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Alumni Profile

Alumni Profile: Mark & Ericha Gudmastad

Featured in the Spring 2015 issue of the Media, Film & Journalism Studies Newsletter, Perspectives.

Mark Gudmastad and interviewees for his film Mark Gudmastad
MA, International & Intercultural Communication (IIC), 2009
Independent Consultant and Co­founder, Voxturo Creative

Ericha Gudmastad
MA, International & Intercultural Communication (IIC) 2009
Localization Manager and Co­founder, Voxturo Creative Localization Project Manager, F5 Networks

Q: What was your focus in the IIC program?
Ericha Gudmastad: During my time in the IIC program, I acquired skills to use media as a tool to improve people's livelihoods, and focused on behavior change communication, video production, and sustainable development.
Mark Gudmastad: The IIC program, for me, was the next step in a natural progression. It allowed me to apply my undergraduate learning in journalism and my Peace Corps experience in international development.

Q: Tell us about your current work and recent documentary.
EG: Watu Kamu Sisi (People Like Us) is a participatory film about people with albinism (PWA) in Tanzania. Albinism in Tanzania occurs at ten times the rate in developed countries.
Historically, PWA in Tanzania are stigmatized and marginalized by their families and communities, if not killed at birth. This is largely due to superstitions that albinism is a curse from God. Our goal was to use media to educate a Tanzanian audience about Tanzanian albinos.

We partnered with local Tanzanian organizations to create a film that gives PWA a voice among their peers, and most of all, shows that they are human, just like everyone else. Every step was designed to put as much editorial control as possible in the hands of Tanzanian albinos.

In July 2013, we led a storytelling and interviewing workshop in Tanzania with albinos and traditional healers. Then we turned on the cameras and let them run with it ­ and the results were astounding. With just one day of training on audience recognition, storytelling, and interviewing techniques, the participants learned to narrate incredible, heartbreaking, and extremely effective stories.

Q: What was your hope for the film ­ then and now?
EG: Our hope was to create a film to inspire peer­to­peer change, and it seems to be working. Watu Kama Sisi is being shown in town hall style meetings in villages. 470 adults and more than 400 children attended [meetings in four villages last March 2015]. We've seen immediate impact ­ not only do people love the film, viewers report immediate changes in knowledge.

Q: Did your IIC experience contribute to your current work?
MG: I entered the IIC program to combine my passion for communication with my passion for international development. This project is a representation of how to reduce innate biases and influences. Thanks to my IIC studies, I have the ability to recognize my position and cultural identity and, to the greatest extent possible, remove them from the equation.
EG: IIC taught me how to conceptualize and put into action a project like Watu Kama Sisi, from a technical standpoint, to project planning, and monitoring and evaluation. I feel fortunate to have been in a program where I learned hard skills, discovered how to navigate and better understand the complex and convoluted world of international development, and defined how and where I could contribute.