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Guest Blogger Kim Davis — Finally, a Reason Why I’d Go Back to High School

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Author Kim Davis is a recent college graduate from John Brown University. As an intern at AETN, she helps with production for LOUPE and student programs. She’s pursuing self-awareness, a career in film and television production, and trying to restrain herself from collecting every puppy that needs a home.


At 9 on a Monday morning, middle school and high school students filtered past me while signing their names and grabbing badges. Undoubtedly, they had earlier-than-usual starts to their mornings and dragging, bumpy rides to make it from their schools to the Emerging Filmmakers Program in Hot Springs. I sure did. However, the students were alert. I suspect it was because they weren’t at school. Instead, they entered Low Key Arts where a technology booth sits in the back, a stage, curtains and screen demand attention at the front, and a local artist’s paintings watch from the walls. This hip environment served as the venue for the program as part of Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. This was school for the day, and the topic was filmmaking. 


Many students came with their computer or media lab teachers from school, and a few came with parents. As a recent college graduate, I looked at the students with hope and a tinge of jealousy — not because of their youth or their freedom from college loans but because of the blazing opportunity that lay before them. When I was a high school student, it seemed that my filmmaking dreams were irrelevant, and that my love for movies began and ended at DVDs in living rooms and dark theaters for Friday night dates. Furthermore, I had no knowledge of filmmaking opportunities or resources in high school.


But here were 80 middle school and high schoolers being ushered in by dedicated teachers and parents so that the students could learn about filmmaking. These students were not only engulfed in support — they would be lectured and led by prominent filmmakers from Hot Springs and Los Angeles. 


After lectures, the students got to grab cameras and leave their seats when they were instructed to go into downtown to find interview subjects. Following their individual group interests, the students tracked down business owners, national park visitors and locals. The day stuffed the students with encouragement and motivation. Like a good movie, they left the room with a need and a demand for more. In fact, some students were vociferous in their resolve to return to their interviewee and gather more footage.  


Throughout my time at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, I found that so many filmmakers are welcoming and encouraging. At the Emerging Filmmakers Program, the students had the opportunity to make industry connections with hardworking and knowledgeable directors, get hands-on experience with cameras and some of the latest video-producing technology (drones!), and learn the intricate art of storytelling through the documentary genre. The knowledge and connections they made in that single day could influence and aid their future careers and, more importantly, their lives. 

I’m thankful that I got to shake hands and escort these brag-worthy instructors: 

Lisa Leeman teaches at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts specializing in intimate character-driven films that follow people at critical turning points in their lives. Lisa has been directing, producing, and editing feature documentaries for over twenty years.

Nadine Mundo who, along with her sister Rena Mundo-Croshere, is a sibling director team known as the Mundo Sisters. Together they-created and directed "What Makes Us," a new series of short films on elite female athletes for ESPNW, and "My Life (Translated)" for MTV. Both were also directors of the Emmy Award-winning "True Life" MTV documentary series.

Jon Crawford (director) and Russ Galusha (editor/digital image technician) help produce "Mineral Explorers," an educational adventure show whose team travels to mines around the world to bask in the reflection of nature’s unpolished beauty. 

  • Crawford has been producing documentaries for years. After receiving a MFA from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) school of Theater, Film and Television, he has worked with award winning filmmakers. Working with the many lenses of storytelling, editing, screenwriting, photography and directing, Crawford is credited as an award-winning independent filmmaker.
  • Galusha has worked as editor, digital image technician and graphic designer for several festival-recognized films. Such festivals include the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. In addition to working with film, Galusha also helps create stories for television.

 Southern Arkansas University (SAU) Tech student mentors were on hand to lend technical and creative support to student attendees. SAU-Tech's film program and the multimedia department at SAU-Tech in Camden is led by Steve Taylor. Students have gone on to work on "American Horror Story," "Duck Dynasty," "Jurassic World," "Terminator Ginysis (5)," HGTV and many more national productions.



Emerging Filmmakers Program

Student Selects

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Interning at AETN 

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