Students at MHS work on a project with film director Christian Rozier. Courtesy Photo.
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Filmmaking comes alive in Globe-Miami and San Carlos

An award-winning filmmaker plans to create a film academy and shoot a feature film, while continues his role as a multimedia educator for local high school students. 

Documentary filmmaker and University of Missouri film professor Christian Rozier is bringing a film academy to Gila County. Selected participants between the ages of 18 and 29 will learn the technical skills of film production in an intensive 80-hour course beginning in March 2019.

Students will earn a stipend during their training and then move on as paid film crew members in the production of the feature-length film Peridot. This independent film will be shot locally in San Carlos and Globe-Miami in April 2019. 

Who is the filmmaker and why has he chosen Gila County?

For young adults who want to pursue their interest in film production, this is a compelling opportunity, to be sure. But why did Christian Rozier, formerly based out of Los Angeles with 20 years of experience as a film maker, pick this rural patch of Gila County to create a film academy and shoot a feature film?

As it turns out, Christian has already been sharing his talents around these parts for quite some time.

During the past seven years, he has either facilitated or directly participated in workshops in poetry, music, the visual arts, digital photography, and multimedia production in San Carlos and Miami schools.

Beginning in June 2011, Christian worked with the Media Arts Xchange (MAX), an organization from Los Angeles that integrates the arts and digital media to unlock the creative story-telling potential in  students.

Together with Street Poets, Inc., the Rhythm Alliance, The Tiziano Project (all from Los Angeles) and Navajo artist Dennis Jeffry, MAX held month-long collaborations from 2011 to 2013 with high school students on the San Carlos Reservation.

“We brought visual artists and musicians together from the outside to collaborate with Native youth to co-create something together,” Christian explained to me in a recent interview.

He documented this experience with the seven-minute short film “Media Arts Xchange on the Apache Rez” (on vimeo.com) which showcases the students’ energy, expanding emotional openness, and creative output that emerged from these sessions.

John Tandy, who co-founded MAX with Patricia Wyatt, and who co-wrote the screenplay with Christian Rozier for the upcoming film Peridot, told me in a phone interview that the results of these collaborations were magical.

Christian Rozier came back to Gila County to launch a program out of Miami High School after discovering the local community during a 2011 and 2013 project with MAX media. Courtesy Photo.

“It enabled the students to discover themselves, their deeper selves,” he said. “They all found they were special in some way. It brought beautiful things out in all these kids.”

In 2014, Christian directed “Racing the Past – Voices from the Apache Rez.” Filmed entirely in San Carlos, the interviewees become the narrators—the voices—in this 14-minute film. The film has won several film festival awards and spurred a lively string of 500 reactive comments on YouTube.

Although he spent the first 10 years of his career honing his craft  by making music videos, commercials, and reality TV, his experience working with young people in San Carlos in 2011 provided the source of inspiration that indelibly altered the arc of his professional growth.

“I found that my entire focus as a filmmaker dramatically shifted from my experiences with them,” Christian said. This sea change led him to four different continents, seeking out underrepresented and marginalized communities to tell their stories. And it’s why he has returned tin Globe-Miami and San Carlos at least once each year since 2011. 

“I feel like something personally was really born here,” he added.

Inspiring filmmakers at Miami High School

Since spring 2017, Christian has traveled to Miami High School from his home in Missouri on four separate occasions.  Working closely with Principal Glen Lineberry, he is guiding a core group of students through the film making process, imparting skills and building confidence to tell meaningful stories through the medium of short films.

The funding for this program comes from a High School Health and Wellness grant that Miami High School received in 2017 to develop a curriculum to oppose teen use of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs.

“We received permission to use part of the grant to work with our kids on story telling, on telling the story about being tempted, about resisting, about succumbing, about recovering,” Principal Lineberry explained.

The grant also helped to fund two recent workshops by Street Poets, Inc., the same Los Angeles-based arts organization that was so successful in catalyzing students to tell their stories with the written word in San Carlos seven years ago.

Miami students created two short films that documented the interactive experience with Street Poets at their school (posted on www.miamiusd40.org).

Their current project is a documentary about the impacts of substance abuse. “They’re asking deep questions about why a young person in particular might be susceptible to falling into that trap in the first place,” Christian said.

Eventually, this informal group of film students could be the seed that grows into an accredited class that becomes an arts elective at the school.

“Part of what we’re doing,” Mr. Lineberry explained, “is developing the capacity so when the grant runs out, we can continue to address these issues in a way that is specific to our students—in house. Our students will do the interviewing and our students will make the films.”

The school plans to launch a film festival that showcases the films made by Miami students and students from other schools, as well as a publication of students’ creative writing.

The upcoming Film Academy will take place during the school year and is designed for older young adults ages 18 – 29, so it will preclude the participation of high school students. 

Yet this won’t bench Christian’s eager group of Miami student filmmakers to the sidelines. Their next assignment is to go behind the scenes and create a documentary short film of the making of the movie Peridot.

The Film Academy and the movie, Peridot

Beginning this spring, a group of young adult trainees will be chosen to participate in the planned Gila County Film Academy. They will gain a full range of filmmaking expertise, and then produce their own short films as part of the program. They’ll gain proficiency in the techniques of videography, audio recording, lighting, post-production, and the all-important art of telling a good story—and receive a stipend while they learn.

The following month, with two weeks of immersive film production experience under their belts, the trainees will take a giant step into the world of professional filmmaking as paid (and credited) crew members for the movie Peridot.

The film is now in pre-production and shooting is slated to begin in April 2019. The movie will be shot in  Gila County and a majority of the talent and crew will come from the local area, as well.

“Our one and only goal is to make a great film,” said Christian, who will direct the movie. “We want to make a film that is very competitive in the film festival circuit.”

After the production of Peridot is complete, the Film Academy students will return to the classroom and begin the process of editing their own short films.

In June, the short films will be screened at a public premiere, exhibited in local schools, cultural centers, and shared online. “[Public screening] is an absolutely essential component of the transformative learning process,” Christian emphasized.

After the movie is a wrap and the Film Academy ends in July, these seasoned trainees will become an undeniable resource to both brick and mortar and online businesses,  institutions, and others in need of video  production services. The cameras, microphones, and other production equipment purchased for the Academy will all stay within the community, available for use on a “check out” basis.

To find out more about the process of applying to the Gila County Film Academy, auditioning as an actor for the film Peridot, or becoming a crew member, follow www.peridotmovie.com and social media.

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