Last week on the ikan Blog, we began our interview with documentary filmmaker/Director, TC Johnstone, regarding his latest feature entitled: “Rising to Ashes”–a powerful, well-shot, beautiful, full-of-hope documentary which captures the struggle of Rwanda’s only competitive cycling team, as they grow from grassroots bicyclists to national heroes, determined to raise high and represent their culture for the world to share.
IK: How did you develop (or find, even) a team of filmmakers passionate and skilled enough to help you achieve your vision?
TC: This is a great question. When I started Gratis 7 a few years ago it was to help filmmakers that had the character and the talent to tell great stories. We started asking filmmakers how we could help with their projects. People caught the vision of working together and it really took a life of it’s own. It soon became a family telling stories we could have never achieved on our own.
I find that many filmmakers are lonely. It’s very discouraging working by yourself. I always encourage young filmmakers to find a soulmate. Find someone you really enjoy being with in life and on set. I’m constantly talking with networks of filmmakers. I see caring for filmmakers and telling stories of purpose as my ministry.
IK: Who are the team members of Gratis 7?
TC: Gratis 7 is a business entity. It works more like a family then a corporation. Gratis 7 is a hub that provides structure for independent contractors with similar passion and common vision to create together.
IK: Your team recently stopped by our facility to pick up some essential equipment, right before your departure to Rwanda—how well were you able to predict what was necessary? Has your selection benefitted your team’s endeavours thus far?
TC: Before we left for Rwanda my producer, Greg Kwedar and Director of Photography, Jeremy Rogers, and I road tripped to Ikan and spent the day with their team. It was invaluable for us. We were able to ask endless questions on equipment. The challenge for us was taking the right equipment to Rwanda. With the cost of bringing equipment overseas you have to be incredibly accurate. Ikan was an enormous help with this. For instance lighting, we needed portable lights that didn’t require heavy voltage. The team at Ikan helped us design a small portable LED lighting package that worked perfectly in the field. The Ikan lights were just the right package for the DSLR’s we were shooting. And, no heat! That’s the best when you’re moving fast. I’m a big believer in “take the necessities and rely on your creativity”. Ikan helped us create an amazing balance.
IK: What do you hope to achieve with “Rising From Ashes?”
TC: My biggest desire for the film is for the world to see Rwanda as a country truly rising from the ashes. In turn inspiring us all to consider the power of hope, forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s how we choose to embrace the life we are given. It’s a beautiful example of how we can choose to live our lives.
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Thanks to all of you, Gratis 7, for such intense work and capturing of life!
We can’t wait to see the full piece! This blog will periodically release more information as soon as it is know, such as release date, etc. Otherwise, stay tuned in and check out TC’s news on his twitter and facebook.
For more information:
Gratis 7 Media Group and their latest film,