Currently I’m in the midst of producing Moccasin Stories, a short documentary set to premiere on VOD in 2017. The experience has given me the opportunity to learn about the cultural significance of moccasins, but I can’t help but recognize the impact it’s had on me as a learner.
Moccasin Stories — The Project
We’re currently editing Moccasin Stories, a documentary that demonstrates the power, strength, and resiliency of Aboriginal culture. While we’re (I’m producing, not directing this one) looking at delivering a roughly 20 minute film we’re also looking at creating an entire project/resource guide around the doc.
We shot a lot. We also toured Manitoba. Winnipeg, Balmoral, The Pas, OCN, unincorporated areas north of there, and Norway House were all filming destinations. We spoke to a lot of people and learned a lot about Moccasins. We have enough footage for a feature film, but having said that, we have just the right amount of footage for a great short doc.
There’s a lot more to moccasins that meets the eye. The goal is to use the media gathered from the project to extend the conversation online. Furthermore, screening this film is going to be a lot of fun. We’re planning Q and A sessions and a gala like environment for our premiere with the hopes of creating more opportunities for the project and the artists that helped make it possible in the future. I encourage you to check out the Moccasin Stories website and my vision for the project here.
Also, we’re crowdfunding for the project. We have some great perks, and it would be greatly appreciated if you could support our project in any way.
What I Learned From the Filmmaking Process
Applications to the classroom
Going into the project, we had a story we wanted to tell. The frightening thing about the documentary filmmaking process is that things can develop in such a way that you end up learning more about your subject despite the hours you put in during pre-production researching.
Our director, Charlene Moore, did a great job talking to a plethora of people. We interviewed 10 people on camera, and probably talked to another 10 in-depth off camera. No one was an expert in one area. Some knew the traditional aspects, the stories and teachings that go along with moccasins, others had their own cultural interpretations. Some focused just on the craftwork. We logged and transcribed about 7 hours of interviews and started plotting our story line.
Making a documentary is much like writing an essay. You have a vision going into the process. You research based on your vision and you adjust based on what you find. There’s been plenty of times in my academic experience that I changed my thesis entirely by the time I finished my first draft.
But I feel there’s a difference between writing an essay and producing a documentary. There’s a holistic approach to documentaries. It’s less forced and less formal that writing an essay in some ways, but it’s also more engaging. In terms of literacy, not only are we working from the written word — which is often neglected when thinking of documentaries, but transcriptions and scripts are the root of the story — but we’re also working with images. We’re interpreting movement, expressions, film grammar. I’ve worked on documentaries and watched my interview subjects lie to the camera, or say one thing and mean another. In the literary business we refer to this as subtext.
There’s also the social aspect of crafting a documentary over an essay. More times than not, you’re not in a library or Google’ing for countless hours in order to generate enough sources and content for a documentary. You’re living it, you’re experiencing it.
I’m not dismissing the essay — I know essay writing plays an important role in the learning process. However, if I wanted a student to fully immerse themselves in a subject, going through the process of producing a documentary is probably the most effective way to do so.