Bent Marble Filmmaking Workshops

$12,685 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 217 people in 10 months
Thanks to so many of you, we have reached our initial target! This will allow us to facilitate up to ten workshops, over an approximate five-month period.  But we’d love to be able to teach even more, and empower more new filmmakers in developing countries, throughout the coming year and beyond.  With this in mind, I hope the momentum we’ve created in this campaign will continue to roll on.  And any additional funds we make beyond our goal will go towards even more free documentary workshops!

Everyone has stories to share, and has the need to both tell their stories and be heard. In April 2014 I launched the Bent Marble project, teaching free documentary filmmaking workshops in developing countries around the world.  In these hands-on classes, the students learn the basics of camerawork, lighting, sound recording, directing, and editing for documentaries.  In addition, each participant completes a short film about their world, using whatever cameras, phones, and computers they already possess. 

My teaching method, inspired by over a decade’s experience working with some of the world’s best documentary filmmakers in New York, emphasizes learning by doing, and has proven remarkably effective, even with individuals who have had no prior filmmaking experience.  Indeed, it is not uncommon for students, who had previously barely touched a computer, to tell me that their favorite part of the workshops was video editing!  And the confidence they each gain, in seeing themselves progress from novice to finishing their first film, is truly inspiring.  

To date I’ve taught more than 30 free workshops in 12 different countries, in world regions including Latin America, East Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific.  Through these trainings, I’ve empowered more than 300 new filmmakers, who would not have otherwise been able to afford this kind of specialized education.

Along the way, I’ve done everything I can to keep operational costs down.  Since the students use their own phones, cameras, and computers (instead of expensive professional equipment), the workshops are extremely cost-effective.  And while my travel and living expenses form the lion’s share of overhead costs, I always search tirelessly for discount airfares, use public transportation, and stay in humble local housing.  Because of these measures, the average total cost of conducting a month-long workshop for 15 participants comes out to just $1000, or about $65 a student.

Documentary filmmaking is a particularly effective way for poor and marginalized individuals and communities, who aren’t normally heard, to elevate their voices and broaden their communicative reach.  I clearly believe very strongly in this work… so much so that over the years I have whittled away the majority of my personal savings to develop and maintain this project.  Today I humbly launch this GoFundMe campaign, because I can no longer afford to continue without your help. 

Please make a donation, of whatever you can afford, so I can continue to offer these empowering workshops to a new generation of documentary filmmakers in poor and at-risk communities around the world.  Your contributions will help invest those most in need with skills that can serve them, personally and potentially professionally, for a lifetime.

For more information on the Bent Marble project, or to see examples of past participants’ works, please visit our website, bentmarble.com .

Let’s keep this marble rolling!!

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Greetings again, valued supporters of Bent Marble!

I’ve recently finished a very busy and productive month in Casablanca, Morocco, where I taught three workshop series in collaboration with three truly wonderful organizational partners. In the process, around 25 new short documentary films were directed and produced, by around 43 new filmmakers! The topics they chose for their films ran the gamut… from traditional music, to the love of football (ahem… soccer), to protecting our environment, to the struggles of finding gainful employment and the benefits of becoming one’s own boss. (There was even one extremely touching film on the unexpected topic of the sadness that some twins face in adulthood, when they become separated as their lives ultimately take diverging paths.) And I find that this diverse array of stories also serves to highlight the many ways in which we are all similar… having related values, facing parallel struggles, and experiencing similar emotional ups and downs.

In terms of the demographics of the workshop participants themselves, I’m proud to report that we had a high percentage of female students in our workshops in Morocco. This is noteworthy because the film industry worldwide has tended to be male-dominated… and we need as many new female filmmaking voices as possible to bring greater balance to this enormously influential storytelling field.

For one of our three workshop series, I teamed up again with AJI Maroc (Association des Jeunes de l’initiative, Morocco), an organization dedicated to youth empowerment, education, and community service, located in the underserved neighborhood of Sbata, Casablanca. AJI Maroc Secretary, (and now very good friend) Mohamed Najjari, took great care of me once again (even including pickup and dropoff at the airport). And we look forward to more projects with him and AJI Maroc in the coming years.

We also teamed up for the first time with EFE-Maroc (Education for Employment, Morocco), the local branch of this multi-national NGO that serves youth throughout North Africa and the Middle East, by providing economic and employment opportunities (mentorship, upskilling, trainings, etc.). I owe an awful lot in particular to Nora Van Baalen, Communication Director of EFE-Maroc, who made sure that the workshop ran smoothly, from the planning phase all the way to graduation. And I look forward to continuing to work with EFE this coming month, with their branch in Jordan.

Our final workshop series was a bit of a bonus one. I had made contact with Boubker Mazoz, the Founder and Executive Director of the IDMAJ Cultural Center in the neighborhood of Sidi Moumen, traditionally one of the poorest and most disadvantaged in Casablanca. Visiting the center, I was blown away by the energy and organization of their summer camp program, which serves more than 400 children! As there wasn’t enough time to run a third complete workshop series, Boubker and I decided instead to offer an abridged workshop series, covering the basics of camerawork and video editing. The teenage participants were enthusiastic and inspiring… and I truly hope to return next time to teach the full workshop series with them.

But enough words. We want films! So here are links to the YouTube playlists of the fine films made in Bent Marble’s workshops in Morocco this year. I truly hope you enjoy them! And thanks again for your invaluable help in keeping this marble rolling!!


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Greetings dear supporters of Bent Marble!

It’s definitely been a little while since my last update… but thankfully things have been busy and productive since last we met. Indeed, over the past couple of months, I’ve taught a total of four workshop series in Tanzania… two in the big, coastal city of Dar es Salaam, and two in the smaller city of Arusha (further inland, cooler temperatures, and near the Serengeti). And most importantly, through these trainings, about one hundred new and emerging filmmakers have benefited from Bent Marble’s workshops… producing 43 great new films!

In Dar es Salaam, I teamed up for the second time with the wonderful NGO, Tumaini La Maisha (which means “hope for life” in Swahili) which provides free medical, educational, and psycho-social services for kids with cancer in Tanzania. Our young filmmakers at TLM did an amazing job with their films… and have inspired us incredibly, on a personal level, as well.

Also in Dar we teamed up again with Nafasi Art Space (a center for contemporary visual arts, music and dance). There I team-taught a group of very talented new filmmakers with local filmmaker, Nkumi Mtingwa (a wonderful collaboration that really benefited the participants with Nkumi’s added expertise in motion graphics and animation).

After a month in Dar, it was on to Arusha, where I partnered with Ngaramtoni Youth Stand-up Group, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of youth. Our class with them represented the largest Bent Marble cohort ever, with over forty participants! Despite the challenges of a class literally twice the size of what I’m used to, through the students’ dedication to learning and “upskilling” themselves, these individuals impressively did as good a job as any class ever.

And finally we teamed up with the prolific NGO, Media for Development International (a producer of award-winning “movies-with-a-message” in East Africa), and the beautiful Cultural Art Center of Tumaini University Makumira. Our cohort here had many professional and up-and-coming filmmakers in it, as well as total beginners. And everyone graciously helped everyone take their filmmaking to the next level!

But rather than talk (or type) your ear off about these successful workshops, all the better to let you have a look at some of the many fine films these folks produced over the last two months. Below are YouTube playlists of the films produced in each workshop. Please peruse and enjoy… and stay tuned for more as I’ve currently hit the ground running in Morocco.

Tumaini la Maisha

Nafasi Art Space

Ngaramtoni Youth Stand-up Group

Media for Development International and the Cultural Arts Center of Tumaini University Makumira
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Yesterday we celebrated the successful conclusion of our documentary filmmaking workshops here in Setif, Algeria, in partnership with the city’s Office of Culture and Tourism. The participants screened an impressive 14 new short films at the presentation event, held in a charming, historic theatre in the city center. Equally impressive was the fact that the students made these 14 fine films in half the time of our typical one-month workshops! If you’re curious to see what they’ve whipped up (with your much-appreciated support;) please check out the following playlist on Bent Marble’s YouTube channel:


All in all, I really couldn’t be more pleased with the discipline, dedication, and spirit of friendship that the participants lent to this accelerated learning process. As much was gained in terms of new friendships and personal connections, as in knowledge of grassroots documentary filmmaking techniques. And all this was accomplished while communicating daily in a remarkable mix of English, Arabic, and French… with fellow participants jumping in as impromptu translators when needed.

While I now have a brief moment to catch my breath, in a few days my own "accelerated" life will be whisking me away to Dar es Salaam Tanzania, where I’ll be teaching two workshops concurrently throughout the month of April. And just between you and me, I’m hoping the pace will be a bit more “pole pole” (meaning laid back in Swahili).

Thanks again for traveling with me... and let’s keep this marble rolling!!

Steve : )
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Allons-y! Here we go!

Greetings from Sétif, Algeria… where I have recently arrived and begun an accelerated (two-week) documentary workshop series in collaboration with the city’s Office of Culture and Tourism. The participants are highly motivated and have shared some fantastic ideas for the documentaries that they will be making (ranging from the “ancient” art of watchmaking, to the important role of the local Boy Scouts organization, to the difficult decision of choosing a retirement home for one’s parents, to the hard work of the local garbage collectors). And I look forward to keeping you posted on their progress here, as well as on my project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bentmarble.

From here in Algeria, as mentioned in the previous update, I will be heading to East Africa for a few months, teaching as many as six workshops in collaboration with local organizations in Tanzania and Uganda.

And in the month that follows, things are beginning to come together to do another series (or two) of workshops with Syrian refugees, this time in Lebanon. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

All in all, I’m so glad to be back doing what I do better, facilitating workshops and sharing what I know (not fundraising:) And I’m soooo grateful to have your support. Let’s keep this marble rolling!!

All the best,
Steve : )
Steve and our workshop class in Sétif.
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$12,685 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 217 people in 10 months
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