My approach to film is that of an educator, focusing on issues often overlooked or underexposed. My goal is to educate through film and visual media. The 2008 Reach Fellowship with Cinereach has opened many doors for me so far. In addition to being paired with a great mentor, Mrs. Renee Bishop (a Savannah based Emmy winning writer/producer), I have also had the opportunity to attend several workshops that will enhance my production skills, as I embark on my first major short film, Bridging the Gap.
Danielle Russell, Day 1
At one of last Monday’s workshops, I met Edet Belzberg, known for the Academy Award nominated documentary Children Underground. Her advice on documentary story development was especially instructive. When she shared what it’s like for her to embark on a new project, it helped me deal with the fear factor that comes to a fledgling filmmaker producing a documentary. Her enthusiasm inspired me to dive in and accept the challenge, reassuring me that even an experienced documentary filmmakers starts out not knowing what she will get in the field.
Afia Nathaniel helped me start to think of potential visual themes that could lend meaning to my documentary, but encouraged me to be prepared to capture things I’m not anticipating and to see themes grow organically as the project progresses. In fleshing out my story with her, I was already able to see some themes emerging. In Bridging the Gap I will compare the private world of the previous generation who is secretive about their past – especially with regard to the Civil Rights Movement – to that of their children (myself included) in whom their parents to not confide or pass on stories of their defining years. When the family gathers, the younger generation congregates in a separate room, one with white walls like a clean slate. The older generation sequesters in a more densely decorated family room where the decor is in more colorful tones. This is a visual theme that will give my film meaning I didn’t even anticipate.
Ellen Kuras was extremely helpful also, as she gave me some insight into the DP’s creative thinking. From the producer’s perspective, the DP seems like a film genius that simply just knows what to do with the camera to get a pretty picture. However, after talking to Kuras I now understand the DP’s process better. She opened with discussing the importance of great on-set chemistry and how it can enhance the quality of the overall production. I can only hope to meet, like she has, a group of people I can trust and work with consistently throughout my career.
Another highlight was meeting Paola Mendoza. This was the most interactive workshop and I was surprised to learn how seemingly simple games and group activities can do so much to build trust and communication for a director and her actors or subjects.
Attending these workshops definitely made me understand how much of a collaborative effort film should be, despite the industry’s competitive undercurrent. Now I see how important it is to have an all inclusive creative team and have people around you who are just as enthused about your project as you are. Though I could not run out and write a book about it all, I feel I am more than equipped to face the challenge ahead of me; especially since I now have peole like Susan Leber and Jeremy Kipp Walker to contact for advice.
Danielle Russell was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. An alumna of Atlanta Metropolitan College, she has an AA in Art and an AS in Teacher Education. Her passion for film started with an idea for a documentary which led to her enrollment in the Savannah College of Art and Design; where she is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Film, specializing in screenwriting.