STUDENTS BROADEN THEIR KNOWLEDGE IN DOCUMENTARY ETHICS & FILMING TECHNIQUES
Through "Labyrinth," the St. Edward Film Department provided students with an opportunity to advance their digital filmmaking skills and documentary ethics in order to share these women's hard-hitting stories with reverence. To help inform the students even more about the subject matter, Mr. Kuhar brought in Mr. Alex Leslie, Senior Director of Educational Services at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, to provide students with helpful statistics and guidance for how to properly formulate interview questions. Mr. Leslie expressed the importance of keeping emotional intelligence in mind while conducting an interview and focusing each interview on the impact of sexual harassment and assault rather than the details of the incident. "I was most encouraged by the unscripted follow-up questions that the directors of the film asked, especially Brendan Ours," says Mr. Kuhar. "After one participant discussed the aftermath of her sexual assault, Brendan moved with great care and emotional intelligence beyond our 'script' of questions. He engaged in authentic, deep conversation and helped create a space where a very difficult subject could be discussed safely and with great empathy."
"I've never talked one-on-one with someone, especially a woman, about these issues, but I learned that communication is the most important thing," says Brendan. "Asking questions on the fly and talking about such deep topics that aren't always comfortable to talk about really helped me to improve my communication skills and learn how to better relate to others. Being a director on this film allowed me to talk face-to-face with these women, hear their vivid stories and see the emotion and affect of their experiences in their eyes. Throughout the film and on our film poster, we focus on the eyes. Seeing the feeling through the eyes is important as each participant talks about the techniques they use to distance themselves from others and how they individually deal with their pain." To preserve each participant's anonymity, students and co-producers decided toward the end of production to implement a split screen format for the film, cutting out all footage in each frame besides each participant's eyes. "Students had to take great care in how they arranged the lighting and camera positions to make that editing choice work after the fact," says Mr. Kuhar. "Utilizing the split screen format challenges viewers to look these women in the eye as they give voice to their battles with sexism, harassment and assault in the workplace, academia, at home and the world at large."
To ensure that all aspects of the film were handled ethically, St. Edward High School's legal team collaborated with the Film Department to create an appropriate release form for "Labyrinth" while also providing each participant with a rough edit of the film last summer. "We asked for their blessings regarding how their footage was utilized before finalizing the edit," says Mr. Kuhar. "Insisting that the participants have a final say in how their stories were presented and curated was essential in making this an ethical work."
Click here to watch the St. Edward Film Department's short documentary, "Labyrinth."