On Tour: Newport News, VA

16 Sep

September 12th, 2013  |  Shored Up |  Newport News, VA

Stop three on the tour took me to Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA.  What struck me when I got to campus, after the mid-September wall of heat, were the grand ante-bellum style buildings that dot the campus.  My terrific host, Film Professor John Nichols, explained that almost every building on campus has been razed and replaced in the past five years.  For a public university during the “Great Recession” it was all very impressive.

9.12 Group Photo

Zack Owen (co-chair of the CNU Film Club), Ben and John Nichols

John had lined up three different visits for me while I was on campus, the first in a creative writing class, the second with the film club and the last with a class looking at the intersection of art and science.  I told John that last one sounded like it was lifted from my bio “Ben’s films focus on the intersection of science and the environment…”.  The conversation in each class found a somewhat different focus, but the common theme was something along the line of “how do you make a career pursuing what matters to you?”  This is a subject I’ve thought about, struggled with and ultimately am still figuring out, but it’s also something I was really happy to talk through.  For me, and I think for a lot of the students I got to meet, the question of how to craft a career that is meaningful and still make a living is fundamental.  It was also refreshing to meet so many students who were asking such mature question.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking in these terms when I was their age.  Maybe it’s partly about growing up with the economy in the state it’s in, with the world in the state it’s in, or perhaps it’s just that famous Southern hospitality, but there was a conspicuous (and refreshing) lack of cynicism.

And those were just the classroom talks.  Then there was a terrific screening in the Ferguson Center for the Arts.  A big crowd, at least 200, many of whom stayed for the Q&A/panel and peppered myself and the three other great panelists with both film-focused and topical questions about the issues in the film.  I’ll admit I hadn’t heard about CNU before this tour, but I’ll remember my visit there for a long time.

9.12 John

John intros the film


9.12 Audience

The crowd before the film

Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Ben Kalina


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