Tag Archives: writing

Documentaries: A Chance to Explore the World, an Opportunity to Join a Community

This post was originally written for and posted on http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

“ There is nothing better for the soul than going to Full Frame” –Doug Block, Director of 112 Weddings, The Kids Grow Up, 51 Birch Street, and Home Page.

Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than the smell of cinema popcorn, the slightly squeaky seats and the gradual dimming of the lights before darkness cocoons you. Then you are transported.

In the beginning of April, I was lucky enough to represent Students of the World at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in my home state of North Carolina. I’ve lived in the Triangle area for the majority of my life and the transformation of Durham from a factory town into a metropolitan city has been awe inspiring. When I think about what makes Durham a cultural city Full Frame is one of the first things that pop into my mind.

I’d like to congratulate and thank the organizers and programmers of Full Frame on the excellent job they did this year (and every year.) I was transported to so many different places and lived the lives of so many amazing human beings, that at the end of each day I felt like I had spent hours traveling because that was how emotionally drained I was.

I watched twelve films over the course of about four days; each film opened a door, led me on a journey and introduced me to people that I may never have the chance to meet personally. From the amazing work done by Kit Gruelle as detailed in Cynthia Hill’s powerful Private Violence to the transformation of Mahoma Lopez from disgruntled worker to powerful activist in Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s inspirational The Hand That Feeds. Each film allowed me to explore and understand a perspective that I would never have been able to experience due to time, money and, most importantly, access.

That is what makes documentaries and Full Frame so amazing; they grant us access-into the lives of others and to the filmmakers’ processes and opinions. And that is brave. At almost every one of the screenings where filmmakers were present to introduce the films, each filmmaker took the time to thank and praise their subjects for their courage and strength to allow these cameras and people into their lives. To trust the filmmakers to craft a story that would be an effective reflection of something much larger.

It is brave of the filmmakers to be so transparent and open about their films and the process of making their films. By breaking the fourth wall that is normally set up in a cinema experience through Q&A sessions and simply being available to chat and discuss on site relationships are created that transcend the normal creator and consumer connection. I have never felt more comfortable among strangers because this medium, by necessity and the nature of it, is collaborative and community-driven.

All of these elements gel together to represent what makes documentaries and Full Frame experiences that should be enjoyed by everyone-community, collaboration and conversation. So I implore you, the millennial that aspires to travel around the world, to affect the lives of others, to tell the stories that are seldom told, my peer, to watch more documentaries, to connect with creators, and to head down to sunny Durham, North Carolina next April. I know I’ll be there with open arms and a smile on my face.

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7 Films from the Full Frame Film Festival that Students of the World students should watch and why.

This post was originally written for and posted on the Students of the World national site at http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

Full Frame as a film festival is amazing and I would highly recommend that everyone try to make the trip down to Durham every year. But I understand that many times life creates some obstacles that make that a difficult venture. However, you can get a taste of the festival experience by watching some of the films that premiered/screened there. Plus nothing makes you a better filmmaker than watching films. Here are my recommendations (in no particular order) for other SOW students.

Private Violence dir. Cynthia Hill
Awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at Full Frame this year, this intimate and powerful piece about domestic violence is a film that everyone should watch. Hill and her partner Rex Miller spent many months with some women as they deal with an issue that impacts millions of women both in the United States and around the world. Beginning by attempting to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” the film explores the many layers that complicate the issue of domestic violence and abuse in general. Private Violence is a fantastic example of the power of individual stories, the importance of trust and courage especially when telling difficult stories.

Captivated-The Trials of Pamela Smart dir. Jeremiah Zagar
Beautifully directed, Captivated, is a twisting and turning exploration of media and the power that it wields. A great conversation starter about media, it asks both content creators and consumers to question the things we make and see, even while we are watching the film. This film is the documentary companion to Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet’s fantastic Network. Zagar is masterful in the mixing of archival and shot footage, and his method of framing and presenting archival footage is beautiful and poignant.

The Hand that Feeds dir. Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Scrappy, funny, and moving this film takes a look at something that most people don’t pay attention to-the rights of low-wage workers. Following the journey of a group of workers in a “Hot and Crusty” shop in New York City, The Hand that Feeds is an amazing example of clarity and editing as you follow the works over quite a long period of time but still fully understand the narrative. It does an amazing job juggling a color ensemble. The film deals with an issue that impacts millions of people but is hidden to many, there are moments of heart-wrenching disappointing, bu the film is wonderfully fun and inspiring, an important reason that made it the winner of the Full Frame Audience Award.

Ivory Tower dir. Andrew Rossi
A film that has some structural issues, Ivory Tower, is still a piece that I would recommend to everyone, especially if you are a student. Well-researched and full of differing perspectives, Ivory Tower, explores the higher education system and some of the issues that have arisen as the system and expectations have changed. A great conversation starter about education and our American system in particular, it will may make you think differently about the years (and money) you are spending in college.

The Case Against 8 dir. Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Following the appeal case of two California couples against Proposition 8, The Case Against 8, looks beyond the legalese and explores the people behind the case. A wonderful example of how to compress years into a well-structured and organized, as well as deal with a diverse cast. The Case Against 8 is a beautiful and moving film that inspires as much as it reveals.

Evolution of a Criminal dir. Darius Clark Monroe
First person documentaries are not normally what people imagine documentaries to be but Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal, is an intimate, powerful story about the filmmaker and those around him. Winner of both the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award and the Center of Documentary Studies Award at Full Frame, Evolution of a Criminal, mixes interviews with recreations beautifully and powerfully. Monroe’s thesis film out of NYU, he expertly plays with expectations and rhythm as he explores criminals and criminality. Darius Clarke Monroe is a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.

Hacked Circuit dir. Deborah Stratman
A beautifully shot short film that explores foley artists, I admit that this pick is a bit self-indulgent. As a filmmaker I’ve always love getting a chance to explore some of the lesser known steps of filmmaking. Beyond the seeing the amazing amount of detail that the artists take, the entire film is shot in one floating take, and contains some clips from one of my favorite movies. Go check out Hacked Circuit and appreciate one more aspect of filmmaking.

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When I Cry

Never judge from a single moment

Never judge from a single moment

Know that when I cry I am not ashamed. Not ashamed of the tears running down my face, the growing redness of my eyes, and my inability to breathe consistently. That as you judge me I’m still working and thinking.

Know that when I cry, it is not negative. It is not bad or sad or weak that I cry. That tears are natural and beautiful just like a smile or that twinkle in my eye.
Know that when I cry it is not about you. It is not about the words you’ve said or the things you did. That whatever you think you did to target me, to make me cry, is not true.
Know that when I cry it is always for me, by me, in me. You did not break my heart, I did for believing and trusting you. You did not defeat me, I did. You did not hurt me, I did. You can say that I don’t have that control. And I don’t, but neither do you.
Know that when I cry I am strong. I am as strong as when I laugh or when I shout. I am always fighting, whether it is through tears and gritted teeth or with a smirk on my face.
Know that when I cry I appreciate everything that you do. Whether it is a hug or a gentle words, know that every bit helps but also know that whatever it is I will fight, I will work through it, and I will ask for help.
I will change, for better or worse, and I will cry. Just like I will smile, shout and laugh. I will cry and I am proud of it.
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In Limbo

I wrote my first YouTube comment today.

Not a quick blurb to get a chance to enter something, not some garbage that just so happen to accidentally get in there. I looked over the comments already placed to see if anyone had posted a similar thought to me, found none, and posted a comment.

To be honest, I didn’t post commentary on the video I had watched, I didn’t respond to another comment, I didn’t post a random thought I had that is vaguely related to the video-I posted a question. Be it a question that I genuinely have to someone I absolutely admire. So I’m not quite diving head first into Internet participation.
 
 

I know this is weird and you are probably thinking to yourself, “What do you mean Internet participation? Aren’t you participating right now? You’ve blogged before (and some pretty personal stuff too), you have Twitter, Facebook, etc.

 

My personal history of Internet use also paints me as an avid user of the Internet. I had dial-up, my first email was an AOL account, I had a pretty busy Xanga site (and by busy I mean a lot of colors and glitter,) I even was an avid user of Habbo hotel for about 8 months. But beyond basic communication with close friends and family I’ve been tentative with my Internet use. Tentative in the sense that sometimes it’s not really me on the Internet (not tentative in the sense of the amount of time I’ve spent on the Internet…so many hours.) At least, it’s not 100% of me-I never really immersed myself into the Internet, unlike, many of my peers.

 

I didn’t Instagram myself, Facebook my every thought, even my obsession with Twitter is mostly voyeuristic-in fact most of my Internet usage is observational.

 

Why? Self-consciousness, confidence issues, over-saturation, and paranoia.

 
There are a multitude of security issues, the reliance of the information as well as the perception of that information worries me constantly. There are a lot of artists, writers, filmmakers, etc., on the Internet-how much more different could my contribution be-why add to the overflowing pot. I don’t think any of the things I’ve produced and created is worthy of “publication.”
 

All of these thoughts have (and will continue to) go through my head. Which is why I’ve been in this strange participatory but not, not quite entirely observational space.

 

However, it is a time for change (honestly, when is there not a time for change?) and in an effort to step out of my head and (a bit) more into the “real” world I’ve decide to “publish” a bit more blindly. Take more security measures but not let the fear of thievery stall me. Not care what other people think of me (though this bit is a little terrifying, because I’d like to have a job). More importantly, not view “publishing” as sending out a finished product for the Internet to gnaw on, but instead take it as one more step towards finalizing projects. Furthermore, I may be one more repetitive post/video/graphic/etc. on the Internet, but I did it, and I like to think I’m a little bit different than everyone else.

 

So here I go…Hope some of you join this ride, no matter how far or how long it goes.

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An Update…

I am currently sitting in bed. Having done nothing the entire day except avoid all of my responsibilities. My brain desperately worries about the script I have to rewrite, the footage I have to edit, the material that I need to study for, my future in general.

 

Before I go any further, I also want to apologize for the lack of posts on this site (I am fully aware that I do this all the time.) The past couple of weeks have been insane (both in a good way, and in a more “I just realized that the Insane Clown Posse is an actual, popular thing.) But throughout it all I kept thinking-this would be something cool to write about, oh I’d like to think this through with some typing, could this make me internet famous?

 

So instead of rewriting my script, I’m going to write a quick Cliffnotes/Sparknotes (both are very useful-love, awful stupid student) of some of the thoughts that have gone through my head since my last post. Both for you (imaginary readers, that according to analytics are not that imaginary) and me so that I can remember to write more about these things.

 

GERONIMO (Just watched Doctor Who, they are definitely trying to get Matt Smith to use the 11th Doctor’s catchphrase more-we may reach Tennant levels if the current trend keeps up.)

 

1. I was lucky enough to be chosen as the student playwright for Activated Art at the Ackland this year. I got to work with some amazing professionals, go through a very similar process that many working playwrights go through (8 drafts and counting,) meet inspiring people, and get to see my play performed in front of me. The entire process was amazing, unimaginable and strange. I will definitely go into much more detail as to how everything went but the biggest thing that I got out of this experience is this. Creativity is scary.

When your ideas are still in your head there is a certain amount of control. You can still manipulate the ether, shine your light into the unknown darkness, hide from the scary bits, and keep mulling it over.

But the moment you say it aloud, the moment that other people can hear, can see, can feel what you are thinking-any semblance of control is gone. And that is scary. Just as terrifying as those moments when you question personal loneliness, as exhilarating as when your fingers brush against your crushes, as encompassing as when you dive straight into the deep end. It was overpowering and there were days where I left rehearsal seriously considering my current path towards a creative career. Yet I am still here.

 

2. During those hazier moments I realized how powerful just simple gestures and emotions are. Because it boiled down to just seeing someone genuinely smile at me. It was a beacon in the darkness that I am ever grateful for. And it is addicting-I never really understood the strength of another person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my crushes, my loves, my unrequited loves that create collapsing black holes in my heart. I just thought it was me, that my silly head created these feelings in the absence of anything really tangible (essentially angsty teen.)

But the emotions that washed over me when I saw that smile, when it was directed at me-because of me. I want that feeling, and I want it forever.

 

3. Forever is such a silly concept, especially when you connect all of the wibbly-wobbly timey wimey stuff to it. Time is such a strange concept-something that I want to keep exploring especially in context with the human lifespan, “milestone” moments, biological development, culture-essential “what are we meant to do, and when.”

 

4. This would be even more interesting when you add human relationships to it. Thing I also learned-human relationships-I know nothing, so I need to discover, explore, and investigate.

 

5. Discover, Explore, and Investigate.

Those three verbs are what I need to constantly keep doing. Learning is important and it is very hard to keep that in context when culture keeps pushing as to just do. How do we make learning a lifelong priority? How do we make it as flexible and adaptable as the human brain/evolution? Why does my current university learning experience make me question everything (and not in the good, whoa the world way.)

 

6. I suck.

The world is an amazing, glorious place. Filled with inspiration, joy and mysteries. I love that it exists, but I question my place in it. There is a part of me that just wants to blend in-become part of the ecosystem so well that people forget that I’m there. Another part of me wants to be extraordinary-be fascinating, be wanted. I’ve thought about this dichotomy a lot-how culture creates these ideas and expectations for me, but the most that I’ve concluded is-I suck.

 

I’m going to end on that cheery note because that has been my lingering thought lately, so may it linger in your thoughts a bit.

Perhaps I will elaborate on all these points in the near future, I’d like to. But remember I suck, so I might not.


Talk to you soon blank word document, you devil you.

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Some Thoughts on Writing or Why I am Writing Right Now

The notion of writing, placing down symbols to represent a thought, an idea (regardless of its truth,) is a strange one-and one that differentiates humans from the many organisms that inhabit this planet. A key question that arises (at least for me) is who is writing for?

Is it for the author? A record of fleeting thoughts so that we can relive what our degenerating brains can no longer properly remember? An enjoyable moment to dump our brains, perhaps understand ourselves better.

Or is it for our peers? A physical manifestation of our thoughts so that we can share them others-but to what end? Communication is the obvious answer, but to communicate what exactly is less so. Is it to gloat? To show others that, yes indeed I have important and revelatory thoughts in this head of mine. Or perhaps to seem aloof, I do not need to complain nor talk to others, the only confidante I need is my pen.

I always had this fantasy that I would keep a diary with all of my deep inner thoughts and feelings, my cool and fantastical ideas that could revolutionize the world-like Da Vinci’s notes. It would be for my own personal use but more importantly (this is a fantasy) when I die (or something tragic befalls me) someone will find my notebooks and would realize that I was a much better person than they had previously thought. I imagine this is my way of being remembered when I’m gone, that I will be hailed as a genius of some sort posthumously (so I wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of fame apparently.)

This caused my earlier attempts at journalling to be pretentious, pompous and just embarrassing. Looking back at those entries do not remind of things to do, instead it just makes me despise how I write when I’m extremely emotionally charged.

Then the Internet became popular and fame was simply a few keyboard touches and a mouse click away. Theoretically your writing could be seen by more people than a book published in the 1880s would ever see. The conundrum grows more muddled with the Internet. Are you writing to sell yourself to an imaginary audience of thousands, or is it still for you? I ventured into this world tentatively writing under pseudonyms and avatars. I tried to cater to audiences while desperately trying to keep showing the digital realm that I am a diverse human being (a girl even!) that was innocently giving them peeks into my mind. I wrote like I wanted to be hired by Gawker Media (initially Gizmodo, then io9,) so I wrote reviews and topical thoughts in the same vein as what was trendy. But constantly second guessing myself because of the nagging thought that “individuality matters! Be an individual you numskull!” So plans of CES coverage, Apple Keynotes, etc. built up until I just didn’t want to do it because Stephen Totillo already it and Brian Lam already shit on Apple for me, who needs copycat posers in a sea of them?

With so many conflicting thoughts I quickly ended up doing nothing but daydreaming about that moment when I will write and immediately become successful and relevant forever.

So what has changed? Nothing. I still constantly worry about what I am writing and why I am doing it. For me or for them (whoever they are)? Does the judgement of the Internet and those that roam it matter? Does the future judgement of history matter? More importantly, does it matter more than your own personal judgement?

The only thing that has changed is that I’ve become more indifferent (some would say savvy, I really wouldn’t.) I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter, that the world continues turning regardless of what I type and what you read. That’s the beauty of the world-it is based on action and inaction, not from symbols on a page nor sounds emitted from vibrating vocal cords. So if the NCAA reads this (which I doubt, but Hi!) or a future employer does, so be it. What I’m writing is a close approximation of how I am thinking right now in time, it is built from the past and will constantly change in the future.

So why do I write? Right here, right now on the Internet? Because I want to become a better writer and that requires practice. Because I want to express myself articulately to myself (and perhaps to you, Reader.) Because I want people to read this and understand one aspect of one person living in the same (maybe different, hello aliens!) world. Because maybe I’ll get famous and rich. Because it’s time for me to act and do something, to possibly alleviate some regret and enjoy myself.

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