Featured video: 'Social Issue Filmmaking'
Posted May 16, 2011; 12:00 p.m.
This spring Princeton students got hands-on production experience in 'Social Issue Filmmaking.' Read more.
Video Closed Captions
Emily Abt: My name is Emily Abt and I'm teaching a course called Social Issue Filmmaking.
Social issue films are any film that tells a story around a social issue.
Shikha Uberoi: Basically in twelve weeks
we're learning to make a documentary: shoot one, write one,
script one. We've learned so much.
Jamie Ding: We're learning a lot of things about movies: how to make movies--
the essential elements of films for both narrative and documentaries.
Kate Germond: The chief mission of Centurion Ministries is to free wrongly convicted people.
People who are serving life or death sentences for crimes they did not commit.
Michael was convicted of an armed robbery and murder in a small convenience store in Baltimore.
The description of the assailants juxtaposed to who Michael is was ridiculous. I mean,
a foolâ€“a child would have known that that mug shot is not Michael Austin.
Michael Austin: I got off of work one night and I was informed that the police were looking for me for murder
and armed robbery at the Grounds food market. That's when my whole world was turned upside down
Every witness in the supermarket said that the guy that shot the security guard
was 5'8", light-skinned with eggy hair, wore glasses, with sideburns. Why did you arrest me?
Emily Abt: My students are awesome and they don't
come from any particular discipline. I've got students who are biology majors.
I've got students from the visual arts program. I'm really happy that the class attracts
students from every discipline. They've chosen really interesting topics.
One group of students made a film about a transgender student.
Tony: Hey, my name's Tonyâ€“that's T-O-N-Y, not T-O-N-I and my last name is ____, and
I identify as a trans-guy. That's me with long hair and my legal name is Antoinette,
but I've never identified that way at all. You can go into the transition expecting to
be male in two weeks, but it's a year, multi-year process and you don't reallyâ€“
you can't even like really pass as male until six or eight months in. I work as a legal
assistant at a small LGTB civil-rights law firm so working there has been great as far
as my transition goes. A lot of people ask "What program do you want now,"
and "We'll support you through this." And obviously, I haven't gotten fired which is great.
But, yeah, I mean, trans-people in the U.S., like, there's not a lot of protection against discrimination
Emily Abt: I think that you know, the student's diverse interests
are reflected in their films and for me, I'm not so concerned with actual subject matter.
What I really wanted for them was them to have the experience of collaborating and making a film.
Shikha Uberoi: I was a producer, my friends were â€”one of
them was a director, another one was a shooter â€”the other one was an editor, and we all took turns taking these roles.
Jack Thornton: I've actually learned more in this class,
I think, than I have in any other film class I've ever taken and actually all the film
classes I've taken altogether. So, it's been a really beneficial experience.
Andrew Wai: My name is Andrew Wai. I'm a sophomore here at Princeton University thinking about
studying politics and possibly going for the certificate in political economy.
The condition that I have is called Leber's congenital amaurosis. It prevents the synthesis of certain
factors that allow retinal cells to live and that in the absence of this factor they slowly
die. So, when I was young I had much better vision than I have today. As time went on,
the more and more retinal cells died and my vision has gotten worse and worse since then.
Essentially I'm confined to light perception â€”sort of which direction light is coming from.
That's pretty much it. I never was able to see color, so I have no real understanding of color I guess.
Pretty much now, I can use it (my vision) to tell me which direction light is coming from. And that's about it.
Emily Abt: It was very important to me that I give the students some hands-on experience because
I think the best way to learn how to make films is by making films.
Jack Thornton: I wanted to be a filmmaker before this class,
but this class has just definitely spurred me on and inspired me to continue that path even more.