The Proposal-This is Africa-Totems and Wildlife

Table of Contents






Notes on style


Script Outline

Expert knowledge

Totems and Wildlife-Proposal


Flight and car fuel transport £600-£700 flight

£100 fuel

Redemption Jongwe
Accommodation at Victoria Falls/ Mana Pools and food/drink £70- two nights Requires funding (student finance)
Fees for permission to shoot of Game Park £30-visit game park Requires funding (student finance)






The documentary director has all the duties of a director in scripted film-making, but often works with constraints others don’t have to deal with. As director of the documentary, I will research into programmes similar to my documentary. The purpose is to note down, the ways in which they use cinematography. After that I will create a camera shot-list. 1 month Redemption Jongwe
Producer A documentary producer oversees the creation and entire factual film, managing both the budget and staff.

As producer, I will be in contact with my subjects and the National Park team to find out whether there are any fees and permission, that I will need to get in order to shoot on their reserve. I will also be in contact with potential crew members that will assist in sound recording and editing.

1 month Redemption Jongwe
Sound Recordist and assistant Recording sound on location or in a studio, usually in synchronisation with the camera, to enable the highest quality ‘real’ sound to be recorded at the time of filming. My documentary needs a sound recordist and assistant at the moment, the two crew members will be next to the director at all times and recording in sync with the shooting. 1 month
Sound Editor I will need a Sound Editor to create the soundtrack by cutting and synchronizing to the picture, sound elements, such as production wild tracks, dialogue tracks, etc. and presents these to the re-recording mixer for final sound balance. I will require a sound editor 1 month
Editor As editor, I will piece together all the raw footage that I am going to shoot and create the final visual cut 1 month Redemption Jongwe
Camera Operator Camera operator will be responsible for shooting the best possible shots and angles of the documentary. 1 month Redemption Jongwe
Casting Director I will be responsible for selecting my subjects for all roles in my documentary 1 month Redemption Jongwe
Location Manager I have found the locations that I will shoot the documentary-Mana Pools National Park, I am currently waiting on their response on whether I will need to negotiate fees, terms and permissions to shoot. However, visitors are usually allowed to take pictures and videos but since this is a documentary piece, it might be different. 1 month Redemption Jongwe
Researcher / Screenwriter Since documentary are real events, a traditional script wont apply, however, an outline will be created, of the topics that a particular subject will discuss and include a few facts that the subject to bring up in the documentary

I am responsible of performing focused research into the topic and outlining what topics to be discussed in documentary

2 months Redemption Jongwe
Two subjects

expert and regular Zimbabwean person

Two individuals that will feature in my documentary. I will interview the expert discussing the topics that are outlined in the script and the Zimbabwean person will explain what the totemic culture means to her culture 3 days Dorcas Jongwe


I will need to book out University equipment to shoot the documentary

Camera-Canon XA10 To shoot the documentary 1 month Camera operator
DR100 Tascam To record the audio in sync with the camera 1 month Sound recordist
Shotgun Mic To capture the audio 1 month Sound assistant
Boom Pole To help position the microphone closer to the source 1 month Sound assistant
Tripod To mount the camera, so that I shoot steady shots and angles 1 month Camera operator
Batteries For the camera 1 month Camera operator


Bordesley Green-Birmingham to shoot the interview with a family member as she explains what the totemic culture means to the Shona people


Mana Pools National Park is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, remoteness and wilderness. This unique park is a WORLD HERITAGE SITE, based on its wildness and beauty, together with the wide range of large mammals, over 350 bird species and aquatic wildlife. Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular parks, and it is easy to see why it falls into this profile.


On the old river terraces, tourists can walk unaccompanied by guides in the open Albida woodland because visibility is good and there is little danger of unexpectantly coming across dangerous animals. This privilege of walking alone in an area with dangerous wildlife is unique in Zimbabwe. Elephant, eland, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, baboons, monkeys, zebra, warthog and hippo are some of the larger herbivores to be seen regularly on the river terraces as they come out to eat the fallen Albida fruit. Lions, leopards, spotted hyena and cheetah are present in the area, but their secretive nature makes them more difficult to see. Despite this, it is not often that the visitor leaves Mana Pools without seeing at least one of these large carnivores.


During the summer months (November to March) the weather is hot and humid, whilst during the winter it is pleasantly cool and dry – occasionally becoming cold at night.

Images of Mana Pools National Park

zebraffes     lions

hippos    elephants

cheetahs   buffallondfolks



The reserves are tourists’ attractions therefore, they are available all year round, however, I know that the filming of animals is allowed but unsure whether there are any fees or laws that I need to be aware of. Therefore, I have emailed the nationals game parks requesting permission to shoot on their reserves; I am still waiting on their response.

If I don’t end getting a response from the reserve, my second option is use archive footage of animals and African culture to show the connection between the nature and the people of Zimbabwe.

Notes on style

Examples of Similar work

The video link below, illustrates the style I am hoping to achieve when I shoot my Totem documentary. My intention is for the animal video footage to be accompanied by voice-over of statistics that I would have obtained through my research of the Totemic Culture. An interview with an expert-park guide will feature as he explains how the totemic culture has helped in preserving Zimbabwe’s wildlife.



The video link below illustrates some of the documentary trades that will feature in my documentary for instance: voice-overs accompanying the animal footage.


Images of the Style the subjects will be shot in

This film features mid- shots and hand-held camera work to show subject’s expressions and body language.

style1   style2

style3   style4

style5   style6

Documentary Codes and Conventions that will feature in my project

voiceover    realfootage

technicalityofrealism    archivefootage-stills

The plan is for me to go to Zimbabwe to shoot the animal footage and also interview the mana pools park expert. However, if events don’t go according to plan, I will have to use archive footage and get a photographer that I know, to shoot the interview of the expert back in Africa and send the raw footage over to me to edit it.

interviewwithexperts    txt

sound    visualcoding


Subject 1

Name: Dorcas Jongwe

Background: She was born and raised in Zimbabwe, she belongs to the ‘Heart’ totemic clan. Her husband belongs to the ‘Zebra’ clan therefore their 4 children also belong to the Zebra clan. She moved to the United Kingdom in 2007, along with her family

Role: Zimbabwean woman explaining the meaning of the totemic culture to the Shona people


Video footage:

Character Profile:

Availability: Shooting should hopefully begin in July for her scenes and she is available

Permissions/Clearances: N/A

Subject 2


Background: Zimbabwean park ranger who works at the National Park and works closely with the animals in the country.

Role: a Zimbabwean expert who works at the National Parks and knows the facts on how this tradition benefits the Zimbabwean wildlife

Character Profile:


Availability: since I will be filming at the reserve where they work, they will be available for my use. In terms of reliability, at times they will have to attend to their daily job routines; however, this shouldn’t affect me greatly, since I will be staying at the reserve for two nights.

Permissions/Clearance: I will need permission from the subject and the national park. I have emailed the reserve requesting permission

 Teaser Script Outline

 (Opening credits- Footage of African wildlife)

Narrator- It is considered taboo to kill or harm totem animals. Could this be a tool for conservation?

Subject 1- briefly explain what the Totemic culture means to the Shona people

Topics to discuss

  • What is a totem

(Footage of African wildlife)- Narration of facts about the beginning of totemism

  • What is the importance of this tradition

(Footage of African wildlife)- Narration on consequences of harming a totem

Subject 2- Mana Pools National park expert introduces themselves and explains how the totemic culture has helped conserve Africa’s wildlife

Topics to discuss

  • Totemic culture is protecting the Wildlife e.g. Gorillas

(Archive footage of Gorillas in the Congo)- Narration of facts about protection Gorillas due to this culture

Eighty-seven percent of people agreed that gorillas were totems (personal spiritual helpers or counterparts) of people living in the village. People who believed in human–gorilla totemic kinship practice did not eat or hunt gorillas, and they wanted gorillas to be protected in order to protect the practice. Most (87%), of the interviewees declared their support for gorilla conservation. The main motivation was the belief that when gorillas are killed, the human totemic counterpart will die as a result. Because of these traditions, the hunting of gorillas is taboo in all five villages surveyed.

Subject 1- explain methods in which the Shona people honour their totem

Topics to discuss

  • Discuss the methods the totem culture is honoured

(footage of different objects they decorate their houses with as a way of respecting their totem)


The following is a script outline of: This is Africa: Totems and Wildlife.

Video footage of Zimbabwean woman: Dorcas Jongwe Main subject explains what a totem is
Video footage of Wildlife Narrator explains the origins of the totemic tradition
Video footage of Zimbabwean woman: Dorcas Jongwe and an African community dancing and laughing Explaining how this tradition relates socially and politically e.g. how it bonds the Shona people as communities
Video footage of Shona people of the Elderly generation and younger generation Explaining how this culture impacts marriage and comparing the difference between the value of the culture in the 1900s era and the 2000s era
Video footage of Wildlife Narrator explains the punishments that people were given for breaking the laws that the totemic belief carried
Video footage of Zimbabwean woman: Dorcas Jongwe Explaining how this belief is honoured and respected in Zimbabwe
Video footage of production crew arriving at Mana Pools National Park Narrator explaining the reason we are at the reserve
Video footage of the Expert Introducing the wildlife expert as he explains how bringing awareness to the belief has helped create a promising future for Wildlife in Africa
Video footage of the Park and its surroundings Expert explains the statistics that they have discovered on how this belief has helped the environment
Video footage of the Park’s wildlife Expert explains the significant drop in poaching in Zimbabwe and whether this is due to the increase in raising awareness about the totemic belief

Expert knowledge

 Having conducted research into how totems are a potential factor to help converse our wildlife. I found out crucial information on how wildlife experts in African countries such as Niger and Uganda are trying to raise awareness on how the totem system can help the species in their country.


It is considered taboo to kill or harm totem animals. Could this be a tool for conservation?

Could totems help in conservation?

Some conservation groups, such as the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), are looking to old cultural beliefs to supplement existing protection efforts. In 2010, the UWEC announced it would adopt Uganda’s Buganda clan totem system to raise awareness of species in the region.

Former UWEC director Andrew Seguya said at the time that “people have forgotten this, but during the old times, the Baganda knew that it was a taboo to kill your totem or even to eat your totem. If we reinvent this, it may be a useful tool in our conservation.”

More recently, Buganda Queen Sylvia Nagginda visited the UWEC sanctuary to lay a foundation stone for the construction of a home and exhibit for her cultural totem – the cane rate – alongside other animal and plant totems, as part of an effort to boost knowledge of species protection.

Studies have illustrated a link between religious and cultural beliefs, and found that totemism and taboos could help our wildlife and environment. These are statistics that I will include in my documentary and hopefully my expert will be able to give us a detailed report on how putting these beliefs into action has helped Zimbabwe, in particular.

The study

“Traditional beliefs and conservation of natural resources: Evidences from selected communities in Delta State, Nigeria” looked at the role of traditional belief systems in the conservation of natural resources in a number of communities on the Niger Delta. It concluded that tabooed species in those areas had high populations and were not endangered – although it is unclear whether the researchers controlled for other factors.

For more information on this subject, follow the link below:


African Totems, Kinship and Conservation

This article gave offered me more knowledge and understanding of the amount of different Southern African countries that use the totemic culture beliefs e.g. if you harm the totem, you will bring bad luck to your family. In Uganda, wildlife experts are trying different methods such as donations and these proceeds will go towards preserving the donor’s totem. If my project gets green-lit, this is information I will reference in my factual film.

The concept of using totems demonstrated the close relationship between humans, animals and the lived environment. Anthropologists believe that totem use was a universal phenomenon among early societies. Pre-industrial communities had some form of totem that was associated with spirits, religion and success of community members. Early documented forms of totems in Europe can be traced to the Roman Empire, where symbols were used as coats of arms, a practice which continues today.

In Africa, chiefs decorated their stools and other court items with their personal totems, or with those of the tribe or of the clans making up the larger community. It was a duty of each community member to protect and defend the totem. This obligation ranged from not harming that animal or plant, to actively feeding, rescuing or caring for it as needed. African tales are told of how men became heroes for rescuing their totems. This has continued in some African societies, where totems are treasured and preserved for the community’s good.

In Zimbabwe, totems (mitupo) have been in use among the Shona groupings since the initial development of their culture. Totems identify the different clans among the Shona that historically made up the dynasties of their ancient civilization. Today, up to 25 different totems can be identified among the Shona ethnic grouping, and similar totems exist among other South African groups, such as the Zulu, the Ndebele, and the Herero in Botswana and Namibia.

For more information on this subject, follow the link below:


A survey was conducted in 2007 in five villages to assess local perceptions of human–gorilla totemic kinship practices and taboos against hunting and against eating of gorillas. Villages were selected based on their proximity to Cross River gorilla (CRG) habitat, with a total of 184 interviewer-administered questionnaires completed during a 4-week period. Eighty-six percent of people agreed that gorillas were totems (personal spiritual helpers or counterparts) of people living in the village. People who believed in human–gorilla totemic kinship practice did not eat or hunt gorillas, and they wanted gorillas to be protected in order to protect the practice. Most (87%), of the interviewees declared their support for gorilla conservation. The main motivation was the belief that when gorillas are killed, the human totemic counterpart will die as a result. Because of these traditions, the hunting of gorillas is taboo in all five villages surveyed.

For further information, follow the link below:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s