Collins' documentary invited to film festival

Janice Collins, assistant professor of journalism in the College of Media, was invited to share her documentary “A Taste of Gullah” at the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival in Venice California in May.

Collins shares the following about her trip:

It was wonderful to receive the award for “Best Documentary” at the festival. I didn’t even know there was such an award.

Sitting in the audience watching the documentary was interesting. I heard people laugh, chuckle and sigh at all of the right moments, but I was still looking at the project critically. Why was that shot used twice? Can you hear the sound well enough? Should that shot have been used? And at the end of the day and festival, what I learned about being a producer of documentaries is that yes, you should always have a critical eye, but what’s really important is who the story is about, what subject is covered, and did you give voice to the people that really matter.

In my case, it was the wonderful and gracious Gullah Geechee people and their culture. What was important is that even though their culture, and in some cases, their livelihoods are threatened, their stories are being told in ways that will last through time. This story does not exist without them. So, I appropriately shared and accepted the award on behalf of them and in their honor. I gave special thanks and share this award with the independent students who assisted with the editing. I also gave thanks to the College of Media and Journalism Department at the U of I, my late chair of the journalism department at Eastern Illinois University, and WEIU who aired this important special without hesitation because they understand the important role PBS plays in educating vast audiences on stories such as the story of the Gullah Geechee people.

The Board Members and Selection Committee of the Garifuna Indigenous Film Festival said that they were very impressed with the fact that I did it all; shooting, writing, producing, editing, voicing - you name it, I did it - which is very rare in the industry of documentary producing. While this is rare, there is always room to share with others which is why I allowed three students - Alexis Rosado, Jiawei Liu, and Andrea Medina -to work with me on the editing. I think it’s important for our students to get as much hands-on experience on all levels including time management, communication, problem-conflict-solutions, critical thinking, and learning the art and skill of telling the stories of others without including oneself…on a professional level. These students got that experience and as a result of their hard work, they can include their work - that can also be seen as individual segments with the webisodes on their CVs, resumes, and portfolios - in addition to the award! I’m very proud of them. I also thanked the IT team in the College of Media, especially Taylor Judd and Meghan Smith who worked with making sure the students could get to all of the footage I had. 

Overall, I feel truly blessed to have been able to help tell the story. That is seen in the picture of me looking up…thanking God first and foremost. Now, on to finish my next documentary on my trip to Sierra Leone. A huge project that I’m really excited about and excited for the world to see. 

This was my first big film screening while in academia. I have covered the Olympics, Superbowl, the O.J. Simpson trial, Michael Jackson’s controversial stories and more. National and international stories that have been viewed by audiences the world over during my decades in Journalism, but this is my first film screening in academia. Los Angeles was impressive and a very nice place to visit. The Sideroffs are truly amazing in putting this huge event together every year. And the work of the other producers was outstanding! There is great talent there and just as important, great stories about cultures and groups that are sometimes hidden in the shadows. My hope is that we all will see more of a global vision in the media and while we are on this journey, I hope to play a major and integral role in making sure our students are onboard every step of the way.

Lastly, this was more than just a creative endeavor. This project dealt with qualitative research as well and I presented my work just like I was at an academic conference, with thesis, problem, solution, and assessments and engaged in a question and answer segment on my work following my presentation. A great experience all around. 

Collins with Freda Sideroff

Collins at festival