At first glance, a look inside the documentary filmmaking classroom would seem identical to that of a typical movie set: a team of editors working intently on a segment, a project manager asking for a budget update, all while writers try to perfect that one scene –and Senior Lecturer Angela Criscoe says the realness of the course is the ultimate goal for students.
“In the Mass Communication program we strive to provide our students opportunities that place them in the media industry so that when they graduate they are fully prepared to take on those positions,” said Criscoe. “In documentary filmmaking, the students are getting a comprehensive experience from conception to distribution of a documentary film with the guidance from an industry professional. These skills will translate in television production, broadcast news and the film industry.”
The filmmaking class teamed up with Newell Scholar Dr. Michael Charles Tobias to create a documentary on the experience of individuals connecting with nature. The backdrop to the feature film, "bioreverie,” was Lake Laurel, where more than 50 participants took part engaging in the natural surroundings. The participants included professors, community members and even Milledgeville Mayor Gary Thrower.
The director of the documentary is senior Will Dodgen. The mass communication major has led the course in turning Tobias’ vision into reality.
“My job was to meet with Dr. Tobias and get a good understanding of what his vision was,” said Dodgen. “I brought that back to the team and combined my own knowledge to create something really extraordinary. I think that’s the goal of a documentary—to make something ordinary, like everyday people in nature, and make it something extraordinary.”
Tobias, who has written, directed and produced more than 100 films, says the challenge of “bioreverie” has been intriguing for him. What would normally take a year of hard work has been packed into a semester-full of classwork.
Tobias also says using Lake Laurel gives the film an opportunity to shine light on ecological issues.
“Lake Laurel is a fabulous catalyst for bringing the best out of a very dedicated film team—Angela Criscoe's class of up-and-coming filmmakers. Lake Laurel is an ecosystem ‘ambassador’ if you will for the region, the entire state of Georgia and for the United States. And this concept of "bioreverie" is truly a message for our time,” said Tobias. “A documentary like this is a way of showing that human beings have what it takes to embrace the Earth and show our profound loyalty to her.”
English major Lizzie Perrin joined the filmmaking class because it gives her a platform to develop her craft of scriptwriting.
“I love storytelling, and it’s the main reason I want to go into the film industry and pursue scriptwriting,” said Perrin. “Right now, I’m going through the clips and piecing them together to make a coherent narrative of the story.”
Dodgen says bringing together the talents of Perrin and others in the class is essential to producing a successful feature film.
“It has definitely been a learning experience,” said Dodgen. “I’ve learned how to be a humble leader, but at the same time know my own worth as a director and trust in my vision.”
Dodgen and crew will premiere the film on April 21 at the Student Green Fee Symposium, which coincides with Earth Day.
For more information about the Newell Scholar, visit www.gcsu.edu/newellvisitingscholar/visiting-scholars.