“College Diet” is a short documentary film that highlights the issues around food insecurity at The Ohio State University. The project explores the causes and consequences of food insecurity. It also highlights an organization, Buckeye Food Alliance, who provide food and other resources to students experiencing food insecurity.
Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to nutritious meals. While completing my original idea, Doll House, I became aware of a food insecurity issue among my crew and actors- many actors had limited availability due to their work and school schedules. If they did not work a certain amount of hours, they would not be able to eat. I did more research on the issue and discovered that 51% of college students experience some level of food insecurity, with 15% of students experiencing high levels of food insecurity. With the level of privilege some students experience, food insecurity can seem like a far off issue. In addition, the experience is somewhat normalized by the association of a bad diet and college life.
Throughout this project, I learned the extent of the effects of food insecurity. It can be extremely difficult to be successful in school when basic needs cannot be properly met. I also realized the problem goes deeper than simply bad budgeting. A living wage in Columbus is 11 dollars an hour at 40 hours per week. Students are often paid Ohio minimum wage, 8.55 an hour, and are only allowed to work 28 hours per week. With the mandatory and recurring expenses of tuition, rent, and bills, flexible expenses without due dates, such as groceries, often get put on the back burner. I interviewed a student that was supposed to be an actor for Doll House, and she had to drop out of a semester of school because her food insecurity was causing long term health.
This project allowed me to gain a great deal of empathy for people affected by food insecurity. The people I interviewed were people I have worked with closely- actors and crew I have used for many of my projects. The fact that I had no idea of this huge obstacle in their lives despite working closely with them was very indicative of how society treats this problem on a larger scale. While working in storytelling and communication, empathy is a critical tool in order to portray an accurate representation of an experience. I truly believe this project has opened up my mind to the many issues that, despite surrounding our society, has been hidden away to preserve the illusion that our privilege has allowed us.
This project has allowed me to collaborate with several of my peers, allowing me to create a much better product than if I were to pursue this project by myself. In a professional setting, there will always be a great deal of collaboration. While pursuing this endeavor, I was able to work with a composer, a cinematographer, and some crew. Before creating the film, I was able to shadow producers at the Cleveland Film Company and gained invaluable experience with working on a larger scale film set. I was able to apply these skills to my personal project, allowing scheduling and budgeting to go smoothly. With this professional experience as well as the added piece in my portfolio, I will be able to further display my skills when applying for jobs and internships.
Venturing outside of narrative filmmaking and going into documentary was extremely transformative for my professional and creative goals. Before, I had only known how to make a successful narrative film- I was only interested in storytelling in the context of narrative filmmaking. While this project started as a narrative film, it gradually transformed into a documentary. Not only did this help me deal with the obsessive perfectionism and overplanning that I outlined in my pre-project reflection, it also allowed me to pursue storytelling in context to a documentary film. With my STEP project mentor, I learned about a documentary objective and how to arrange footage to fulfill my objective. I learned how to effectively communicate my message to my audience. I believe this new skill will further strengthen my storytelling skills, and give me yet another tool to display when pursuing my professional and creative goals.
The new skills and experiences I received while creating this film were instrumental in my growth as a filmmaker. I believe this piece in my portfolio will allow me to display the breadth of my storytelling abilities, leading to my future professional and academic success. With this project, I was actually able to obtain an internship in social media marketing, a career field for which I have a great deal of interest. Going for a documentary instead of a narrative film allowed me to further learn about the documentary field- a style of filmmaking that is often preferred for social media posts. This experience has been extremely transformative for my future goals, and I am very grateful that STEP has allowed me to explore a new style that has quickly become the base of my future career goals.