Student-made documentary screening May 2: ‘What Does Faith Mean to You?’

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Students enrolled in the class COMM 341: Topics in Communication have been working throughout the semester to create a documentary titled “What Does Faith Mean to You?” that will be screened in Health Pavilion 138 on May 2. According to Assistant Professor of Practice and Communication for Electronic Media Rick Dunkle, who teaches the class, his goal with having students create a documentary was to bridge the gap between journalism and long-form entertainment. He said that it was always his intention to create a class that would focus on this since coming to the University of Indianapolis in August of 2022. 

Senior communication major Amanda Mumphrey said on the first day of class Dunkle wrote the word ‘faith’ on the whiteboard and let everyone in the class define the word for themselves. She said the students found that everyone has a different definition of faith.

“When we discovered  that everyone in the class had different beliefs and different ideas around [the word faith,] we decided it would be a great way to document and show UIndy students, because of how diverse our campus is,” Mumphrey said. 

Dunkle said after the class determined an idea for the documentary, the next steps were to figure out who they wanted to interview, what questions they needed to ask and what kind of story they wanted to tell. He said the class had to map out everything and research as much as they could about different religions. Members of the class have interviewed religion and philosophy professors as well as leaders of different religions, according to Dunkle.

Dunkle said some of the goals for the students in the class were to cater to the skills they already have as well as to help them learn new skills. He said the process of making the documentary has been different even to the students involved that have been a part of UIndy TV already. 

“In TV, we teach how to tell a story in under two minutes … now we’re doing it in 90 minutes,” Dunkle said. “So you definitely have to keep track of that narrative and weave it through such a longer project.”

Mumphrey said that one of her favorite parts of the experience has been the opportunity to expand on the work she has done previously in public relations as well as to learn new skills. She said doing PR for the documentary, as well as parts of it that are new to her, has been a unique experience. 

“My favorite part definitely has been the amount of experience I’ve gotten other than PR,” Mumphrey said. “One of the big things Rick [Dunkle] wanted to emphasize through this course is that even though you’re coming from PR, TV, radio, journalism, wherever you’re coming from, … you’re taking this course it’s going to benefit you. Because not only have I helped my own PR skills [by] working in different areas like a documentary, but also [Dunkle has] allowed me to be on camera, interviewing people.”

Dunkle said that in addition to the screening on May 2, the documentary will be entered into festivals in the future. He said that while most films and documentaries go through a focus group, the screening will act as the focus group for the documentary, as there will be a survey for viewers to fill out at the end. 

Mumphrey said that she hopes everyone who goes to see the documentary will leave inspired. She said nobody should feel targeted or hurt if they have a different definition of ‘faith,’ because they are not alone. 

“We want people to leave the documentary asking themselves good questions about their own faith and what it means to them,” Mumphrey said. “Because in all, we can come together for the greater good.”

Dunkle said he hopes everyone who sees the documentary feels represented and understands that nobody has the same definition of faith, but that there are similarities between people despite that. He said that he wants everyone to feel that they can pursue faith without fear or judgment.

“ … I want everyone to be able to pursue faith without fear of judgment or worrying that they found the right one or the wrong one,” Dunkle said. “If it speaks to you, and it works for you, then who is anyone to tell you that you’re wrong?”

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