When Robin, who works at Adfactors, told me about a Grow-Trees Vodafone campaign to plant 3 lakh tree saplings between the Kanha and Pench forest reserves (Madhya Pradesh), and asked me to consider making a short documentary on it, I wasn’t too sure what exactly would I be making. But I said yes to him nevertheless. I had imagined hundreds of employees from these two organizations planting saplings all day. And then I had thought, how much can one shoot people just planting trees? What’s the story? Planting trees is great, but there is nothing new about it, there is no story to be told (at least not one that I could imagine). I had this feeling I would end up making something pretty boring. And I hate to make any boring documentary.
I had a Goa Mumbai flight followed by another one from Mumbai to Jabalpur (Jabalpur being the base location from where everyone would drive down to the area where tree saplings would be planted). My Goa Mumbai flight got enough delayed that I missed my next flight to Jabalpur. And there is just one flight per day to Jabalpur. So I was like, shit, what now! But then a helpful girl from Adfactor’s office figured something out. I was booked a seat in a flight to Nagpur after few hours. Nagpur is like 200+ Kms from Jabalpur and luckily I found seats in a train which made me reach Jabalpur just on time to join the rest of the group for the trip to the forest reserve.
It was a four hours drive from our hotel in Jabalpur to the forest area. Almost all the time I kept on wondering on what could the story be. There were about half a dozen folks in the caravan that I was travelling in, one of them being Ankita – a travel blogger. I remember at one point, she made a comment that she and I were the only two people not sleeping. I looked around. She was right. The Rahuls from Mumbai (Rahul1 runs Pandolin and Rahul2 is a Bollywood writer) were sleeping, Robin from Adfactors was sleeping (pretty much deserved it after so much of coordination calls he had to make and attend all the time), Rusen who runs a CSR magazine was sleeping and the trekker & travel writer Anusha was sleeping too. I don’t know about Ankita but I couldn’t sleep because not knowing what story I was going to bring out, was simply too much of a stress to take!
But then everyone didn’t just keep sleeping. We also did talk about lot of stuff including that on these two issues: a) what is the success rate of a sapling planted on a public land to actually grow into a tree and b) what kind of trees are actually planted and how is the tree type chosen (there was this argument that many a times in mining areas, the trees that are planted just for the sake of planting trees end up doing more harm than any good). I wondered why these questions never crossed my mind. But I also knew I had some idea about what my documentary was going to be about. My 3MS should answer these questions.
While still on our way, I asked Robin about the number of people that would be planting trees once we reached the forest land. He said there were two more caravans on their way – one had folks from the press and the other had about half a dozen folks from Vodafone and one guy from Grow-Trees.com – the CEO. This made me uncomfortable too. While I had been imagining hundreds of people planting trees all day – suddenly my visual imagination changed. And I was back to wondering how good the documentary would look if all it showed was a bunch of twenty people planting trees in a remote area in Madhya Pradesh. That too for just half an hour.
With one tea / snacks break in between, we finally reached our destination. I had only 25 minutes to shoot. A lot of interesting questions were asked by Vikas from Vodaone as well as Anusha and thankfully the answer to those questions gave me my story. There was a light drizzle initially and I was not too sure if I would be able to fly my quadcopter. But the weather cleared out luckily and I am glad I got to get some pretty cool aerial shots. I was also glad I could record an interview of Bikrant, the CEO of Grow-Trees.
It took me about a week to finally make sense of all that had been said and all that had been done and the documentary video is for all of you to watch and share! And as I write this, I already have two news stories to edit! Good life! By the way, after watching the 4 minute video, also do go to grow-trees.com and plant a tree, because unless you do that, the whole point will be lost!
Video credit format: Amrit is a wedding photographer / cinematographer (www.shaadigrapher.com) and a documentary film-maker (3minutestories.com) based in India.
PS: the initial aerial shots in the video are from Goa 😛 I needed to show something when Bikrant and I talked about trees and these shots seem to fit in the narration
PS2: sharing a video by Rahul which shows how I took the aerial shots