What lens do you use?

By: Phatsurang Dechabuddharungsi (Candy)

When you are the only one in a group with a complete different set of experiences and backgrounds, what do you do?

Me? I seek for those lessons they share and find a way back to myself.

My other 13 fellows who are NGOs plus me, a TV host/producer, were introduced to a learning cocoon where Ms. Keri McWilliams and Ms. Spider Mcknight drove us towards how NGO institutions in the US function and how nonprofit people tell their stories if not emotionally to move, then effectively enough to get funded.

I’m certainly not an NGO. I do work for a big conglomerate who earns revenue through selling content to the advertisers and advertising agencies. By gaining the trust, we have built credibility and credentials for more than a decade. I’m sure you guys all know how TV business works. One thing that really draws a line of difference while I’m attending today’s lecture is that I have no worries in raising fund. But absolutely one thing I do have in common with these amazing NGOs is a passion and the love for stories that no one tells us what we have to do and why do we do what we do.

I developed the passion for the region of Southeast Asia when I started taking World Geography back in 8th grade. The teacher showed us this blue globe and pointed to different maps of countries around the world. I noticed Thailand on the globe map and saw countries surrounding it. We actually shared the borders except those maritime countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and The Philippines. I questioned myself, why are we looking so far away from our own country while we have so many countries already sharing the border. Consequently, the passion ended up in two degrees both majoring in Southeast Asia. But so what? I needed a tool in order to proliferate my passion and what I know about them. Since I entered the TV industry, I found out a way to tell Southeast Asian stories in a simple, knowledgeable and fun way. I could turn 200pages heavy histories of Thai-Burmese relations into a cool-visuals-and-attractive-sounds 10min story and it’s fun to watch and learn at the same time.

In TV making, we tell stories through camera lenses. When we need a wide shot of the sea of pagodas in Bagan, we change to wider lens. When we want a CU shot of a wayang dancer in Indonesia doing fancy make-ups, we use a close-up lens. Here in Montana, it’s just like changing lens while interplaying with Southeast Asian NGO thinktanks and adjusting with American ways of lives, learn their mindsets in real life real time. It’s been a spectacularly fruitful week for me as a TV producer running around town taking footage and interviewing people with a big help from the world renowned author Jacob Baynhem. Now I’m equipped with so many interesting Missoulian stories to tell to Thai audience once home. Oops, but I certainly doubt my Trump-supporter story would irritate the opponents out there but believe me the old wealthy man with a big house in Rock Creek was so nice and too friendly to even think did I just have coffee with Trump believer?

Back to present ‘lens’, Ms. Keri McWilliams said it out loud today “I just love NGOs” while Ms. Spider turned out to be a pusher asking fellows in front of their faces ‘what do you do’ and ‘why’? All in all, the lesson they both gave us was to always remind ourselves what do we do and why. It’s actually a self-conscious reminder more important than your morning alarm clock that you wake up every day and ask yourself why are you doing this as well as challenge yourself what are you going to do today to support the ‘why’. If NGO is all about pitching, then why not pitch yourself every day the same question, what is our existence for?

TV people like me learn so much today of how to change lens to see and hear NGOs in Southeast Asia tell their ‘why’ stories. For me, they are not really NGOs, but they are simple human beings with hearts to love other human beings, minds to think of others and shoulders for those in need. Sometimes I used wider lens just to feel the overall striking passion we share. Most of the times I use CU lens to notice how tears rolling down Huong’s face because she just cares so much and the minute after she told her story, she started to laugh in order to comfort herself as well as others.

NGOs mindset taught by both passionate American NGO experts and powerfully moved by tears and laughter of all fellows has evidently proved that we altogether have the same ‘why’ to ask both to ourselves and to share it to our community.

For me, I just wake up every day with 2 questions “What am I doing TV for and What lens should I use? “


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