One of the most (mentally) useful creative experiences I ever had was making a documentary with a friend of mine about youth employment in Cairo. I held the camera and did the editing, and my friend recruited and organized the interviews, but it was youth community leaders from all over Cairo that conducted the interviews with local youth in their neighbourhoods.
It was helpful for me to see that I didn’t always have to be trying to control the story or tell the story. If I had tried to tell the story about youth employment in Cairo the documentary never would have happened (because I didn’t know anything about youth employment, or Cairo when we started filming).
It was also a great experience in learning how to just do something and put something out into the world. I had never made a video longer than 4 minutes, and the only person I’d ever put a camera in front of was myself, speaking English. So doing a 45 minute documentary in Arabic with lots of people I’d never met was completely uncertain territory, and we did a public screening of the film only a few days after finishing it. With only six weeks to film, edit, and deliver, there was no time to obsessively worry about every detail or whether I’d done things right.
Since then, whenever my brain starts to worry about making things and putting them out in public, I remind myself to just create stuff, get it out there, and then create more stuff.
* The clip above is the last section of the documentary, shot in the Manshiet Nasser neighbourhood of Cairo. I think it helps give some perspective on what it’s like growing up as a young person, having hopes and dreams, and not seeing any path to fulfilling those dreams when your options for making money are so limited.