Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Educational Experience

This project began when HSU alumnus Connor Hawkins of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center saw a previous documentary film by Ann Alter, Shifting the Paradigm: From Control to Respect, and offered funding for a film examining medical cannabis. After a year of research and preparation, Alter designed this project as an educational experience in documentary filmmaking for HSU students.

“I looked for a part of the story that we could structure within an academic setting," Alter said. "Students signed up for the course in making a documentary film without knowing the subject, so that they wouldn’t be drawn to it for the wrong reasons. The students who stayed with it put in a lot of hours. They were so dedicated and committed. It’s been a very enriching process for me.”

Some students worked on the film for as much as a year, including Ben Shaw and Steve Spain, credited with editing and principal photography.

“At first we were talking about a short film,” Shaw recalled. “But as we got into it, we started to realized the depth of the subject. I was amazed by the level of professionalism that evolved—the ability of students with no prior experience in making a documentary to come together to become a real film crew.”

“Some of us worked on this on our own time because it was so fulfilling,” Spain said. “Especially towards the end, it felt like we were making a real movie, not as a classroom project or for a grade, but because we wanted to do it, and do it well. This was the most intense educational experience of my life.”

Though both students came away from the experience convinced of the legitimacy of medical cannabis, “just because you acknowledge the medical benefits doesn’t mean you’re advocating the use of the drug, “ Shaw said.

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