The Stories That Made Me… with Eve Watling

From format, style and imagery, to behind the scenes etiquette, as an aspiring journalist or doc filmmaker you can learn a lot by exposing yourself to a wide range of different work. We asked our Fellows to share the stories that most influenced them.


Throughout the call for applications to the One World Media Fellowship, we will be learning about the stories that most influenced some of our past Fellows. For the next blog of this series, we asked writer, picture editor and OWM Fellow, Eve Watling to share the films, photographs and articles that shaped her storytelling style and the lessons she learned from them.


1. Fantasy informs reality

Derek Jarman •  1993  •  74 mins  •  UK
Blue is the twelfth and final feature film by director Derek Jarman, released four months before his death from AIDS-related complications.

Some stories are so extreme and sad that words and images alone can’t hold their weight. When Derek Jarman, along with many of his friends, was dying of AIDs-related illnesses he responded with Blue, which incorporates diary entries, fantasies, songs and memories into a soundscape played over a blue screen. Even though there are no images, you can understand and experience the horror of the situation far more directly than if it had been a straightforward documentary.


2. Relationships can be everything

Nan Goldin •  1986  •  Photo series  •  USA
A visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between friends, family, and lovers—collectively described by Goldin as her “tribe.”

Spending time to build relationships with people whose story you are telling gets completely different results to just parachuting in and out. Allowing the subjects to see you, and the audience to see you, adds another dimension to presenting a subject fixed under your gaze.


3. Know the limits

Harun Farocki •  1969  •  25 mins  •  Germany
Short film which explores the origins of napalm, its use in the Vietnam war, and its evil effects on society.

Farocki questions how to show viewers the horrors of napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. “When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you’ll shut your eyes,” he says. “You’ll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you’ll close them to the memory. And then you’ll close your eyes to the facts.” Sometimes we have to resist the obvious, automatic visual choices which will flatten the story and dislocate viewers further from reality. Image-based storytelling is powerful but actually very limited, especially when it comes to understanding context.


4. Aesthetic choices help tell a story

Marylise Vigneau •  2012  •  Photo series  •    Cambodia

I first arrived in Phnom Penh, a city I lived for 2.5 years, in 2013, around the same time Marylise was making this photoseries. The city was changing rapidly with mainly Chinese development, spawning a really unique and surreal architectural style. Marylise used really dreamlike and funny compositional and aesthetic choices when she was documenting the changes and how Cambodians were interacting with this new landscape, capturing the strange unreality of these new developments.


5. People are endlessly fascinating

Michael Apted •  1964–  •  Doc series  •  UK
A selection of documentaries following a group of 14 British children from the early 1960s, into adulthood, by catching up with them all at seven year intervals.

This is an example of a simple but perfectly-formed idea which works to the strengths of the medium. Apted chose a number of children and decided to film them every seven years of their lives. Film is a temporal medium so it works really well to see people at seven suddenly jump to 14, and then 21. Nothing spectacular happens – these are ordinary lives – but the cumulative effect is really moving.


Apply to the OWM Fellowship!

The Fellowship supports new talent from around the world to produce engaging and creative media in developing countries. Selected fellows receive a £1000 production grant, one-to-one mentoring and a year-round programme of industry workshops and webinars.


Deadline for entries: 2 April 2020