The First Steps

Each member was asked to write down what they were feeling and what  they were expecting before they go to South Africa, check below to see what they each said:

 Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Cory Fugale

Six days until we depart for South Africa and I am feeling pretty good, but a bit nervous. I’m nervous due to the impending hurricane affecting our travel but I’m excited to get to South Africa and build relationships with our crew and the natives as well. I started off taking this course because I was interested in film making but after the first month of class, I’m more invested in filming documentaries and telling someone’s story that may be overlooked by society, which we are doing in this case. Expectations are pretty high because this should be a powerful story, I want to make sure it is told in the right light and is also true and honest.  I really want to get that out of our trip, and I also want to gain a better understanding of how they live and their culture. I hope to have chances to embrace the cuisine they eat, and even play some soccer with the locals.  

Kerry Caufield

    We’re officially 8 days away from departing for Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa and I don’t really know what to expect. I’ve seen plenty of images from both cities and I know that nothing will compare to me physically being there, experiencing it all for myself. I know this is minor, but the plane ride is really one of the biggest things on my mind right now. Someone in my class will have the pleasure of being my hand holder during the beginning of the flight, I just haven’t told them yet! Besides the flight, to be honest, I’m very overwhelmed in the best way. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, excitement, nerves, and obviously with the work we still have to do. What most people don’t know is that this journey doesn’t just end when we get back from our trip, but rather it will have just begun. With so much to do in the coming months I keep reminding myself why I’m doing this documentary to begin with. At first, I started off pretty naive to the process, just wanting to be involved because of my love for documentary films. Where I’m sitting now, though, I’ve come to realize that my passion lies with the story, the people I’m working with, and the individuals we will be filming. I’m nervous because I still feel pretty naïve working with such powerful topics like race and socio-economic inequality, but I know I will grow throughout this process in order to present our message to an audience who we will really impact. As one of the cinematographers and editors, I’m huge into visuals. This weekend I am going to be putting together a visual document on Microsoft word for me to refer to images, colors, and angles that have really inspired me. I’m hoping to share this with the class before we leave so we can really get a visual feel for what our film will look like. I’m so excited for these next 8 days and can’t wait to share our journey with everyone!

Ciara Earrey

South Africa is one week away. That's mind blowing to me. All I thought about all spring and all summer was South Africa; getting there, what I'd see, who I'd meet, and the lives I had the chance to change. But now the time is here to go, and I realize that this experience is going to change ME, not them. I'm finally seeing in the flesh what I've felt all along, that the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS are so much bigger than any one of us could have anticipated. We are being given an amazing opportunity to shed light on the universal struggles of black lives and finally amplify the voices that have been hushed for so long but still have so much to say. I'm so nervous because more than anything in this world, I want to do a good job. I want to tell a story that my soon to be colleagues in South Africa as well as Philadelphia will be proud of, as well as make my more privileged friends question and reform their own beliefs about an issue that is SO prevalent in our society: Racial Injustice. I don't think we can change the world, but I think we have a chance to be groundbreaking and show EVERYONE that no matter what tools you use systematically, physically, mentally, to stifle and devalue black lives... they're still here, they're still powerful, they're still fighting, and their lives matter. That's all I care about. 

Kelsey Hanson

I signed up for this class for three primary reasons: 1. I love to travel. 2. I love people and storytelling. 3. Because I love travel and people and storytelling, I want to be a journalist. Experience in documentary work will look great on my resume.
I had no idea what we were going to be filming before signing up and had no idea where we were going. However, I was thrilled to find out we were going to South Africa because I had studied in the continent twice before and am constantly looking for ways to go back. Right now, I am not fully confident in where our class is with the story we are going to be telling and that scares me. Our film has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people. If we succeed, we could start a conversation about race that has, at this moment in our nation’s cultural climate, failed. If we fail, we will only contribute to the misinformation that is already being circulated through our television screens and social media feeds. 
That being said, I trust my teammates. We all come from diverse backgrounds with varying levels of experience regarding race and poverty as they pertain to South Africa, Philadelphia, and beyond. I trust this team to work together, to work with humility, to work with diligence. I trust this team to ask questions and to learn and to grow. I trust this team to trust each other and, in doing so, make a film that will do some type of justice to the people who are trusting us to tell their stories. 

Julie Piscina

5 and a half weeks ago I sat in a room with some people I recognized, but didn’t know. And some people I’d never seen before. And one or two that I’d had class with before. And a very daunting task in front of us: get to know each other, get together a story, and make a film that outlasts this class. Five and a half weeks later, I know every person in this room, or at least I do on the surface. I don’t know enough about them, but I know one thing- they’re all ready to make something amazing, and they will work endlessly to find out what that amazing thing will be. People with vibrant ideas and thoughts that can change what we do in an instant, or use their words to describe a scene that no picture could do justice, surround me. We have the manpower and we have the willpower and in a week we’ll be on the ground, clueless, passionate and overwhelmed- it’s going to be amazing. For now, though, in my own head, as my own person, I am grappling with the idea of race and how I can learn to fully understand it- or if I can. How mine is a privilege in this country that I did not earn. How I am thinking out every word I write about it because I don’t want to talk about it until I understand it, but I don’t know if  I ever truly can- but silence is the problem too. So for now, I will listen to the wonderful, brilliant, passionate people around me and learn from everything they say and feel and trust that they will listen to what I say as well. It’s pretty wonderful that I get to learn so much from my peers. I am excited and terrified and in less than one week it’ll all be as real as it gets and I can’t wait! 

Princess Garrett

My mind has been spinning for the past few days and I cannot believe that we will be on a plane to South Africa in a few days. It was not until last week while my peers were pitching that I realized how unprepared the class was for South Africa.  I realized that the class was going to have a hard time talking about race because for a lot of them it was something that had never really had to talk about. Going to South Africa is a big deal to me, because it’s Africa and in someway my roots go back to Africa, so I feel a connection to the place. This film is an even bigger deal for me because we have the chance to talk about “Black Lives Matter.” This has been a huge issue ever since my freshman year of college and continues to be an issue because people do not understand how undervalued a black life is in the world. I know I cannot expect my peers to understand 20 years of being black woman or even just being black, but I know I would like them to understand the different structures and systems that have been put into place to make me feel this way.  I want my peers to understand how race, class, gender, social class, education, politics, economics, inequality, HIV/AIDS and more all relate to each other. I am nervous, stressed and exhausted. But I feel good knowing that this is all going to a good cause that not only affects me, but the people I will come into contact with. This class is more than about just making a film, it is about my history and my people that have been silenced for so long. I am excited to see where this journey takes us all, but I am also more excited to see how this project turns out. I can’t wait for the world to see this truth. 

Brittany Lam

Whenever people ask me if I’m “excited” about South Africa, I never know how to respond. I feel stressed, overwhelmed, and tremendously under prepared. Does that mean I'm not excited? Not at all. Am I excited to officially start our journey and embark on a life-changing experience? Am I excited to visit another country and lay eyes on one of the most beautiful places in the entire world? Am I excited to start filming, to meet our characters, and to finally just be there already? Of course. Am I ready to experience the shock that accompanies with encountering poverty, disease, and explicit racial injustice? Am I ready to hear heart-breaking stories that people living within the townships may share with us? Am I ready for the possibility that they may not want to share those stories with us? Am I ready to leave my comfort zone and come face to face with the privileges that I ignore as an upper middle-class American from Villanova? No. I don’t think I’ll ever be “ready” for any of that. But hey, it’s happening whether I’m ready or not and so, I guess yes -- I am very, very excited.

Vincent Thomas

"I am very excited about going on this trip. I know everyone is panicking, trying to figure out how we are going to pull this thing off but I have no doubt in my mind that we will make the bet documentary any student organization has made on Villanova's campus because we have a bunch of individuals that are all working together with the same mindset trying to make this happen.

I'm going to South Africa because it's a country in the motherland. Many things and events in history started in Africa, so to find the source of a problem that is a problem over here like race and other social justice issues, we have to find out from the source how it was originated.

What I hope to get out of this experiences is a whole new meaning of the word "humbling". I want my humility to burn inside so much that I'll do whatever it takes to help the country and to make this movie as successful as I know the potential it can be."

Alex Riesterer

I am going to South Africa to explore a new avenue of study rather than the business world, which I am drudging through. I also am going back because I love the country and am hoping to change the perceptions surrounding it being “Africa” and the stigmas that are associated with that.
My mind is in all different directions right now. I don’t think that it has hit me yet that I am going to be back in South Africa in less than a week. On one hand I am soooo stressed about all the little details. Whenever one fire gets put out, another one is laying dominant ready to set ablaze. These details of consumed my mind and have taken my away from the story. Despite, having been to South Africa, I don’t know enough, I haven’t done enough research, and I don’t have a good enough understanding of these issues and to talk about them in depth. I don’t think we will ever be fully prepared for this experience and that terrifies me. 
My expectations for this experience is that it will challenge me. When I studied abroad in South Africa, I volunteered every week teaching English in a township outside of Cape Town called Nyanga. This was one of the most challenging cultural experiences I have ever faced. My original expectations were that I was going to really be able to help these kids and they would love me from day one. Instead, on the first day I got a proper reality check and realized that they perceived me as an outsider coming into their world to teach them because “I know better.” This perception that I was feeding into a white savior complex ate at my conscious throughout the experience. It made me think about why I was actually doing this and I am still unsure of where I landed on that trail of thought. I learned a lot from this experience and now am going into this documentary with an expectation that my perceptions and mindset on race and privilege will be challenged and that is my hope for this experience. 

Sean Fitzgerald

A legacy is what you leave behind. I took this course originally to do a kickass job of editing and have a great and powerful addition to my portfolio for a job in film. But after the pitch, after seeing my classmates be moved to tears, things changed at least for me. After that, and after watching countless documentaries I want to do something worth the life I was given. I was blessed compared to my other siblings, I was the smartest, the most athletic, and the most creative. Yet of my siblings I have done the least, and floated through life on my god given talents. While I’m alive, I want to at least do something that matters, for people that can’t or don’t have the means to do something for themselves. I also want to help my classmates achieve their dreams. So many of them want nothing more than to make this documentary the best thing imaginable. And I want to be there to help them with that, every step of the way. A legacy is what you leave behind. I want mine, and everyone in this classes to be something beautiful and moving and powerful, that at least starts a conversation.

Trey Johnson

I have a feeling that this experience is going to be like no other I’ve ever had before. Unfortunately, I can not actually go to South Africa because it falls in the middle of football season. A lot of different things are going through my head, the main one being, what have I gotten myself into. The story that we have to tell is a story that needs to be told, and I am pleased I get to be apart of it. The comradery that our team is building in such a short period of time is astonishing. With that, the outcome that we will come to will be something so much bigger than just me. That’s why I’m doing this, in order to be apart of something that is bigger than me, something that could possibly change the world.

Isabel Manfredonia

The looming question as a senior is, what will you do after you graduate? My honest answer is I don’t know and haven’t known. In these first few weeks of class leading up to our departure, I have assured myself of one thing that I will do when my time at Villanova is done; I want to be apart of something bigger, I want to participate in the improvement of our ever growing global society, and I will leave my mark somehow, someway. We may not find the solutions to poverty, racism, sexism, and the never ending list of societal divides in producing this documentary however we will spark the conversation and wake people up to the reality of what is happening around us here in the United States, and around the world, in places like South Africa. I want people’s perspectives and thoughts to change, just as mine have already. I am curious, anxious, and more than anything excited to see how they will change even more. 

Pat McNulty

Right now I am pretty anxious about the whole trip. I’m a control freak and I like to have things planned out in my head of how they will go and for this trip I really don’t know how everything will go. Other than feeling nervous I am very excited to get there, but not excited for the flights. I expect to be very stressed and tired while I am there. I also expect that this trip will be emotional for me but it will hopefully lead to me knowing myself better. The reason I signed up for this class is because I thought it was the next step for me after taking the intro and advanced film production classes. After a while of research and self-reflection I finally see my role in the grand scheme of things and that if I don’t become the solution, than I am the problem. I hope to get a lot out of this experience. First of all I hope that this experience will help me grow and become a better, more mindful person. I hope that as a crew we get to form an awesome bond. I also hope that we make a really empowering and change provoking film that can be seen by the masses. I believe that through our journey there will be ups and downs, but in the end we will create something so powerful that will open up the minds our audience.