30 September 2020
By JAIF Management Team
Over the years, ASEAN has made significant strides to move ever closer to its vision of “ASEAN: A Community of Opportunities for All.” Putting a human face to what it means to create an ASEAN Community still remains a challenge. Developing engaging content that offer glimpses to the lives of ASEAN’s everyday people is key to communicating the benefits and opportunities offered by the ASEAN Community.
The role of media is increasingly seen as vital in shaping identities and in building communities. ASEAN relies on its partnerships with the media, in particular with the national broadcasting stations, to bridge ASEAN with its communities on the ground. The ASEAN national broadcasting stations are beset with their own limitations and challenges. For them, the challenge is not only to develop ASEAN-relevant content, but to enhance capacities of media practitioners on this front.
As part of the project Capacity Building of ASEAN TV Broadcasters through Documentary Program Production on ASEAN-Japan Cooperation (Commemoration of 50th Anniversary of ASEAN), the production crew from the Lao National Television (LNTV) looked back on their experiences in contributing to a series of documentaries on “ASEAN Now and the Future – Connectivity and Economic Corridors.” The team described what the experiences meant to them and what they gained from it which is far more than the documentary that they produced as a result of the project initiative.
© Lao National Television (LNTV)
Vilayvone Bouchaleurnphone, the documentary’s producer and reporter, shared that while LNTV has worked previously with the NHK International for another project1, her production crew’s experience for this particular documentary still provided a different perspective. “When I started working in LNTV, I was a children’s program producer. Back then, we produced documentaries, but unlike this one which was more focused on a specific topic and location,” said Vilayvone. Indeed, how to tell the story about the benefits and opportunities of the “Economic Corridors” proved challenging and rewarding at the same time. “For this documentary, we had to do a lot of research,” Vilayvone added. The production crew highlighted how they learned the importance of systematic and careful planning at the onset of production, the need to study the locations and how to tell the story from their perspectives. They also applied flexibility in executing the plan, how to troubleshoot when things did not go the way they expected them to be.
The project produced five documentaries. Aside from the LNTV documentary, the series included an “Overview” developed by the NHK International and three other documentaries from the National Television of Cambodia (TVK), Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV), and Viet Nam Television (VTV) respectively.
On the technical aspects, the production crew received advice from the NHK experts of Japan who guided them through the documentary production. Multi-audio is one of these, which is the aspect of inserting narration, sound effects, music, voice over, among others. “Before, when I interview a foreigner, I just do voiceover, but for this project, I have to do the subtitles. Maybe for other countries, it is normal but for Laos it is something new,” Vilayvone candidly shared. For such specific details as inserting narration, the production crew learned the principle of inclusivity in their reporting— to take into consideration those people who have hearing disabilities.
For Oudon Oundala, cameraman, despite the language barriers, he learned new shooting techniques from the NHK experts. “Working with the NHK expert, it is different from my normal work,” he added. The cameraman also recounted the visit they had in Japan and how they were able to visit NHK’s studio and learn about its technology for documentary production.
Spending three days to shoot in the Second Friendship Bridge in Savannakhet, one of the East-West Economic routes, just to get the right kind of natural sunset lighting was one experience that the production crew fondly remembered together. It instilled in them what it meant to produce quality products, which can be at par with international standards. More importantly, it strengthened their teamwork, which the production crew saw as vital to produce high quality products.
Documentary production is not new to the LNTV production crew; they have several years of experience behind them. Yet, all agreed that the project made them better practitioners of their respective fields. They hope to be a part of more international media cooperation projects and acknowledge its role in promoting media exchanges and in fostering stronger ASEAN awareness and friendship, including ASEAN’s friendship with Japan.
Japan has a long history of cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral, with ASEAN especially on television broadcasting. Through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF), it has supported the “Capacity Building of ASEAN TV Broadcasters through Documentary Program Production on ASEAN-Japan Cooperation.” The project is committed to its two-fold objectives of enhancing capacities of ASEAN national broadcasting stations and raising awareness about ASEAN and Japan-ASEAN cooperation. As part of its Phase I, national broadcasting stations from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV) were at the forefront. It was implemented in 2017 and focused on the theme “Connectivity and Economic Corridors.” Phase II was implemented in 2019, with the remaining ASEAN countries as the leading participants. This time, it followed the theme “Discover New Buena Vista,” aiming to enhance tourism investments for the region. Both phases were implemented by the NHK International, Inc.
1 “Support Programme for the Lao PDR’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2016: Capacity Building for Mass Media Leaders,” also through the JAIF