BBC Pop Up: Behind the scenes - Sioux Falls

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Welcome to BBC Pop Up.

The BBC's first mobile bureau is spending a month in each of six very different parts of the US. We want Americans to tell us what local stories we should share with a global audience. We've created a behind-the-scenes blog so we can tell you not only what we're up to, but also explain why and how we're doing it. Please get in touch with your story ideas and comments on the project.

The Pop Up crew spent December in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

10 January, 2015

'Why do a story on soccer in an Indian reservation?'

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Media captionBenjamin Zand heads to an Indian reservation to play soccer.

As well as having four out of the five poorest counties in America, alcoholism, unemployment and suicide are also big problems associated with Native American reservations in the US.

The BBC, like many other media, has done stories about the challenges facing people living on reservations. But the truth is that there is always aspiration, positivity and humanity in every place, and I wanted to demonstrate that. Part of the reason I do this job, and why BBC Pop Up exists, is to tell stories from the voices people don't hear much about. So, this seemed like a great topic for us to take on.

Image caption Sunset on the Rosebud reservation

I was staying with the Red Hawks, a local family on the Rosebud reservation, while doing a story about being young and Native American. I wanted to give youngsters on the reservation a chance to speak, so I went with my camera and spoke to as many people as I could. You can watch that short film below.

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Media captionBBC Pop Up: Life as a young Native American in South Dakota

When talking to them I brought up my love for soccer, and explained how I was making films about the game in each place I visited. Most met me with a blank face. Basketball is big here, and that is pretty much it.

They knew soccer was a sport, but they hadn't really had the opportunity to ever play it. I told them who my favourite team was (Liverpool) but, unlike in other parts of the US, many were not even aware of the existence of the major international leagues and teams out there.

This really did amaze me. It's soccer, the biggest sport in the world. I felt this reinforced just how different and separate their lives are to those of other young people in America and around the world.

Image caption Playing soccer with some Lakota teens

I only saw one soccer pitch the entire time I was there. And, it wasn't being used to play soccer on; it was basically a rubbish dump with two goals surrounding it.

But it allowed me to connect with people on a different level. Most people really wanted the chance to play, even though they had never done so before. They just wanted the opportunity to learn more, and to try something else. A lot of people spoke to me about the 'boredom' that comes with reservation life, and soccer was something new to change that.

The focus of the piece is soccer, but the real aim was to show viewers what life on the reservation is like. To show you people's faces, their culture, and to understand America's native people a little bit better. Hopefully it did that.

Watch it above and let me know at @BenjaminZand.

Benjamin Zand

'Preaching giants'

9 January, 2015

Matt here. My short film on South Dakota's music scene has just gone live.

One of the musicians I met in the week before Christmas was Wyatt Bronc Bartlett. I drove out to the remote ranch where he grew up and still works and filmed him feeding cattle. He was softly spoken and understated. The next day I filmed him on stage performing as the front man for the heavy metal band Fantome. The transformation was remarkable.

Here's his take on the band's sound: "To describe Fantome, this one kid came up to me after a show. He said he felt like he was in some sort of dark cult with a seven foot tall giant preaching at him through an echo chamber while these cavemen slugged against these huge stringed instruments. And that pretty much sums it up."

I also caught up with rappers Soulcrate while in Sioux Falls. They proudly rap about life and culture on the Great Plains and told me they're determined to prove that there's more to South Dakota than "farmers and folk music".

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Media captionSoulcrate, a rap group in South Dakota

Aunt-T's-Que's Wayside Shoppe

31 December 2014

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Media captionThe antique store on the Great Plans

I couldn't just pass by when I saw the big "Antiques" sign on the side of the highway outside of Sioux Falls in Hartford, South Dakota.

I wasn't in the market for lawn ornaments or decorative plates, but I knew that if I wanted to get a proper, well-rounded look at South Dakota I had to do some research on historical cultural artefacts. I had a feeling this would be a place to do it.

Bob Dean at Aunt-T's-Que's Wayside Shoppe had everything I could've ever wanted - from a saw made specifically for cutting through frozen ponds to just about any model of toy car I could dream up.

Bob and his wife have seven combined buildings of "stuff", and they have you covered if you need a solid-oak sickle mower.

"Do you need a knob or a latch? We have them everywhere."

From Sioux Falls to Chiang Mai, Thailand

19 December 2014

This is Anna. Last night, the Documentary Arts Asia centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand, screened my short doc on the Karen refugees working in a turkey factory in South Dakota.

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Media captionThe refugees processing America's turkey dinners

The house was full and there were many Karen youth from the Burma Study Center in the audience.

I was asked lots of questions about the relationship between the turkey factory and the refugees, especially on how much the HR department has power or control over their life.

American viewers in the audience were interested in how the residents of the rural town of Huron, South Dakota, had reacted to the arrival of 1,200 refugees in their community.

Also, many were curious about how many turkeys a day a factory can actually process. They couldn't believe it's 21,000.

During the screening, people were laughing at the jokes and the spontaneously charming humour of the Karen people in the video. Everybody seems to love the Karen father who refuses to give up sandals and wear snow boots in winter.

BBC Pop Up's Anna Bressanin, director Clemence Barret and the founder of the DAA Documentary Arts Asia Ryan Libre.

My short was shown along with the work on Burmese refugees by French director Clemence Barret. The screening and talk was an idea of the founder of Documentary Arts Asia, Ryan Libre, who made this happen in about two days, so that it could be included in the DAA event for International Migrants Day.

Thank you, Ryan!

- Anna Bressanin

Sioux Falls Side Streets

13 December 2014

The Russell Street Frontage Road probably doesn't even come close to being a recommended scenic route by locals.

Located almost directly across from the huge, brand new Denny Sanford Premier Center, it's quite unassuming.

But between the festive dairy cow and the bright blue and yellow Naval Reserve Center Building lies a unique piece of this town's character - a small sliver of what makes up America's Prairie Heartland.

The BBC Pop Up house at 2:30am

12 December 2014

It's never a goal to stay up editing past 2:00am, but when it's 2:30 and Matt finishes an edit, a victory dance is in order.

Watch the video he's so excited about here - it's the journey from Pittsburgh to Sioux Falls.

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Media captionBBC Pop Up heads west to South Dakota

Good Morning from the BBC Pop Up Backyard

It thawed out a bit this morning in Sioux Falls, so we thought we'd say hello from our backyard, mid-breakfast.

Hello, BBC Pop Up!

Hi, Hannah here. I joined up with Matt, Ben and Anna for the Sioux Falls leg of BBC Pop Up and want to introduce myself. I just met everyone this week, and they haven't ditched me on the plains yet so I'd say we're getting along just fine.

(I will also note that we have a great place to stay here, complete with a combination security guard/new best friend, pictured above.)

This sudden dive into a project tends to be how life of a freelance filmmaker works - one minute you're flying from NY to the West Coast, three days later you're on a plane to South Dakota to spend a month with strangers to do a job that you aren't even entirely sure what it is.

How I got here went like this. My friend Steve forwarded me an email from Matt looking for someone to join the Pop Up team. Of course I wanted to do it, so 12 emails and two phone calls later, Matt and his GoPro picked me up at the Sioux Falls airport. I popped my luggage into the popup mobile (naturally) and the adventure began.

The sunrises are cold and beautiful, and I can't stop taking photos of frozen landscapes.

We're several days in now and starting to really get to know one another, as well as a little bit of the town. Ben really seems to like all things buffalo, and I've learned that Matt's pyjamas are fancier than mine. The piece Anna is working on is already blowing my mind. Sioux Falls, I want to thank you for welcoming us with open arms into your community. We're eager to show you the stories we're filming for our documentary about you.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota Community Meet-up

9 December 2014

It's been just three days since we pulled the van into the garage of our BBC Pop Up home-away-from-home in western Sioux Falls. This is the first time we've had a garage, which is a new luxury for the truck (and a challenge for us as we can't seem to figure out the simple operation of the garage door opener).

Our first morning was dedicated to our community meet-up, which based on an insider tip, we did a little differently this time around. Matt was told that in the winter in South Dakota, the grocery stores become a hub of local activity. Why not set up shop in the bread aisle?

There was a bit of hesitation and anxiety from the team. Would our leafleter/sample table-like approach facilitate meaningful discussion and exchange of ideas? We had to give it a go. Stationed between a salad bar and luggage display, we set up ourselves, our BBC Pop Up table and our cameras to find your story ideas.

After a slightly slow start, it turned into a record-length BBC Pop Up Community Meetup. We walked away with a much better understanding of the city, and a lot of research to do.

Sioux Falls, we needed your help and you've come through tenfold - thank you! We've gotten an amazing number of story suggestions and are already working away on what we'll cover. Do you still have ideas for us that aren't on this list? What are the Sioux Falls issues you want to see in the documentary?

Story Suggestions from shoppers at the Empire Mall Hy-Vee in Sioux Falls

  • Judicial system diversity
  • Native American reservation support
  • Jobs and minimum wage
  • Political representation
  • Local music
  • LGBTQ community
  • Youth culture
  • Religious education
  • Education funding
  • Cultural identity
  • Urban development
  • Keystone XL pipeline
  • Environmental pollution issues
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation - specifically, the difficulty of getting downtown due to lack of infrastructure
  • Homelessness
  • Racial and cultural diversity awareness

That's all for now. See you on the tundra.