Andre Singer recalls the first Disappearing World programmes that he worked on

Well, it was odd at the beginning because we were contracted as anthropologists, as consultants almost, for the film, not as filmmakers. And it was a research contract. I mean, it was a straightforward research contract that I had, but the role was to find the stories, help set them up, and be the anthropologist. And at that time, Chris Curling was still a researcher as well, and he was just moving into doing his first film with Brian. And that’s when he met Melissa. They eventually married, and it was a very complicated dynamic that went on in the department which, sort of jumping to a later question, the reason that I took over in a way was because Chris and Melissa met in the department and eventually married.

And I then set up my first film for Brian, which was the one in Kurdistan, the Dervishes film. And we each were sort of allocated a director to work to initially, so I worked with Brian to do the Kurdish film. Chris then worked with Melissa, and she set up her first Masai film, which Chris directed. That was his first film there. And Angela worked with Charlie Nairn, who directed one in Kataragama, in Sri Lanka. They were the first three that we did as that unit……

Obviously, you were employed as an anthropologist, did you get any training though in order to help you translate your subject matter into what would make a good film? Did anybody kind of give you that guidance?

No, not initially. Initially, the whole sort of ethos of the series was that we would, or Melissa and I, and Angela at that time, would pop off to the field. I mean it was a wonderful period because we had the luxury of time, which, of course, evaporated really later on. So we would go off for weeks on end and set up a film without really knowing what it needed as a filmmaker, and then the film team would come along and we would join the film team, and we would liaise while filming. And filming then, probably about five or six weeks at a time, we would have for the film period. And then we would go back and we would help the director in the edit, translating, sorting things out, etc., interpreting, whatever. And so that whole period, we’re probably talking about two, three, four, five, almost up to six months a film.

So, the first films that I did, first with Brian, then I did one with Leslie on the Mursi, and then I did one with Charlie Nairn up in Afghanistan, they were the first three.

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