature? Were viewers amazed by these specials individuals? Yes. Did their story inspire others? Yes.
But I think I achieved more than that. It made me look Autism in a bigger picture. It gave me hope. It gave me strength. And I believe many other parents like me felt the same.
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