Kate Schmidgall

Behind-the-scenes with Bittersweet in Garbage City

In May, Steve Jeter, Brandon Bray, Dave and I spent a week in the garbage slums of Cairo. We were there to document the work of Stephen’s Children, a non-profit that has established nearly a hundred schools in the slums over the past 25 years. Its founder, leader and heart is a fiercely faithful woman lovingly nicknamed Mama Maggie. You can read the whole story here.

On these trips, we work 15-hour days—from landing to takeoff. The first two days are strictly no-camera days. Our priority is to listen and absorb. We learn as much as we can about our context, the work, the characters. The third day is story day—when concept and approach get hashed out.

Production days start with four espressos, a boiled egg and pre-production. We discuss the day’s shot list, set locations, coordinate transportation and translation, etc. Once we are appropriately caffeinated and sorted, we set out for 8-12 hours of filming. Here is a glimpse into our day-to-day...