On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

10 Feb

October 27, 2014  | Fly By Light | West Long Branch, NJ

To my delight, I discovered that the famous scene of little Annie singing on the stairs takes place in the gorgeous Wilson Hall at Monmouth University. As a ginger haired precocious 8 year-old myself, that film was an all time favorite of mine, although perhaps not the reason I went into filmmaking. I was asked to explain my origin story to a group of film studies students before the screening that evening. I shared how my journey to becoming a documentary filmmaker did not begin with a camera, or an obsession with a specific film or director, but rather with a deep seated childlike desire to make the world a more just and beautiful place for people to call home. Long before I picked up a camera, I grabbed a poster board and marched on the streets of Washington, D.C. in protest of pretty much everything, from gun violence, to the destruction of the rainforest, to the first and second Iraq war. I eventually got tired of shouting at politicians. I came to realize that I wanted to focus on listening instead. Listening to people’s stories and creating spaces where communities come together and listen to each other, and celebrate the ways we all connect. After the screening of Fly By Light, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they related to the young people’s stories in the film.  Although the majority of the audience was composed of white college students, I was encouraged by how many people raised their hands, and shared about how they could connect to the emotions expressed by the youth, the struggle to overcome the weight of their past, even though the details of their stories were different.  One student approached me after the discussion and shared how energized he was by my description of the organic nature of my production process.  Instead of waiting for the perfect all-star crew, the generous funding, the latest camera, I often jump in with a small group of trusted people who care about the story, and simply begin. Brimming with ideas and excitement, the student handed me his business card and promised me he would take his stories off the conceptual shelf and go for it.

2-26_Sonya Arrington

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Ellie Walton.
To listen to a podcast interview with the filmmaker, click here.

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