A Letter From The Founder - Lisa McWilliams

Manor Pilot Program Count Down

Nearly two decades ago, my friend Marvin invited me to visit him on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He wanted to learn about filmmaking, because he and his friends had stories to tell, and they wanted to tell them in their own way, and in their own voices. I must admit I showed up with a preconceived picture of what I might find.

We’ve all heard about the high unemployment rates and the epidemic number of alcohol related deaths, suicides and teen pregnancies that plague Native American communities. Evidence of all of that was shockingly apparent during my stay. But thanks to Marvin, the picture I got was more complex.  Sitting at the kitchen table and sharing jokes and stories with what is now my extended Pine Ridge family, I got a real sense of the uniqueness of their culture and society – something I simply couldn’t have learned from a distance. It was then that I realized film plays a truly vital role in bringing our seemingly disparate worlds a little closer together.

A few years later, I was working with Jay Craven up near the Vermont/Canadian border while he was running his Fledgling Film Programs for Teens. I met kids from the middle of nowhere who were smart, creative and eager to work. Thanks to Jay, they had the tools and encouragement to tell their amazing personal stories on film. This was kind of my “aha” moment – where I fully experienced the importance of access to both materials and mentors.

I truly believe that film is the literature of today, as well as the literature of our future. Digital technology has made filmmaking easier than ever, but the trouble is that it’s not available to everyone. Only a small percentage of students in film schools come from rural areas, and of those, only a handful graduate to paying jobs. The gap will grow larger for those in rural communities, unless we find a way to reach beyond the confines of traditional education.

By traveling to rural communities throughout the country the Mobile Film School brings filmmaking education close to home, inviting students to tell their own stories as they learn the fundamentals of actual film production. The short films they produce will engage students and their communities in a whole new way by reflecting on the issues that matter to them most.

We have an opportunity to find bright new voices, artistic talent, and to build new audiences for films that will promote cross-cultural appreciation and understanding. This is my calling, and I believe in the importance of equal access. Please join us on this incredible journey.