For students in Andrew Christopher’s advanced film class, the final product isn’t about technique and or even great story telling just for story’s sake. Students hope to spark more than a conversation. They want to change the world. The goal is to help students use their skillsets as filmmakers to bring awareness to social issues.
That was the thought that drove the development of the course that debuted two years ago.The course is offered every other year and this year it has delivered exceptional results.
Students have created 12 documentaries that span a range of thought-provoking issues. Students chose one topic they developed into a documentary. Their whole year was spent focused on that topic and producing a piece that would bring awareness and inspire change. All 12 documentaries will be virtually released on April 22 and 23.
“I encouraged students to focus on something that they were passionate about. This was a six-to-seven-month process so if you were not passionate about it, it would be a painstaking effort to finish, so it had to be something the student was truly passionate about. We had students covering a wide variety of topics, from social media addiction to global warming to bias within the media, and everything in between,” said Christopher.
Senior Alexis Golin’s documentary talks about the “digital divide,” something that came to the surface when COVID-19 hit, and it became apparent that not all students had access to resource needed for remote learning.
“I picked this topic because it is something that people don’t really know about and it’s in our own backyard. You obviously need the internet for remote learning. We are very privileged here at Oaks to have all that, but many other students aren’t.
For her project she interviewed students at the East Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, administrators and teachers from the Oxnard Unified School District and the Ventura Public Library, where pre-COVID students would visit to use the free internet but loss that access during the lockdowns.
A future creative film major at Chapman University this fall, she felt one of the biggest skills she learned was how to problem solve.
“We created these documentaries in a really tough time, starting in August (2020) and it was a challenge to get interviews during a pandemic, we had to get creative on shots. So as filmmakers we had to answer the question of how to do this with limited resource, and that is something you will need to deal with in the film industry as well,” she shared.
The hope is that as the documentaries are finalized, students will start entering them in film competitions where they will have a wider audience and by extension, a deeper impact.
Golin hopes to enter her piece in film festivals, but she has also been in contact with Dave Bezzant, one of the heads of T-Mobile’s government relations division, about sharing her documentary on their social media platforms. T-Mobile has developed the 10 Million Project which purposely bridges the digital divide gap, providing free hotspots to families who need it.
Students also learned skills that were important to filmmaking, such as empathy and being able to convey and evoke emotion through film.
“A skill that we worked on was asking great questions. You might have a great idea, but if you didn’t know how to ask the right questions, you might not get the answers that you were after,” said Christopher.
He added that students learned how to understand what moves an audience and inspires them to take action. Learning how to develop empathy was an important skill.
“If you could first make your audience upset, and then make them empathize with a character, they were going to be inspired to get involved. So, we focused in on how we could elicit distress and empathy out of our audience,” said Christopher.
Contributing Writer: Mia Kong, OCS junior