Alexandria Bombach (director/cinematographer/editor) has made two features focused on war and genocide. She shares her insights on ways to protect your subjects who have suffered trauma, as well as approaches to taking care of yourself while you're processing difficult footage in the edit.

Key Insights

  • Choosing to work with difficult material demands additional layers of responsibility in how you handle your topic, particularly when dealing with subjects who have experienced trauma. 
  • It's imperative to create space for your subject and to always respect their boundaries as you film. Asking permission and clarifying your intentions throughout the process are key as you collaborate with your subject. 
  • As the filmmaker, your role is to be conscious at all times about how and why you’re telling a particular story. There is a difference between bringing a story to light, and telling a story for sensationalism. Make sure you are approaching your subject(s) with respect and dignity.
  • Editing is an emotional process. When you’re dealing with difficult material, you’re having to open yourself up emotionally so that you can create a narrative that truly connects to an audience. In this process, it is imperative to practice self-care which can include taking breaks away from your computer for a few hours and/or connecting with a supportive person or community that understands your experience. 
  • When you know your footage well-enough, writing and creating paper edits can be very helpful tools to problem solve and to form your story. If you’re dealing with difficult material, this will spare you from time spent staring at traumatic images. 
  • Translation is an important part of the post-production process. Having a human translator (rather than machine translations) will illuminate linguistic meanings that would otherwise be missed. Take the time to properly translate your subjects - they deserve to have their words be heard as fully as possible.
  • As a first time or emerging filmmaker, the best way to get started is to simply begin making your own projects. Take risks and understand that no one has it all figured out - just do your best!

Alexandria Bombach is an award-winning cinematographer, editor, and director from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her feature-length documentary "On Her Shoulders" follows Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to politicians and media, Nadia was thrust onto the world stage as the voice of her people. more...

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