Today, we’d like to highlight an awesome teaching artist who is beginning an awesome year-long adventure. (Special thanks to guest bloggers Khadijah and Faith for writing this article!)
Last week, we sat down with Manhattan Youth Filmmaking teaching artist Alex Gaylon to speak with him about his project with Filmmakers Without Borders. At home in the States, he runs a small production company, Karmalize Productions. “I produce short documentaries and live events.” Aside from his work with Manhattan Youth, he also teaches for TriBeCa Film Institute.
This week he arrived in Palampur, India to lead a filmmaking intensive program. “Filmmakers Without Borders was started by a friend of mine, another teaching artist, about two years ago.” He will spend a year teaching film to middle school students and creating original projects in three different phases. “The first phase is making weekly films that give you an an intro to the area. That way, you are interacting while you’re also developing these short 1–to-2 minute pieces. In the second phase, you’re doing 2 short films, where there is total creative control and the kids help you out with that stuff by watching rough cuts. The third phase is a feature film.”
The Filmmakers Without Borders application process was a long and grueling one. “They want to make sure that the person that’s applying is right for this. They offer to fly you there, they feed you, they house you, they take care of you and all that stuff. There were two essays and a personal video that I had to do. It was really difficult for me being on that side of the camera. I have so much footage of me just staring a camera, just terrified.”
Alex said that he had wanted to apply to the program as soon as he heard about it. “There was no way I could pass up this opportunity. I know that it will change my life, and it’s the right time for me right now,, where I can kind of cut loose and do this thing for a year and get the most out of it.”
He’s very excited to see what his students in India want to make films about. “I know a lot of American kids love horror films, and they all want to make horror films. That seems just a common trope. I don’t know what the common trope for Indian children in Palampur is. Especially since Palampur is more of a village area and it’s not very urban so I don’t know what kind of media they watch or have access to at all. So just that first day of ‘What’s your name?’ and ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ is going to be fascinating to me. While I’m expecting some things to be very similar and surprise me, some things might be totally different, and I have to figure out ways to work with that. But I’m really just trying to keep my expectations low because I have no clue whats going to happen. I can imagine anything but I have to be as prepared as I can be.”
To prepare himself, he’s been “talking to people who are in India now or who travel to India a lot who are in that particular area where I’ll be. Just talking to them and seeing what they offer me in terms of little pieces of advice from water to health and to fun.”
With traveling to new uncharted territory, there come some hardships. “I’m going to miss my girlfriend and I’m going to miss my grandma. It might not even be the people I miss the most, because I don’t know what I’m going to miss in terms of food and things that I’ll start craving. Once I get there, I’ll know that I can not get a burger for a year. That’s another way I’m preparing right now is filling up on anything I don’t think I’ll be able to get like, a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Because of the water there, I can’t be eating a lot of that stuff.”
Alex’s “downtime” largely will be taken up by working on his films. “It’s really fun and just getting out in the area and seeing who’s interesting and seeing what’s interesting and then having the ability to follow the story and not have to worry about rent. But even being in New York, it’s like, ‘Oh, I have to do this job so I can pay rent.’ Or ‘I have to edit this thing because I’m a week late with that.’ But now I can really just follow the interesting things and not have the same worries that I have here. It’s a completely different culture to the point that it makes you look at your own culture in a totally new way. So I’m really looking forward to that.”
But that excitement comes with a touch of fear. “As far as stuff i’m afraid of, I’m gonna get caught in the rain, I’m going to be alone, I’m gonna cry. It’s gonna happen. But I’m kinda looking forward to that, too,, because it’s like well, how am I gonna handle these situations? I don’t know.”
We had a great time discussing his adventure to India, and we wish him all the best as he starts his year without borders..
Good luck Alex!