Natalia López-Thismón tells us what it was like to make the series “A Closer Walk,” wrapping up on the Hope Channel this Friday. Watch at www.hopetv.org and watch trailers of all nine episodes at ADRA.org.
Question: ADRA’s nine-part docuseries, “A Closer Walk,” concludes this week on the Hope Channel. What was the message of the series?
Answer: We wanted people who watch “A Closer Walk” to be educated and to be inspired. Many people think they know ADRA — but our work around the world is more than responding to disasters (even though that is some of our most visible work). We work around the world to make sure that people can rise out of poverty in a sustainable way. We provide resources and hope. My favorite part of ADRA’s ministry is that we act as the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth — doing practical work that meets people’s most essential needs.
In several places around the world, we are helping people start gardens for food and income, or educating people in cooperatives to improve their business skills. We teach literacy classes for women and children and provide vocational training so that they can have their own businesses or find jobs. In disaster-prone areas, we also educate communities in disaster risk reduction so that the next time there is a disaster, families will not be as vulnerable. I could go on, but there is just so much our offices are doing!
Question: What has been the reaction to the series by viewers and by media? Has it been positive? Disappointing? How many viewers have you had?
Answer: I’m not sure about how many viewers we’ve had, but our Facebook and Twitter followers have been pleased, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback.
Question: You were the production coordinator for “A Closer Walk.” What exactly does a production coordinator do every day?
Answer: I did a lot of different things, but my main role was to take care of logistics from ADRA’s side. I coordinated all of our trips before, and during. I made sure that we had all we needed to get the stories we were looking for.
I helped resolve any issues during trips (delays, for example). I assisted the director/producer with whatever was needed. In some places, I translated. Before the trips, I made phone calls, interviewed country offices, prepared the travel itineraries, handled visa issues, transportation, and accommodations.
After filming, I have worked with the production company and with Hope Channel to get the shows ready for airing.
Question: What was it like to work on the production? What did you like? Hate?
Answer: I didn’t hate anything in the production process. Of course, our crew was tired for sure by the end of the process.
My favorite part was meeting all the people we work with around the world. I had the opportunity to talk to ADRA staff worldwide who are so passionate about the work they do. I also had the opportunity to talk to people who were rising out of poverty. The women entrepreneurs in Peru were particularly impressive to me.
Question: The docuseries traveled to remote parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia to film different stories in a variety of countries. Which was the most difficult place to film? Which was the hardest place to get to?
Answer: I’d say it’s a tie between Tanna Island in Vanuatu and Adjumani District in Uganda. In both places, we traveled on dirt roads for hours to reach the places where ADRA had projects. ADRA has projects in some of the most remote places of the world, and I learned this in a very real way in both places.
To get to Tanna Island in Vanuatu, we traveled for almost two days. Once there, the roads were so rough that to get anywhere we had to drive up to two hours.
To reach Adjumani District, we also drove on dirt roads for many hours. In parts of Uganda, people were particularly wary of the camera as well, which made filming more difficult than in other areas.
Question: Which episode is your favorite?
Answer: I don’t know that I have a favorite episode. It’s difficult to choose! I enjoyed filming in each place for a different reason.
Question: How did you decide which stories to tell? How much advance planning was necessary in each location?
Answer: We interviewed different country offices to find out what kinds of projects they were running and to hear people’s stories. We also wanted to cover a different topic in each episode, and we wanted to show that ADRA is truly a worldwide network. We spent almost four months planning before our first trip.
Question: How long did the series take to make? How many people worked on it?
Answer: We started really planning in April 2014, and production wrapped in early November 2014. We had a crew of four people who traveled: myself (production coordinator), Spencer Parker (director/producer), Jason Krangel (director of photography), and Sanjay Thomas (host).
Question: What was the reasoning behind making the series? What purpose did it serve? Has the series met those goals?
Answer: The purpose behind the series was to educate and inspire. I think that it has met those goals and will continue to meet them once we make the program more widely available.
Question: After the final episode, from Peru, airs on the Hope Channel on March 27, how will people be able to watch the series? Online? On DVD? Other channels?
Answer: I’m currently working on getting the show available on DVD and individual downloads. People who are interested should keep an eye on our Facebook page.
Question: What is your background and what qualified you to work on this production?
Answer: My background is in public relations. My organizational skills and my passion for ADRA’s work were my qualifications. This was my first time working in film production, but our crew (Spencer and Jason) have a lot of experience. I learned a lot from both of them. They are exceptional storytellers.
Natalia López-Thismón is ADRA International’s Associate Director for Communication, Marketing and Development. She graduated from Southern Adventist University with a public relations major in 2008. She earned a masters in Communication Studies from California State University in San Bernardino in 2012. Previous to joining ADRA in 2013, López-Thismón was a business communication assistant at the Miami HEAT organization in Miami, Florida.