Mason student films 'story that needs to be told' in Kosovo

Logan McKennah Brown (left) is the first recipient of the Sony Production Award, which provides high-achieving film students a Sony FS7 for one month. She traveled to Kosovo with Mason student Erblin Nushi for his film "Bini." Gresa Zajmi (right) is the film's costume and production designer. Photo provided.

A college film student had the experience of her life as she traveled through Kosovo, camera in hand, documenting a fellow student’s return to the once war-ravaged country he fled as a child refugee.

Logan McKennah Brown, a rising senior in George Mason University’s Film and Video Studies program, traveled to the Balkans country in June to take behind-the-scenes footage of Kosovo native Erblin Nushi as he filmed his senior thesis, a scripted short film called “Bini.”

“It’s a story that needs to be told. I think it’s important to show all the obstacles that Erblin had to hurdle over to make his film,” she said.

Brown was able to work with one of the top cameras used in the documentary world because of a new partnership between George Mason’s Film and Video Studies Program and Sony. She is the first recipient of the Sony Production Award, which provides high-achieving film students a Sony FS7, a camera commonly used for documentary filmmaking, for one month.

Working with such a high-end camera gave her confidence, Brown said.

“I don’t have to be afraid to go to another country and document someone’s amazing journey,” she said. “It made me feel like Wonder Woman. I can take life by the horns.”

Cindy Silva, account manager for Sony Professional Solutions of America in Sterling, Va., approached Film and Video Studies faculty in late spring with the idea, said Giovanna Chesler, director of the film program at Mason.

“They’d read our mission and they were very keen to support inclusive film-making practice,” Chesler said.

Silva also manages Sony FIG (Female Independents Group), a community for women who are video creators and technicians.

Sony worked with Film and Video Studies to fast-track the camera lending process so Brown would have the camera for her trip to Kosovo.

Kosovo was out of the comfort zone for Brown, a Tallapoosa, Ga., native who had never traveled outside the country. She quickly discovered that the hospitality of the people of Kosovo rivals that of the southern United States. While they were scouting for houses that looked like they had been damaged in the war, people would welcome them into their homes and invite them to stay for dinner.

“Every door that we knocked on, they had their own war stories,” she said. “It was very heartbreaking.”

Brown also experienced some challenges while filming.

“All of the meetings were in Albanian and I don’t speak Albanian,” she said. “I was just rolling as much as possible. I tried to get the essence of how much [Nushi] had to do in Kosovo.”

Film and Video Studies professor Lisa Thrasher traveled to Kosovo and helped guide Brown on her documentary and behind-the-scenes practices. Brown plans to work with other Film and Video Studies students at Mason to edit and complete the film.