For those of you that don’t know, my job takes me everywhere. I’ve gone all over the world to do work with film. Sometimes those places are luxurious countries, and sometimes they’re a little more dangerous. I don’t back down from a challenge, so when I was given the opportunity back in 2012 to go to Mali, I took it.
Back in those days, Mali was struggling with an armed combat. I remember it well. Getting into the country to our shoot was interesting. I never remember feeling that worried because we were far enough south to be out of the way of the conflict, but you could still feel the conflict in the air everywhere you went.
Besides the fighting, though, the country was fantastic. There were so many people doing so much. Their cultures were brilliant and very different from everything that I had come to expect after living in America for so long. I really tried my best to see everything and get a real taste of the culture and the people.
Unfortunately, that also meant getting a taste of the tragedies that people were coping with. I was there with a company that was trying to get a new kind of stethoscope off the ground. The product was incredibly cool, but why it was needed broke my heart. The Ebola virus, which travels so quickly, means that equipment that touches the patients is tainted with the virus (more info about this topic can be found here).
For something like the stethoscope, this already poses problems because it’s hard to use over the gear that they had to use in the areas with patients. So this company was trying to develop something that didn’t put the doctor in harm’s way but allowed them to deal with a patient’s vital signs so that they could receive the treatment that they needed.
My job for this company was to record them dealing with the struggles and show the good work that they were managing to get done in this place. I mean, it was hard not to see the good work that they were doing when it was right in front of me.
So I spent roughly a month with this group as they were trying to use this product out in the field. I recorded their lives, the lives of the patients that they were treating, the families of the patients, those that were affected by the outbreak of Ebola.
At times, I was definitely afraid. Not just for myself, but for them. When you’re in those enclosed spaces, you really feel for everyone around you. We watched people pass away, and we watched people heal. It was an emotional rollercoaster that I still think about, years later.
But even once I was done with the filming, and I was back in the states and taking the footage and putting together the documentary for the company, I felt those emotions flood back. I had been a witness, and while I was doing something for a company that was trying to fix the situation, I still felt like only a witness in the situation.
It’s a hard line to deal with at times, the line of what I have to do as a professional and the line of what I have to do as a person. The work I do doesn’t come without its problems. I film things, but I don’t get involved in them, even in the situation in front of me is such a tragedy. Sometimes, it’s easy to put yourself on one side of the camera and not the other. And there are some jobs that really make me reconsider the line of work that I ended up in.
At times, there’s nothing that I can do beyond keep my camera rolling and at least catch on film the things that are going on around me. But when I get the chance to do more, I want to do more. Unfortunately in Mali, because I was working with a medical company, all I could do was film. At times, I would offer support to the families that were suffering, but there wasn’t much more that I could do. Since that trip, I have strived to do everything that I can for those that I see suffering whether it is with my work on my own.