On The Spot is an award-winning documentary series, digging for human stories behind the news with two cameras, without a crew, giving the films extraordinary intimacy and honesty from the revolution in Egypt to earth quakes in Japan. The motto of the series is from Robert Capa, the Hungarian war photographer: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."
The filmmakers have received the Press Freedom Award in Strasbourg from the Council of Europe, the Prix Jury in Karlovy Vary at the Tourfilm Festival and the Golden Nymph as Best Documentary at the Monte Carlo TV Festival. "On The Spot: Gaza" has got the Gold Plaque at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival TV-Awards and the prize for "Best Foreign Short Documentary" at the American Documentary Film Festival in 2014.
Eszter Cseke and Andras S. Takacs are experienced digital journalists and documentary filmmakers, creators, presenters and producers of On The Spot, aired by Hungarian Public Tv and by Spektrum Tv in Central-Europe. They have made 40 hour-long documentaries in Afghanistan, French Guyana, Bissau Guinea, Ethiopia, India (Varanasi, Delhi, Dharamsala and Kashmir), Nepal (the Mount Everest, Kathmandu and the Rolpa region), Bolivia, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Svalbard, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iran, Mauritania, South Africa, Japan, Egypt, the United States, Cuba, Germany, Indonesia and the Maldives. They have made exclusive interviews with world leaders like Ban Ki-moon or Evo Morales but always focused on the stories of ordinary people living in the background of the news. They filmed with gangsters in the ghettos of Johannesburg, were embedded on frontlines, lived in tribes, covered tsunamis and revolutions, worked under-covered in Burma and Iran. Their "rare and exclusive" footage appeared on BBC World and CNN International too.
Eszter and Andras often write and take photos while in transit. Their tribal report appeared in Intelligent Life, many of their articles were published in Marie Claire, covering women issues from Iran to Papua and top travel destinations like Bali or the Maldives.
"Rare and exclusive"
"Takacs and Cseke plunge their cameras into the heart of the action, asking questions that are normally suppressed"
photo credit: Zoltan Sarosi
"You could say I lost my faith in the people on TV", Sting sang his song a little bit after we were born. Quarter of a century later we felt the very same. We were fed up with all the lies we watched on TV from manipulated news stories to false shooting noise added by war correspondents. We wanted to learn pure, true and honest storytelling. This is how we fell in love with the genre of documentary.
We tried to learn everything we could at the Hungarian Film Academy, at the Documentary Workshop of ARTE, at the New York Film Academy, at the Digital Journalism Course of NBC News, during an internship at CNN and work experience with the BBC. But at the end of the day we wanted to be free.
We wanted to be on the field, telling our stories without boundaries or borders, digging deeper, spending more time with the people and more time in the editing room too. But we were still in university...
We put together all our savings and left for Gaza with a small camera, just the two of us. The most amazing period of our lives began. We couldn't even sleep at night. We got to know people we were afraid of, we talked to Al-Qasam fighters, we went out to the sea with fishermen at dawn, got down to the smuggling tunnels under the border, made friends, got sick and filmed and filmed and filmed everything we saw and experienced. We had no crew, we had pure reality.
A few months later a 45-minute-long documentary was ready, the first of our own. We sent it to all major Hungarian channels. Most of them turned it down, saying it was not commercial enough, it could go air only after 1AM, people didn't want to see documentaries primetime, especially not with subtitles, especially not about the Middle East. A small international cable channel called Spektrum TV has been looking for its first original production for years. They loved the idea of not having a crew but capturing reality with two small cameras so they commissioned the first season of On The Spot.
We were all around the place. Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Bolivia - we really thought it was just a dream. Two months after the commission we were interviewing the Secretary General of the UN on the Arctic Circle. 6 months after signing the contract we were interviewed live on the BBC about our undercover report from Burma. Meanwhile we made friends and made films from ghettos of Johannesburg to hiding human rights activists in Kabul, from underground bloggers of Tehran to the last hidden tribes of Papua.
This is how we started. And this is how we learnt that documentary's strong because reality's stronger than anything. We just need to stick with it — wherever, whenever.
Eszter Cseke & Andras S. Takacs