Doing the Work

At the start of every semester, I ask my students to name a favorite film and then I ask them to identify what makes that particular film so special. I do this because I want them to learn to analyze stories beyond simply saying, “I like it” or “It sucked.”

This semester, one of my students answered the question by not quite answering it. Instead of giving the title of a film, he said his favorite film was any film that got made.

That answer only makes sense if you understood who the student was. The student is a filmmaker who has worked on numerous film projects and fully understands that making film is, as the saying goes, “more than a notion.”

Only from the outside does making a movie look glamorous, cool or sexy. It’s none of those things. Filmmaking is work – and that work is hard. It’s hard to write a script. It’s hard to produce a film. It’s hard to direct a film and it’s hard to get people to watch a film. And on top of all of that, if you also aspire to make a film that happens to be great, everything hard becomes harder.

I recently watched Courtney Hunt’s film, Frozen River and immediately fell in love with it. I was impressed with the story, the direction, the acting, everything. However, when I read an article in which Ms. Hunt explained how the story made its way to becoming a film that won Best Feature at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, I was even more impressed. That she as a storyteller had to push herself to write the script, make a short film version, shop for investors, shoot the film and then market it, speaks to how badly she wanted it – and how difficult the process is.

The students in my Video Production & Storytelling class recently experienced the difficulties involved in putting their stories on the screen. I’ve seen them work hard at structuring their stories, casting the actors, choosing locations, shooting the scenes, and editing. Yes, I suppose you could say that they did the work because doing the work was their assignment, but once you take a look at their finished films, you’ll see that something greater than a grade motivated them to do the work. Check out Stephanie Centeno’s The List, Jennifer Hall’s Waiting for Jo and Adam Hudson’s The Deal.

Even if I didn’t witness the sweat and tears involved in making these impressive short films, I would still love them (blood may have been involved as well, but I’m grateful that I didn’t see any). Stephanie, Jennifer and Adam demonstrate that storytelling is hard work, but that good stories are worth the work.

And I have to agree with my student: I think that any filmmaker who does the work and gets his or her film made deserves a standing ovation.

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About 100strings

Rodney is a storyteller who works in children's television and is an educator who works at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and at The Light Factory, the Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, Charlotte.
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