WOAH. It has been a long time since I last blogged. But I am happy to say this year I will be back to some (semi) regularly scheduled programming.
The last semester has been, well, amazing and rough. I was taking challenging courses, getting used to living in my sorority house, and busy trying to figure my life out. So I told myself, “I don’t have time to write or focus on creativity. That comes second in my life, I am just too busy with more important things.”
Looking back on this I kind of want to slap myself. We live in a society that preaches self-care and I am a huge believer in that. But it’s not just about remembering to wash your face and eat your vegetables, it’s taking care of your soul as well. Being creative is a big part of me and I am going to try and prioritize caring about that part of me more. More photos, more blog posts, more adventures.
With all this being said, I will be shooting much more this semester since I will be on staff at the Columbia Missourian which I am PUMPED about. I am hoping that once I get back into my photo-mode I will be addicted and inspired again. I’ve definitely experienced “photographers block” these past few months, so I am looking forward to breaking out of that funk.
Life update = over. Now I would like to share a story I wrote in my news writing class that I am really proud of. Happy reading!
See and Be Seen: Representation in Columbia’s Film Community
Nathan Wright works tirelessly to turn his stories of personal turmoil into artistic triumphs.
Wright is a local African American film maker who is set to graduate from MU next week. Since receiving his first camera for Christmas during his junior year, he has fallen in love with making movies. He wants to make it big but needs the channel to get there.
Although recent cultural movements have put a spotlight on the inequalities in film present for women and people of color, there are still areas for improvement. A 2016 study by the University of Southern California found that only 28.3 percent of speaking characters across various media platforms were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Columbia, Missouri is seeking to close this gap.
Pulling others up
Wright is encouraged by the amount of local and national attention representation is receiving. He is happy to see shows such as Atlanta created by Donald Glover, who have all black writers and black lead characters, breaking into new cultural territory.
“From a kid’s perspective growing up, you never see yourself in the main story line. Black people are always the supporting character,” Wright said. “It seeps into them, what they see is what they believe.”
Looking towards his future, he is pursuing a career in narrative film making. His goal as a producer and director is to provide a helping hand to others.
“Stories I tell will vary, but I want to pull people up to the top if I get there,” Wright said. “That’s the only way for people of color to get up there, is with connections.”
Although Columbia is just a stop on his trek to a bigger film scene, he appreciates the growing community of creatives here.
“It’s great and it’s underestimated. The support you get from such a tight knit community is great,” Wright said.
He has experienced success here, working at SXSW film festival in Austin through a local connection and receiving the grand prize in a visual art and design exhibition for one of his films.
“It was really validating to go through all that pain and receive that,” Wright said.
Over, under, and around
Stacy Woelfel, a documentary film professor and enthusiast, is encouraged by the growing representation in the films showcased at the local film festival True/False.
Woelfel teaches at the MU School of Journalism and is the director of the Johnathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism. He is hooked on the storytelling ability of cinematic nonfiction and cultivates the same passion in his students. Outside of his work at MU, he screens films for True/False. He has seen a sharp uptick in film submissions by minorities and women in the last few years and believes representation in the arts is an essential factor in accurate storytelling.
In the classroom, Woelfel teaches his students to represent people accurately and to creatively tell true stories about themselves and others. Showing his students work by people with different levels of education and socioeconomic statuses is just one of the ways he lets all voices be heard.
“The white male has been the center of media, and documentary journalism has given people the ability to go over, under and around that,” Woelfel said. “True/False puts a lot of effort into making sure different channels are highlighted.”
Inclusion is for everyone
Ragtag Cinema in downtown Columbia works closely with True/False, the two of them together making up Ragtag Film Society. Ragtag aims to show films that inspire conversation and display new perspectives.
Barbie Banks is the managing film director of Ragtag Cinema. She believes representation is essential in the world of film and is dedicated to providing channels of dialogue on how film institutions can be more inclusive.
“Film creates empathy towards a larger issue you may never experience,” Banks said.
After working in film for years, Banks has a clear picture on what challenges exist for equal representation in film. One of these challenges is getting major film institutions who traditionally show mainstream movies by white men to support female filmmakers and filmmakers of color.
“Most people who go to the movies are women, but they don’t see themselves represented on screen… And men need to want to see women on film,” Banks said. “They don’t have that pull, we need bigger film industries to commit to the idea of representation.”
A seat at the table
Another challenge the film industry faces is showing films for different types of people while also being financially stable.
“We want to program films people will come to, but we also want to program new and innovative movies as well,” Banks said.
Banks has found that Ragtag’s donations spike when they showcase more diverse films, which helps balance the books if they don’t draw as large of an audience with a particular type of film.
Banks says the root of inclusion is the decisions being made behind the scenes. Ragtag picks the films they show with everyone’s opinion in mind.
“Make sure people are at the table. I always remember this quote, if you’re not invited to the table, pull up a chair,” Banks said.
Donna Kozloskie has also taken notice of Columbia’s shift towards inclusion. She is the director of programming at Citizen Jane, an all-female film festival hosted at Stephens College every year. This past year they received submissions from 24 countries.
A New Jersey native, she feels privileged to have grown up in a diverse community. She was shocked to see that the diversity she loved and knew at home effectively disappeared once she began her career in the arts.
“They were basically invisible,” Kozloskie said.
She is determined to widen the lens in her role at Citizen Jane. Her main goal is to represent all types of women in all different genres.
Kozloskie is encouraged by streaming services such as Netflix that are telling more diverse stories and providing more opportunities for women to break into previously unexplored areas of film. She believes it’s a necessity to give women a chance in all film types from horror to drama and beyond.
“People need to be able to recognize themselves on screen and know what their opportunities are. It’s not just for rich white boys anymore,” Kozloskie said. “We want to represent as many genres as possible to these directors.”