I just returned from North Carolina, where I spent an entire week away from my beloved family to take part in the Center For Documentary Studies' Summer Institute at Duke University. It was a life-changing experience, I dare say.
It was there that I, and a group of fellow filmmakers, were tasked with making mini documentaries highlighting East Durham, a low-income, predominantly African-American community that has been working to break free from its blighted reputation. We were given only seven days to conceive our stories, find our subjects, learn our equipment, shoot our subjects, then turn around a edit it all into a neat and tidy five minutes or less. It seemed impossible to me. This kind of thing can take weeks to do right.
And although there was not much sleep to be had, in fact, I think I got a total of 8 hours sleep the entire week, it got done. It was thrilling to work that quickly, often by the seat of my pants, just going by instinct, trusting my abilities. There was no time for second-guessing myself, and definitely no time for beating myself up for mistakes (and there were more than a few.) Things I would have normally freaked out about, I just learned to let them go.
And on top of learning to be gentler on myself in the creative process, I was gifted a perfect partner, a hardworking crew, and an amazing mentor who supported us the whole way. All people I was thrilled to get to know.
At the end of the week all the films were screened for the community at the Full Frame Theater–home of the world-famous Full Frame Festival. Perhaps even more rewarding than making the project was sharing it with the subjects themselves. Seeing their reactions and how touched they were by how their stories were told, was something I won't soon forget.
Here's to the rewards of embracing risk, stretching outside the comfort zone, working to show life in all it's infinite complexity, and the result: