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MetaStory: Seeking new outlets for Mongolian creatives

By MICHELLE BOROK

MetaStory NGO was conceived in September 2013 by young, creative Mongolians looking to strengthen their community with opportunities to share artistic skills, inspiration and resources with their peers. The fledgling NGO pulled off its first training session  last month, a free five-day filmmaking workshop resulting in four short films written, directed, performed, shot and edited by teams of five.

In MetaStory’s own words: “Everyone has a story. In fact, everyone has many stories. As a country with the majority of its population 10 to 24 years of age, Mongolia is a youth-led nation. With a mere 2.8 million, we don’t have a strong manufacturing workforce, nor a comforting population number to develop our domestic market. But our youth has imagination with the potential to captivate the world through the means of creative industries. That’s what we want to support. We want to gather young, talented and aspiring creative people in Mongolia.”

The short films created in the MetaStory workshop are now part of a creative and professional challenge for the NGO’s founders. MetaStory will continue to follow through on its vision of sharing Mongolian creative endeavors and is venturing into the world of international film festival submissions, sending one of the strongest films created in its August workshop off for consideration for two European short film festivals.

The UB Post spoke with MetaStory to find out more about the NGO’s origin and mission.

How did MetaStory come to be?

We don’t want to talk much about our early days, in the hopes that someday our story will be adapted for a feature film, like “Social Network”. But different ideas about bringing Mongolia’s creative and cultural presence to the world—especially the Internet—had been incubating in our minds for some time. So, over the past year, the logo of MetaStory formed in the night skies, like the birth of a celestial body. In other words, Natso, Anand and three other people started this NGO. Then three people left due to creative differences and soon Zolnamar joined our team.

Our vision is to inspire “creative industries” to reach international audiences by becoming fluent in English and tech-savvy. But there is a commercial side to this, too. “Creative industries” is an umbrella term for film, music, publishing, games and other various activities. Thanks to new technology, reaching the international stage is not a pipe dream anymore. An international presence can help Mongolia’s economy and bring in more investment.

Our first activity was organizing a short filmmaking workshop. Funded by a U.S. Embassy grant and conducted in collaboration with the Los Angeles Film School, we selected 20 youth fluent in English and passionate about filmmaking and had U.S. writer, producer, and acting coach Lee Michael Cohn and professional Mongolian instructors teach them important aspects of filmmaking. The most fun part was letting them make their own film over the five-day period. Our participants were arranged into four teams and we have four short films they did as a learning experience. We’re also sending the best film out of the four to the Oberhausen and Hamburg international short film festivals for experience.

What are your own creative backgrounds?

Natso has been trying to write short stories for awhile now. He says he found his true calling in storytelling (hence the name MetaStory). He has blogged, written short stories, book reviews, scripts and passive aggressive e-mails (don’t we all?), but has yet to be published, with an emphasis on “yet”.

Zolnamar has been heading a tech start-up and teaching kids about programming. She is a true polyglot in programming languages. Her latest iOS app game, “Bubbleologist” was recently released on Apple’s App Store, so now is a good time to check it out.

Anand has been practicing salsa, kizomba and other forms of dance floor seduction for three years now. (Ahem, he’s taken though, ladies.) He also has an Advanced Communicator Bronze title from Toastmasters International. He’s also a big film junkie, much like all of us.

Only recently have Mongolian stories on film, presented by Mongolians, been shared with the world. Have the stories told by foreign filmmakers influenced Mongolian screenwriters and directors at all?

Although no strangers to Hollywood’s penchant for blockbusters (read: explosions and CGI), the filmmakers in Mongolia probably didn’t grow up watching John Wayne’s “Conqueror”, we are aware of the image of barbarians and steppes that the word Mongolia conjures. One of our visions is to let Mongolia’s filmmakers capitalize on that, perhaps like “Borat”. Maybe not quite like “Borat”.

What’s the current state of education in media arts in Mongolia’s universities and technical schools?

During our first short filmmaking workshop, organized August 18 to 22, we realized that instruction in media arts is very theory-oriented, and most students don’t get much practice with technology. We want to promote the best practices of schools integrating technology, as this is radically changing the field of creative industries. Also, we’re planning to organize contests and events, lots and lots of them.

Are you thinking about the convergence of traditional Mongolian storytelling and modern technology?

That’s exactly what we’re thinking about. We want to guide Mongolian artists in taking on digital platforms to channel their work and reach international audiences.

Which stories have the least representation in Mongolia?

When films and shows cover Mongolia, they are usually shadowed by the culture of our neighbors. We want to show that we’re a small bunch of nomadic people who don’t speak Chinese or treat the cold with vodka.

What are the major challenges for Mongolian creatives?

English fluency and tech-savviness have to be the biggest ones. Also, networking with and learning more from international practitioners. Finally, there has been a lot of complaints on social media recently about how the established artists in Mongolia are “hogging the stage” while exploiting the newcomers. While we’re not taking any sides, we definitely think this won’t yield any progress for the development of creative industries in Mongolia.

Are you finding a lot of local support for the NGO? 

Support is something we could definitely use here. As we’re a small group running on passion, we are in shortage of human resource and premises. So far, we are looking for partners and volunteers who are passionate about creativity and are willing to exchange experience; partners and donors who can support us with venues, namely restaurants to host our bi-monthly events and venues to host our upcoming workshops; partnership from the government and other local NGOs to form advocacy coalitions; and support from international NGOs and donors to build up our capacity. We would encourage interested parties to write us at metastory.ngo@gmail.com or head on over to metastory.org or facebook.com/metastory to follow our developments.

 

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=11879

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