Unesco director-general Irina Bokova andUN goodwill ambassador Herbie Hancocklaunch International Jazz Day. (Image: United Nations) The 2012 International Jazz Day is acultural event aimed at fostering peaceand unity.(Image: Unesco) Jazz veteran Hugh Masekela is one of themany stars who have given their timeand talent to support the initiative.(Image: Wikipedia) MEDIA CONTACTS • Damir Dijakovic Unesco regional office, Windhoek + 264 61 291 7225 RELATED ARTICLES • Music fest in SA’s Darling • Local music festivals rock in SA • SA youth orchestra set to wow Europe • Jazz festival brings stars to Cape Town • SA quartet plays for peaceMediaClubSouthAfrica.com reporterThe last day of April marks the first-ever International Jazz Day, proclaimed by Unesco during the global organisation’s 36th general conference in November 2011.Legendary musicians Hugh Masekela and Angélique Kidjo were two of the many stars who took to the stage to celebrate the day.International Jazz Day is intended to raise awareness around the world of the virtues of jazz as the “universal music of freedom and creativity”, as an educational tool, and as a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.Many governments, civil society, educational institutions, and private citizens will use the opportunity to foster greater appreciation not only for the music but also for the contribution it can make to building more inclusive societies.“Jazz has been a force for positive social transformation throughout its history, and it remains so today,” said Unesco director-general Irina Bokova. “This is why Unesco created International Jazz Day.”Bokova said that jazz, with its roots in slavery, has always raised a passionate voice against all forms of oppression.“It speaks a language of freedom that is meaningful to all cultures,” she said. “The same goals guide Unesco in its efforts to build bridges of dialogue and understanding between all cultures and societies.”Unesco’s message, she said, is that “jazz connects people, cultures and the world”.The UN named numerous reasons for its declaration of the international musical day. Jazz breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance, said the organisation; it’s a vector of freedom of expression, and a symbol of unity and peace.Jazz also reduces tensions between individuals, groups, and communities, while fostering gender equality. It reinforces the role youth play for social change, stimulates intercultural dialogue, and empowers young people from marginalised societies.Finally, it encourages artistic innovation, improvisation, new forms of expression, and inclusion of traditional music forms into new ones.The power of musicInternational Jazz Day launched officially on 27 April at the Unesco headquarters in Paris.The celebration included photography exhibitions; screenings of legendary jazz performances; live performances all through the day; jazz masterclasses with top technicians such as South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, soprano Barbara Hendricks and pianist supremo Herbie Hancock; and a series of jazz talks.“Jazz is a response to oppression that is not bullets and blood,” said Hancock, a UN goodwill ambassador. “Jazz is the expression of harmony, and at the same time of hope and freedom.”The day concluded with a concert featuring Hancock, Masekela, guitarist Marcus Miller, and a host of other stars.Around the world, events were in full swing from early in the morning on 30 April, with two more star-studded official Unesco concerts and many others on the programme – in New Orleans, known as the birthplace of jazz, a sunrise concert during that city’s Jazz and Heritage Festival saw the likes of Hancock, Dianne Reeves and Ellis Marsalis celebrating the power of music.“Jazz is truly a positive diplomatic force because of its cultural contributions,” said Hancock.Later in the day, a sunset concert at the UN general assembly hall in New York featured Hugh Masekela, Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke, and his compatriot Angélique Kidjo sharing the stage with music veterans such as Terrence Blanchard, Robert Cray, Wynton Marsalis, Jack de Johnette, India’s Shankar Mahadevan, Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang, and Herbie Hancock.The event was be co-hosted by Robert de Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Quincy Jones.The concert started at 19h30 (eastern time) and jazz lovers around the world were able to see it live via video streaming on the UN’s YouTube page, the UN webcast page, the Jazz Day website and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.Jazz in South AfricaThe country has a proud jazz history that goes back to the vibrant days of the old Sophiatown and beyond. It came to South Africa just after the end of World War One, in the form of a visiting Dixieland band from New Orleans. This, together with technological innovations such as radio and the gramophone, helped drive the development of early township music and during the 1920s the genre grew in popularity.“It was during the late 20s that Boet Gashe, an itinerant organist from Queenstown, popularised the three chord system, the forerunner to the marabi and mbaqanga styles that were later to be perfected in the township shebeen environments of Johannesburg and Pretoria,” wrote the late jazz pianist and academic Hotep Idris Galeta.As with other countries, the growing system of racial oppression in the country only made the jazz voices stronger, even though many of them, such as Abdullah Ibrahim and the late Miriam Makeba, were forced to ply their trade in exile.Sophiatown in Johannesburg played a major role in the refinement of South Africa’s township music between the 1930s and 1950s, until the apartheid system caused the dance halls to close and the musicians to go underground.During the struggle years jazz became the voice of the oppressed, and was played at political rallies in townships and today the new generation of young jazz musicians is carrying the spirit of their predecessors. Events such as the annual youth jazz festival at the National Arts Festival ensure that the standard remains as high as it ever was.Notable South African jazz musicians include Jonathan Butler, now well-established overseas; pianist Paul Hanmer; the late saxophonist Basil “Manenburg” Coetzee; bassist Carlo Mombelli; trumpeter s Marcus Wyatt and Feya Faku; and many more.
So you want to break into filmmaking? Working as a production assistant is a great way to get started. So what does that mean?Grunt, gopher, runner, coffee kid — there are many colloquial names for production assistants on set, but despite being the most . . . upwardly mobile positions . . . on a film set, PAs keep filmmaking operations running smoothly.So, today, we’re taking a look at the role of the trusty PA.Image via gnepphoto.The PA is the entry-level position for a filmmaking career. You rarely need any hard-and-fast pre-requisite skills or experience to land a PA gig, which means most new PAs are starting out on relatively equal footing compared to other crew positions. If you want to get started in the film industry, a PA job is your best bet.Because anyone can get the job, PAs are replaceable. If you mess up badly enough, the crew leadership will have absolutely no qualms about replacing you with another candidate from their list. This is a tough fact to face, but few other roles offer the level of access and insight into the ins and outs of a film crew’s operation.PAs may be called upon to assist any member of the crew — from other PAs all the way up to the director and the producers. With the right attitude, preparation, and energy, there are few quicker ways to make an impression on the members of a production with the power to hire you again for a better role in the future.So, what do you need to know to ace your first gig?The PA’s Job ResponsibilitiesImage via gnepphoto.The job description of a production assistant is probably the simplest on the set. PAs do all sorts of things, such as escorting talent, getting water and snacks to crew members, running errands, making coffee, or anything else that would pull a dedicated member of the crew away from their tasks.In short, your job as a PA is to keep the production running without a hitch. Be ready when the PA call goes out, and you’ll be starting off on the best foot possible.All you need to succeed as a PA is the phrase “I’m on it.”Beyond a simple can-do attitude, there are a couple of things I’ve picked up over the years that will put you at the top of the list when the next production rolls around.What Makes a Great PA?Image via Shutterstock.People SkillsEvery member of the crew should be able to communicate with everyone else on set. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Regardless of the tensions that exist, stay above them and give your fellow crew members the benefit of the doubt. Always ask for clarification if you haven’t understood a request — even if you catch a little heat for not understanding, you’ll be light years better off getting clarification than doing something incorrectly.Communicate ClearlyAlways take a moment to consider your question or response before distracting anyone on the crew. Know what information you need to get and then formulate the fastest way to get it. Take an extra second to make sure you are about to address the correct member of the crew.Stay CloseSets can get crowded quickly, especially when shooting on location. Know the main paths to and from set and position yourself near them. However, don’t stand or set up where people will need to ask you to move in order to do their jobs.Be FirstTrain your ear to the sounds of the assistant directors’ voices because they are usually the ones making calls for PAs. Don’t get competitive, but do everything you can to respond immediately to a call for a PA. If you’re in the middle of something when the call goes out, wait for a break in the action, then ask the person who made the call if they got the help they needed.Eat RightMany low-budget sets will fill their craft services tables with inexpensive, simple carbs. Avoid sugary, carb-heavy foods like the plague because they will dramatically reduce your ability to operate effectively throughout the 12+ hour day. Nutrition advice is always take-it-or-leave-it, but in my personal experience, you should prioritize protein for sustained energy and use fats (and, to a much lesser degree, carbs) for small bursts of energy when you need them.Keep MovingAvoid sitting idle whenever you can. As a PA, you should be relatively free to roam the set while the cameras aren’t rolling. Check in on people as you do to earn some brownie points while you rack in those steps.Pay AttentionIf you’re staying mobile and on task, you will likely be one of the most in-the-know crew members with regards to the “20” (or location) of key members of the crew. If you hear a call for a 20 go unanswered several times, and you know where the person or object in question is, chime in.Know When to WorkSome of the most fascinating people you’re likely to ever meet work on professional film crews. Don’t get so caught up in the work that you forget to make friends and connections with your fellow crew members. Just listen attentively for the “quiet on set” call — the second you hear it, plant your feet and shut your mouth. If others around you aren’t responding to the call, politely inform them that quiet was just called. If they don’t silence themselves, get away from them as quickly as your little feet will take you. Guilt by association is real.Don’t Touch AnythingA good way to think about equipment on set is to assume that any single piece of equipment likely costs more money than you made during the previous year. You don’t want to be responsible for a lost or damaged piece of equipment. If someone needs your assistance with anything, they’ll let you know.Don’t Get Called OutYou want your name attached to attentiveness and your professionalism, not something negative. Goofing off at the wrong time can undermine weeks or months of hard work.Anticipate NeedsStay one step ahead of the production, and think through what the most likely PA requests will be. Make an effort to be prepared. When the call goes out, nothing is more impressive than a PA having already taken care of the need before anyone else has even had the time to respond to the request.Be Patient“Hurry up and wait” is one of the truest axioms in filmmaking. Never lose your cool, even if everything around you is going wrong. When panic sets into a crew, those who can stay calm and operational absolutely get noticed.If you feel frustration building, let a few people know that you’re going to step away for fifteen minutes — and then make sure to work through or isolate the frustration. It’ll be better for you and everyone on set, especially if other people are making a scene.Have a PlanFinally, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to go in with a plan. What aspects of filmmaking interest you most? Have you always dreamed of becoming the next Deakins or Fincher? Then make sure you’re getting to know the camera and directing teams. Be on the spot and attentive — you’ll work your way up the ladder in no time.Production assistants are easily some of the most undervalued members of a great film crew. Never let your frustration build — remember, everyone pays their dues. If you can stay attentive and keep learning, your hard work will pay off down the road.Cover image via Agatha Kadar.Looking for more articles on the film industry? 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