Media That Matters

Students blend community engagement and filmmaking.

The students that just completed professor Ted Gournelos’ Media, Peace and Justice course learned an essential lesson about making movies: Films aren’t just about entertainment. They can serve our community and further the missions of our community organizations. 

“In this course, which is a community engagement designated course, students learn why film can be a transformative medium in the community, and a really great way to make an impact,” says Gournelos, assistant professor of Critical Media & Cultural Studies. 

Beginning with attending the Global Peace Film Festival, which is hosted at Rollins, students pair off and begin working with a community partner to create a film or series of films intended to aid the organization in communicating its message. Last year, students created a film for ITNOrlando, which resulted in a tremendous increase in awareness and donations to the organization.

“The films have the potential to help these organizations gain a lot of support, earn grants, and invigorate the people doing good things in our community,” Gournelos says. 

This time, students partnered with seven organizations, including Pet Rescue by Judy, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Downtown Credo. Nikki Hussey‎ ’14 and Kate Olson ’13 chose to work with Fern Creek Elementary School. The critical media and cultural studies majors ultimately produced three videos focusing on the school’s foundation and the impact it is having on its students. 

“The experience that I had with Fern Creek will last me a lifetime,” Olson says. “Those children could not be happier and are so thankful for all the volunteers that help within the mentor program, food pantry, and clothing closet. Nikki and I were so thrilled to be able to capture these moments on camera.”

In the end, Olson and her classmates were able to produce something that made a difference while picking up some valuable filmmaking skills along the way—skills that they can take directly to the job market, Gournelos says. “The goal is to teach them these high-demand skills but also to get them to see how we can be better citizens and do something where it’s not just about them; there are bigger things at stake than their grades.”