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Profile: Living Black produced and presented by Karla Grant, SBS Television Australia

Karla Grant is in her 7th year as presenter and executive producer of SBS TV's prime-time Indigenous current affairs program By David Hague

In 2009 Karla Grant is in her 7th year as Presenter and Executive Producer of Living Black, SBS TV's prime-time national Indigenous current affairs program. Karla was appointed Executive Producer of SBS's Indigenous Media Unit in 2002 and from there, developed the concept for Living Black which first aired in February 2003.

Grant has worked for SBS for more than a decade; she was a presenter, producer, reporter and director of the Walkley award-winning ICAM program, SBS TV's Indigenous current affairs show that preceded Living Black. Here she reported on a wide range of issues for ICAM - politics, sports, the arts - and also produced a number of mini documentaries.
Additionally Grant has produced TV specials on reconciliation, land rights and the 1998 Federal election as well as crafting documentaries on the 2001 and 2002 Survival concerts. She was also part of the team that covered Corroborree 2000.
For the past five years, Karla has also produced SBS TV's coverage of The Deadly Awards, the national awards for Indigenous excellence in music, sport, entertainment and community service.

Australasian Camcorder caught up with Karla Grant recently and was curious about a number of aspects of Living Black such as production aspects, content and more.
 
DMN:  Where about is Living Black produced from?
KG:   The Living Black team is based in the News and Current Affairs department of SBS TV in its main offices in Sydney.  It's a production team of eight people including three Video Journalists.


Karla Grant on location


 DMN: When does it air?
KG:  Living Black is screening in a new time this year, airing on Monday's at 6pm.  It is the only national Indigenous current affairs program on Australian Television screening in prime time.  And it's unique in that it is the only program tackling contemporary issues of concern to Indigenous Australians.  The program is also repeated on Tuesday at 3:30pm and Friday's at 1pm.

DMN: What is the size of the crew and are they dedicated to Living Black or seconded from elsewhere?
KG: Living Black does not use crews to shoot its stories.  We have three full-time Video Journalists who operate as one man bands and they travel around the country shooting all their stories as well as being sound person, and interviewer all in one!!  It's a tough job and can be very challenging at times but operating in this way has its benefits in that people feel less threatened by a smaller camera and one person operating it rather than being confronted by a full crew with a larger camera. . . it can be very daunting for some people, particularly those living in remote areas.  Also, using the smaller camera makes it easier to get around with and less obtrusive and you can really get into some places that you may not be able to with a bigger camera.
 
DMN:  When in the field, what equipment is used?
KG: The video journalists (VJs) use Sony HVR-A1P HD Camcorders.  We have been using these for about a year now and they are proving to be an excellent camera for our journos to work with.  Some of the benefits of using these cameras are that they are light weight so they are easier to carry and easy to manoeuvre, the picture quality is very sharp and is broadcast quality which obviously is a must for us being a national current affairs program as we must have high production values. The cameras also have night vision which comes in handy when we are shooting night patrols etc.  The VJs love using these cameras and they are a vast improvement on the old PDX10s they use to operate.

Cameraman Paul Bell assists Karla Grant in getting mic'd up

Karla and Lorna Cox Kelly. JVC HDV cameras have also been used on the show.

DMN: Do the reporters in the field act as "one man" production crews?
KG:  All three Living Black VJ's work alone in the field.  They are shooter/sound person/reporter all in one.  This has its advantages and disadvantages but we find that working in this way is cost effective because you are only sending one person away on trips, therefore, we can afford to do more travelling around the country and reach more communities.  The VJ style of shooting is less obtrusive and a less threatening way of shooting stories and interviewing talent as it is easier to get around with a smaller camera and people are more likely to open up to you and let you into there minds, homes and communities.  The VJ style of shooting is also a lot more intimate and can give the viewer more of a bird's eye view into many places that other mainstream media are unable to access.
 
DMN:  How would Living Black be described in a single paragraph?
KG: Living Black is a unique and vital program in that it is the only program of its kind on Australian television that tackles the issues facing Indigenous Australians in today's society.  Living Black gives Indigenous Australians a much needed voice and platform to speak about the issues that concern them and how they are tackling those issues to make life better for future generations of Aboriginal and TSI children.  We also aim to highlight the positive aspects of our community as well by promoting success stories.  However, while Living Black serves to keep Indigenous Australians informed, it is also a program that all Australians can be educated and informed by.


 
DMN:  Accepting it is aimed at the Indigenous population, is there relevance for the wider viewing audience?
KG: At a time when Aboriginal affairs is on the political agenda in terms of the apology, the establishment of a new national representative body and the NT Intervention, it is vitally important to keep the rest of the community, ie, non-Indigenous audiences aware of the issues facing Aboriginal and TSI people and of the latest developments and how Indigenous people are tackling the issues.  There are many good willed non-Indigenous people in the community who care about Indigenous issues and want to see improvements in health, housing, welfare, education and employment for Aboriginal people and by watching LB they can see what the issues are and how they are being tackled by individuals, communities, organisations and governments at all levels.
 
DMN: A favourite story?
KG:   We have covered so many stories over the six years that Living Black has been on air and it is really hard to pick a favourite.  I enjoy the episodes where we are out in the community and shoot the program on location.  It's a great opportunity to meet some of our viewers on the road and to promote the program.
 
DMN: Does Living Black accept freelance submissions or accept stories to chase up?
KG:   We do, on some occasions, have freelance video journalists work on the odd story here and there, but most stories are done by our own team of VJs.  We do get a lot of story ideas from members of the public and people working in various government and community organisations who email or telephone us and several ideas come by word of mouth which we follow up. All story ideas are welcomed.
 
DMN: Any future plans for yourself?
KG:  For the time being, I'm very happy in my role as Presenter and Executive Producer of Living Black.  There are still many goals that I wish to achieve in this position and while the job is still challenging and I'm still learning, then I am committed to being here.  Ensuring that Indigenous Australians have a voice in the media is something that I am very passionate about and I intend to use my role here at SBS to make that happen for my people.


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David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.

Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.

David can be contacted via  david@auscamonline.com


Related Keywords:Living Black, Australia indigineous Aboriginal, Karla Grant, Broadcast, video

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