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Happy Anniversary!!

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Well we made it! Twelve months! Four seasons! 365 and ¼ days! And what a busy and productive time it’s been. In the past year we’ve taught ten workshops on three continents and in two archipelagos. We’ve also given guest lectures and master classes at six schools and universities. Every step of the way we’ve partnered with wonderful local organizations (including English language institutes, universities, community centers for arts and education, film schools, and nonprofits) that have been critical to our success in the communities in which we’ve served. And most importantly, through our workshops we’ve inspired many, many new filmmakers, whose creativity, motivation, talent, and stories-shared have inspired us even more in return.

And our successes continue. Last week we ran another campaign on Facebook to increase awareness about Bent Marble. Through it we amazingly doubled our following, and now have more than 10,000 fans from around the world! This marks a significant milestone for our organization, and it feels wonderful to be getting the word out about who we are and what we do.

Now if you are among our more than 5,000 new Facebook fans, we would first like to offer you a warm, warm welcome to the Bent Marble community. And if you’re perhaps still a bit unclear on what exactly it is that we do, in a nutshell, Bent Marble teaches people to make their own documentaries, using the filmmaking tools (cameras, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) they already possess, and then share their stories with the world! This is done through offering FREE filmmaking workshops internationally, so that anyone, anywhere, regardless of their means, can take part and share a story. Our past participants have ranged in age from children to seniors, and typically have had no previous filmmaking experience. But they have consistently impressed us, and themselves, with the amazing works they learn to produce in a relatively short period of time.

After the workshops, participants’ films are posted on our YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/bentmarble, so the rest of the Bent Marble community (and the rest of the world) can watch, learn, comment, and share. And we invite you to do so as well. For your convenience, we’ve also put together a selection of films that highlights the diversity of what our students have created during our first year of workshops. And if you like what you see, please support us by subscribing to our channel.

Bent Marble First Year Highlights

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And to further illustrate how we’ve been busy this past year, here’s a gallery of photos from our Facebook page that highlights our workshops, events, and students in action:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


As you may guess, we have big plans for our second year as well. First and foremost we are eager to continue traveling and offering our free workshops. Our next stops will be in North and South America, where we are currently setting up organizational partnerships. With this in mind, if any of you know of a school, community center, nonprofit, or other organization in the Americas that might be interested in hosting one of our documentary filmmaking workshops, we would love for you to put us in touch.

Secondly, as we continue to grow, we are also looking more than ever to find other media professionals and teaching artists, whose values resonate well with our mission, beliefs and educational philosophy, to become co-facilitators in our workshops. Indeed we have found that having a diversity of both local and foreign instructors adds greatly to our students’ experience. So if you know of, or are, such an individual, we encourage you to get in contact with us.

Inquiries regarding any of this can be sent to info@bentmarble.com.

And finally, we will soon be launching an online crowdfunding campaign to raise the fundamental funds we need to keep doing what we do into our second year of operation. Our first twelve months of travel and teaching was actually entirely self-funded. And as our own financial resources are now drying up, we need your support more than ever. So stay tuned and get your cyber wallets ready 😉


All in all, we can’t thank you enough for your interest, participation, and support over the last year, and are also so thrilled to have so many new friends traveling with us here. We look forward to growing our creative community of friendship, and sharing many more stories, together with you, in the year to come.

With so much to be thankful for, this is truly a happy, happy anniversary!!

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Rules of Thirds

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The Rule of Thirds was one of the first principles I learned in graduate school in New York, in regards to composing shots for documentary camera work. According to Wikipedia.org:

The Rule of Thirds is a ‘rule of thumb’ or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject.

Bangalorean musician and music educator, Gopal Navale, performs on the MG Road Promenade, playing a classical instrument while demonstrating the classic Rule of Thirds.

I was recently teaching an evening documentary workshop series to adult students at Jaaga Startup in Bangalore, India. During the second class meeting, where we cover documentary production techniques, no sooner had I uttered the name of the Rule of Thirds when I was interrupted by one of the participants, Venugopal, who proclaimed that this principle is for photography and doesn’t apply to motion picture! Now it is important to mention that Venugopal was not a typical student, but a septuagenarian who has 50 years experience in the Indian film industry, and who has worked on multiple monumental films, including the 8-Oscar Award winning, Gandhi.

Venugopal sharing some of his insights from 50 years experience in the Indian film industry while a diligent student takes notes.
Venugopal sharing some of his insights from 50 years of experience in the Indian film industry, while a diligent student takes notes.

I immediately could tell this was going to be a long class. After taking a breath and acknowledging his point of view, I reiterated that all the rules I would be mentioning that day are indeed meant to be broken, for the right reasons. But it was my job to at least give the other students, most of whom had no filmmaking experience at all, a brief overview of what traditionally is considered good practice.

While the concept of the Rule of Thirds has been part of our core curriculum for camera work since day one, during our time teaching in India we have also discovered two more “Rules of Thirds”, you could say, that apply specifically to the work that Bent Marble does. The second one, interestingly, is also well-demonstrated by our series at Jaaga Startup, where we offered workshops to a new category of participant… the general public. Up to this point, we had partnered primarily with educational institutions and nonprofits, teaching a lot of young people, and a lot of folks who normally aren’t exposed to filmmaking and digital media.

Groups of participants from our three workshops in Bangalore (top to bottom), Jaaga Startup, CMS Jain University, and Ashwini Charitable Trust.
Groups of participants from our three workshops in Bangalore: (top to bottom) Jaaga Startup, Center for Management Studies Jain University, and Ashwini Charitable Trust. Together they demonstrate Bent Marble’s second Rule of Thirds.

But what about older learners who aren’t likely to be attending a school or university? And what about those who aren’t in social or financial need, but still have the equally important need to express themselves and share their stories? For that reason, while in India we reached out via our online and offline networks to create and promote a third workshop series, open to all, at Jaaga Startup. And it was a tremendous success, as adult learners, many of whom attended the workshops after a long day in the office, learned documentary filmmaking with unmatched enthusiasm!

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A young student at Ashwini Charitable Trust reacts to a computer freezing during editing, and then makes a humble offering of candy to the “computer gods”. Her plight demonstrates the need for our third Rule of Thirds.

This brings us now to our third, and final, Rule of Thirds, which has to do with the idea that teaching documentary filmmaking perhaps needs a “third” week of instruction. When beginning this venture of offering free workshops internationally, mostly to beginners, we aimed to teach the most we could in the shortest amount of time. We figured that asking folks to attend two classes a week for two weeks, as well as do the associated filmmaking assignments, was a big enough time commitment in this uber busy world we live in.

However making documentary films is undeniably a process that requires time. Indeed most professionally made documentaries take many months, if not many years, to complete! Relatedly we have learned, over the last several months, that two-week workshops only “work” if everything goes perfectly smoothly. But this is life, and that, of course, rarely happens. Sometimes students miss a class, due to unavoidable circumstances, and fall behind. Sometimes people need a bit more time to shoot their subjects, or creatively edit their masterpieces. And often we come across unforeseen (but now always expected) technical difficulties, as we try to get our varied camera and computer gear to work and to “play nicely” together. So starting now, and as we plan our next round of teaching in Africa, we will be offering our workshops as an extended three-week series. So there you have it, our third Rule of Thirds!

But before signing off, let’s return one last time to that “tense” documentary production workshop with Venugopal at Jaaga Startup. After introducing a couple more best-practice rules for camerawork, and demonstrating some handheld shooting techniques, I sent the students out with their cameras to practice what they had learned. Interestingly, Venugopal stayed in the classroom and took out his Android tablet, which he had recently begun using to shoot videos. He proudly showed me a whole host of footage he had shot recently at a family member’s wedding, and about which he was thinking of basing his documentary project. The bride, family, and wedding all looked beautiful, as did his footage… each frame of which was shot expertly applying the classic Rule of Thirds!

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All Aboard!!

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Less than a week ago we launched a campaign on Facebook to increase awareness about Bent Marble. So far we’ve gained more than 4,500 new “Likes” for our organization’s page! It feels great to be getting the word out about who we are and what we do… and to be growing the Bent Marble community.

Now if you’re new to us, or don’t yet know exactly who we are or what we do, in short, Bent Marble’s mission is to teach people to make creative documentaries using the digital tools (cameras, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) they already possess, and then share their stories with the world! This is done through offering FREE documentary filmmaking workshops internationally, so that anyone, anywhere, regardless of their means, can take part and share a story. Our students, ranging from children to adults, mostly have had little or no previous experience with filmmaking. But they consistently impress us, and themselves, with the wonderful works they learn to produce in a relatively short period of time.

After the workshops, student films are posted on our YouTube channel, so the rest of the Bent Marble community (and the rest of the world) can watch, learn, comment, and share. If you’re curious to see some examples of what our past participants have created, come have a look for yourself at www.youtube.com/bentmarble. And if you like what you see, please subscribe to our channel.  For your convenience, we’ve even put together a playlist that highlights what our students have made in our multiple workshops to date:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



With our organization now six months old and with several successful workshops under our belt, we feel we’ve got our “travel legs” and our “teaching hats” on. So far we’ve taught in Russia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Along the way we’ve also partnered with some wonderful schools, English language institutes, universities, film programs, and nonprofits. And we’re eager to make more organizational connections as we continue on our way. If you are interested to learn more about the specific workshops and collaborations we’ve had so far, please peruse our blog at www.bentmarble.com/blog. And to more visually illustrate how we’ve been busy, here’s a gallery of photos from our Facebook page that highlights our activities and partnerships to date:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


For our next six months, we have big plans as well. First and foremost we are eager to continue traveling and offering our FREE creative documentary workshops. Our next stop will be in India, where we are currently setting up organizational partnerships. We also seek to offer workshops in Thailand and the United States (back home for me) in the months to come.

“How can we afford to do all this?” you might ask. (And we are beginning to ask ourselves the same:) Because while we do our very best to keep our operational costs low at every step of the way, as we travel and teach, we do have some basic expenses to account for. For this reason we will soon be launching an online crowdfunding campaign to raise the fundamental funds we need to keep doing what we do. Stay tuned for more information.


Hopefully by now you’re wondering how YOU can further participate and contribute as a member of the Bent Marble family. Clearly one good way is to take a workshop and share a story. But there are other equally valuable ways to get involved. If, for instance, you know of a school, community center, or organization in your area that might be interested in hosting one of our creative documentary workshops, please don’t hesitate to put us in touch. Also if you are a digital media professional or teaching artist whose values resonate well with our mission, beliefs and educational philosophy, we would love to collaborate with you on workshops in your part of the world. Inquiries regarding any of this (or anything else for that matter) can be sent to info@bentmarble.com.

And while we clearly look to grow in the coming months and years, for the time being we are still a small organization with limited means, that won’t be able to offer workshops in every corner of the globe just yet. For this reason, perhaps the best way for you to get involved is as an active member of our online community, both on Facebook, as well as on YouTube. Give positive feedback and comments to the budding filmmakers whose works you have enjoyed on our YouTube channel. Share with us what you “Like”, as well as your thoughts, ideas, and questions on relevant topics on our Facebook page. And if you know other folks who might be interested in what we do, please tell them about Bent Marble, share with them these links, and invite them to join our community!

Again we can’t thank you enough for your support. We are so thrilled to have so many new friends traveling with us here, and we look forward to growing our creative community of friendship… together with you!

Looks like this ship is ready to set sail again around this big bent marble we call home. The ticket, as always, is free. And there’s room for everyone.

All aboard!!

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Mother Russia… in Cebu

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When I arrived in Cebu City, Philippines I literally didn’t know anyone.  It was my first time in the country and I had no social, educational, or organizational contacts whatsoever. While I had a cheap hotel room for a couple of nights, I had no leads on finding an apartment for the duration of my stay. And on top of it all, it was rainy season here, hot and humid, and poured every day. In short, it seemed like it would be an uphill battle to make things happen in this bustling, soaking wet city.

But sometimes when traveling to a new country or location, one person you meet can make a huge difference to your experience there. And lucky for me, I soon met just such an individual. My first night in Cebu I saw that there was a “couchsurfing” event. For those of you who don’t know, couchsurfing.org is a social networking website for travelers, which basically gives them the opportunity to connect with travel-minded locals and save money while traveling, by literally sleeping on people’s couches. The organization also holds social events like the one I attended my first night in Cebu.

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Alex, Steve, and QQ English creative documentary workshop participants

At the event I met and made friends with Alex Kissa, a Russian national who works locally in Cebu for QQ English language school as a liaison for their students from Russia. Since English language schools are one type of organization that Bent Marble seeks to partner with, we on the spot decided to try to set something up with QQ English. Over the next couple days Alex made a promotional flyer for our creative documentary workshop program and advertised it in his school, one of the biggest in Cebu with hundreds of students and teachers alike. And within one week our first workshop series had begun with a class full of bright and interested adult students from around the world (including a free Russian co-facilitator and IT tech)! Thank you, Alex.

But I still needed a place to stay, sleep, and conduct Bent Marble’s daily office work. And it initially was looking quite hard to find a flat. Well Alex again came to the rescue, and took half a day of his time to show me half a dozen apartments around town. Indeed, for his work with foreign students, he sometimes has to help them find long-term accommodation, and this capability of his came in very handy. Within 24 hours of beginning our search I had found a wonderful place to call home base for the next month! Thank you again, Alex.

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Trip to Olongo Island with Alex and other couchsurfing friends

As the saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jacks a dull boy” (and I might add a bit bored and sad too). Indeed, being in a new country, or large city without social connections can be a daunting downer. Well unsurprisingly, Alex again helped out by inviting me to more official and unofficial events with members of the couchsurfing community, as well as social activities offered by his own school. He also regularly took me to dinner after the workshops in different restaurants around the neighborhood, and even provided me with a gym membership with QQ English’s affiliate gym. And you know you can’t be sad or depressed when you’re working out. Thank you, again and again, Alex!

So for all his assistance, in so many aspects of my life in Cebu, both professional and personal, I really am indebted to Alex. In his kindness and generosity, he is an exemplary representative of the couchsurfing spirit, which is founded in friendship between people from different countries and cultures. He truly took me under his wing and facilitated every aspect of life here. So with great gratitude and respect (and a tiny bit of humor too), I dub him “Mother Russia… in Cebu”.

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Back in Bali

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Well after a little lapse since our last workshops.. we’re back! And we’ve recently finished a very successful run at the Montessori Bali School with 10 through 13-year-old students in Bali, Indonesia. The participants’ previous filmmaking experience ranged from little, down to none at all. But what they created by the end of the workshops was absolutely inspiring! Student films range from covering serious themes that bring a tear to your eye, to humorous moments and interviews that inspire another kind of tearing. We truly couldn’t be prouder!

Importantly, our success at Montessori Bali School could not have happened without the support of their amazing teachers and staff. In particular, Program Director, Kate Ludick, was hugely instrumental in getting our workshops started, integrated into the students’ schedule and curriculum, and keeping them running smoothly on a daily basis. And teacher, Tallis Hobbs, welcomed us with a spirit of friendship and solved our occasional technical problem as well.

Please check out some of the fine films that these students produced, and share a tear with us.. be it of compassion or joy!

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And here are some pics from our FaceBook page that show the participants hard at work.. and enjoying the fruits of their labor as well:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


We are currently offering workshops at two schools in Cebu, Philippines. Stay tuned for updates!

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Still in Transit

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After leaving Saint Petersburg, we have had quite a long journey ahead of us in order to get to our next location, Southern Thailand.. a three-and-a-half-day journey to be exact.  We travel as cheaply as possible, but this sometimes leads to getting flights with extremely long layovers in different cities.  This, however, can work to your advantage if you truly enjoy traveling and don’t mind being “in transit”.

Our first flight took us to Berlin, Germany, where we had a 13-hour layover, which we spent touring the city, highlighted by this equally beautiful and somber memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

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We caught a red-eye flight that night which took us to our next layover location, Abu Dhabi, where we also were for a day.  The monuments to both Islam and capitalism were impressive, but the heat was a sweltering 108°, with our chance to shower and sleep in a real bed still days away!

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Our final flight (another red-eye) took us to Bangkok, Thailand, where we arrived early in the morning.  We headed straight to the southern bus terminal, only to find out that the bus heading to Koh Samui (our final destination) was an 11-hour night time journey, and we had a good 10 hours to kill.  Quite used to our never-ending state of being in transit by now, we happily toured the nearby area of this vibrant city until it was time to catch our bus.

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Arriving at the port of Don Sak we were a short 1-hour ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui, where we caught a final 1-hour ride in the back of a pickup truck to our final destination.  And while we can breath a well-earned sigh of relief that we’ve finally arrived, the real work here begins very soon!

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But with all this talk of being “in transit” it would be hard not to be reminded of my first Clackumentary, a world music-travel documentary, I did with my friend Abhi about a decade ago.  It resonates quite well with the mission and beliefs of Bent Marble, so if you have a minute to remain “in transit” with us, please watch.. and stay tuned!