Kirk Mason is a gentleman of many talents. Along with his day job as an Editor for PHC, Kirk has been to more than a dozen countries around the world filming and producing documentary films. (See photos/links below)
Kirk has countless stories about these experiences and we’ve all found ourselves laughing - or completely wide-eyed - at the range of tales he has from his adventures through the likes of Nicaragua, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Malawi and more.
We sat down with Kirk for some insight on what got him started in documentary film making and why he believes it is an avenue for positive change across the world.
Where did you get your start in documentary filmmaking?
I grew up making videos with my older brother with my mom’s camcorder. We made action videos and stop motion animation. Later on, when I was studying music at Michigan State University, and wasn’t enjoying it at all - I decided that a major in video & multimedia production would be a little more fitting. I made some friends who helped me realize documentary filmmaking was probably the route I wanted to go because I really liked listening to people and connecting with them. This is where I started to really find that documentaries are such a great platform for communicating the lives and cultures of other people around the world. The essence of filmmaking is documentary, turning the lense around and examining the essence of humanity. The backbone of filmmaking IS documentary. The technology is different, but the storytelling is the same.
What was your first adventure like as a documentary filmmaker?
In 2013, I was selected to go on a 2-month around-the-world trip producing short documentaries about different research projects run by the faculty at Michigan State. It was a life-changing experience, to say the least. It was the first time I had been to developing countries, and it was the first time I was exposed to new cultures and new ways of living I had never known about. Some of it was fascinating and some of it was honestly heartbreaking. It gave me a better perspective on what my role as a documentary filmmaker could potentially be and what a career in that realm would look like for me. The impact that I could have through my work seemed without boundaries and I loved that.
Where have you been on these trips and what kind of people have you met?
I’ve been to about a dozen countries around the world, some of them multiple times - including China, Costa Rica, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Nicaragua, Germany, UK, Ireland and Canada. I’ve made a lot of friends who have been excited to meet someone from a different place. You’re trying to connect with them and show them so much of your culture and learn their culture from them. It’s really cool to be in a position where you can document those specific interactions and even the tiniest - but so relevant - aspects of a culture. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that everyone wants the same thing everywhere - we all want to share food with one another, and we all cook with onions, for someone reason? Haha. And really, we all just want be happy and feel loved.
What are you learning at PHC that is helping your craft as a documentary filmmaker?
At PHC, I’m learning so much about the technical parts of these productions. Historically, I’ve not been as good with using my tools as a way to enhance the story. Our production team has really been super helpful in showing me new techniques and learning from our overall production processes from shoot to shoot has been super beneficial. I also think working in marketing and communications just helps you understand the psychology of people, because if you can’t effectively communicate a story to an audience, you won’t have a very effective documentary. So learning how to market your message and your story - and what does and does not resonate with some demographics, etc. - has been really interesting to witness and learn.
Here are a couple of Kirk's documentaries:
Below are some of Kirk’s (incredible) photos from the documentary films he has worked on - and the stories behind those photos.
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