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Guest Blog: Film is a Process
Guest Blog: Film is a Process
Guest Blog: Film is a Process

Guest Blog: Film is a Process

Stephen Straub is an Americorps member serving as the Youth Program Assistant at IFP Minnesota where Film Forward filmmakers Mehret Mandefro and Lacey Shwartz met with young student filmmakers.

Filming is magic. Anyone that tells you otherwise is no fun at parties. That’s the blessing and the curse of teaching youth media. Students from different backgrounds, experiences, stories and contexts get the fire to put on magic in front of a screen for millions of people, and then I have to tell them to white balance their camera. After weeks and months of detail bogging, I have to tell students why they’re still in this. 

Students, myself included, need to remember that the technical components of light and sound manipulation still put on a glorious magic trick. When the hard work is done, the determination and education does not take away from art flashing at you twenty-four frames per second. The hustle enhances the result.

My group at IFP Minnesota met with Lacey Schwartz and Mehret Mandefro as a part of Sundance Film Forward program. Mandefro, producer of Difret and Schwartz’s documentary Little White Lie, described her passion for filmmaking stemming from the time where she was just “a young person searching for the truth.” The students shared their video projects and received praise and constructive criticism moving forward in their art. 

The students started out the day tired from school and a little starstruck, but Schwartz and Mandefro asked them what they like to shoot until the ice broke. One student, at first bashful to present his video project inspired by his original poetry, gushed as the filmmakers praised his political poetry and deliberate use of cuts between performers. Naturally, it evolved into a casual and honest conversation about the two filmmakers’ respective films. 

Schwartz described Little White Lie as a “film about process.” She told students the process revealed more than the final product. She praised the students for finding what they love early in their lives, but also reminded them that there is still time to explore. Schwartz started college as a law student, but her own filming of friends and therapy sessions left her wanting to know more about herself and her racial identity in the context of her family. 

Mandefro discussed the struggles she had shooting Difret, a film with a first-time director and a first-time cast. She recognized the story of a brave Ethiopian girl standing trial for murder of her abductor and would-be husband needed to be told. The process made the film what it was, a moving and powerful experience for my students and me.

We are grateful to have had an inspiring and unpretentious discussion about why we love movies. The visit gave students another wind and reminded them why they labor behind and in front of the camera. We do it for the dancing images that inexplicably move us and we marvel at the work.
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