Robyn Symon and I met at a workshop I gave in Florida and we were working together soon after. Years later she wrote to me about a new film, saying, “The cut is almost there but not quite.” It was as if no time had passed — her passion for this film was as strong and focused as it had been for her previous one. And she was right, the film was almost there, and with a little push she made it great. Next she’s premiering it in New York and Los Angeles.
Behind the Blue Veil
Director/Producer: Robyn Symon
Length: 60 min.
Mamatal, the son of a Tuareg chief, sets out on a journey across the Sahara to save his culture. After the Mali government collapses, he finds himself caught between Tuareg rebels fighting for independence and Al Qaeda bent on taking over the Sahara. Mamatal’s dilemma raises awareness of how these indigenous people might just be the best hope for defeating Islamic radicals in the region.
Select Festivals, Screenings, Broadcast & Awards:
- Premiering at the Quad in New York City, November 1 to 7, 2013
- Screened for U.S. Department of Defense (AFRICOM)
- Short version screened at the United Nation and Los Angeles Amazigh Film Festivals
- Mali and the Sahara, West Africa
- Experts interviewed in London and Washington, DC
- Production company based in Florida and Los Angeles
- 2-week shoot
- Pick-up interviews over 6 months
- 14 months of editing, with many interruptions
- $220,000 total budget
- In first year, money raised through FACES (Foundation Advancing Cultural and Economic Survival)
- In, second year, funding from Turtle Will, then a Kickstarter campaign ($21,472 pledged of its $20,000 goal)
Broadcast Journalism Major, Los Angeles Valley College, UCLA
For a Living:
Symon started her career as a TV news reporter at KJAC-TV and KBMT-TV in Beaumont, Texas, though she’s originally from Brooklyn. She moved to Miami with her young son and made the transition to writing and producing TV series and documentaries. She freelances as a writer/producer/editor.
In between shooting and editing, Symon filled in the financial gaps by writing and producing a 60-part web series for liiv.com.
- Florida! (The Travel Channel series, 1995)
- Boleros! Unforgettable Love Songs (PBS, 1997)
- Health & Family (Discovery Health series, 1999-2003)
- Voices of Vision (PBS docuseries, 2004-2007)
- Transformation: The Life & Legacy of Werner Erhard (distributed by Screen Media Films, 2007)
- Sompop (documentary short, 2008)
- Hedy & Yumi: Crossing the Bridge (documentary, 2008)
- Y.E.S.: Young Entrepreneur Society (documentary, 2009) – Producer
- One Week Job (documentary, 2009) – Producer
- Landslide (short, 2010)
Robyn’s Smart Move
Robyn Symon credits a successful Kickstarter campaign as the right move at the right time. She not only exceeded her goal, but also built a solid audience and investor pool. Symon also advocates a focus on the story, because “you can have the money, but if you don’t have the story, you have nothing.”
“Ran out of cash,” Symon said. “And I’m talking the actual paper money. There are no working ATMs in the Sahara and plane tickets can only be paid in cash.” Good thing she had a credit card that could wire emergency money or she’d still be there. The next day Al Qaeda rolled into town.
Symon arrived in Timbuktu and immediately drove to visit a remote village. “All of a sudden we arrived at a waterway and couldn’t cross,” Symon recalled. “High tide in the Sahara?” Out of the blue, people arrived with tents and blankets and food. Good hospitality is a trademark of the Tuareg culture. Except for the wild desert dogs staring her down at night, she felt safe. Another moment: hoping for a camel to show up in the desert and a village chief returning a half-hour later riding one with his son in tow. Beautiful!
Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?
“I’m always juggling projects,” Symon said. “I’ve been so fortunate to attract investors who like my work and hire me to tell inspiring stories. But I always wanted find an amazing subject closer to home. With funding attached, of course. And it happened just recently. I’ll be shooting a feature project in Miami called My Uncle Gloria.”