Case Study: Documentary Video Production

The Challenge: Videographer films report from a disaster zone

To produce a TV report for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW-TV) by sending a freelance videographer and editor from Sydney to Vanuatu after it was struck by a cyclone. I was to catch up with DW’s reporter Dieter Herrmann, who had already arrived a few days earlier.

This job required to travel light with TV broadcast quality camera and editing equipment. Given the intermittent power outages on Vanuatu the equipment had to be as power efficient as possible.

Reporting from a disaster zone is always a special experience. It’s hard to plan ahead because you don’t know how the day will unfold and what footage you end up with. Food is spare and electricity is only available in short intervals so you need to keep an extra eye on your batteries’ charge.

On the other hand you never run out of motifs. Fallen trees, damaged buildings and a frantic activity to get things back on track. Everywhere you turn there is something worth filming.

The Tasks: Filming & Editing

We concentrated our filming activity on the island of Efate, reporting from the capital Port Vila and a small village situated on the island’s northern tip. There the storm had hit the island particularly hard. Not only had the people’s houses been demolished by the strong winds, the sea had been swept in as well. Once the water retreated it became clear it had brought with it lots of sand and buried the people’s belongings deep underneath it.

We always returned to Port Vila for editing. During the last night, while rendering the video file the electricity stopped working once again. The editing notebooks battery took over but we needed the electricity to come back on for the internet to function. It took a long time and I left Dieter in his room and went to sleep. The next morning he told me that eventually the fan in his room sprang to life, which woke him up and he was able to upload the story during the night.


Vanuatu after the Cyclone

DW Reporters “Vanuatu after the Cyclone” 12’07”

Port Vila, Efate, Vanuatu, Pacific Islands

Author: Dieter Herrmann
Camera/Edit: Thorsten Joses

Client Testimonial

“When the Islands of Vanuatu were struck by a devastating Cyclone in early 2015 I was in urgent need of a camera-person. Knowing Thorsten from a number of Meetings of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association I called him, very well knowing that it might be a bit risky, as we never formed a team before.

As I was already in Vanuatu’s capital he took the earliest flight from Sydney over to the islands where I met him at the airport. What followed was hard work and a number of extremely fruitful days. Shooting amongst traumatised people in a totally destroyed environment was a tremendous challenge. Thorsten was remarkably flexible, creative and co-operative. We got exactly what we needed for our documentary – and even a little more.

I would certainly love to work with him again.”

Dieter Herrmann
DW TV-Correspondent,