Mark Volkers is a man with many hats: professor, Orange City community member, missionary, award-winning filmmaker and most recently, a workshop leader at the OrangeRind Film Festival. The festival, now in its third year, began this past Saturday, Sept. 7. Traditionally, it has been a competitive event for which amateur filmmakers square off for cash prizes. This year, although there will still be cash prizes, there has been a change in the Festival’s focus — education rather than competition.
“We wanted to be unique,” said Janine Calsbeek, director of the Orange City Arts Council and coordinator of the OrangeRind Film Festival. “It’s great to get people involved who just want to learn.”
Participants in the festival are taking part in a series of workshops on the making of documentaries. The workshops will be led by Volkers, a professor of digital media production at Dordt College.
“(Documentary filmmaking) is no longer limited to those with access to huge budgets and super-expensive equipment,” he said. “We’re limited primarily by our own creativity and storytelling prowess.”
The final two workshops will take place Oct. 17 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fruited Plain in Sioux Center and Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Vogel Community Room of the Learning Commons on Northwestern’s campus. Participants will work through the essential questions of documentary filmmaking: How do I choose a subject? How do you shoot an interview? How do I create a story in my film? They will explore the basics of composition, space, music, sound, camera angle, story and a plethora of other parts of filmmaking.
Between workshops, students will be working on creating their own short documentary films. “‘Doing’ is the best possible way to get started on your own path of filmmaking,” Volkers said.
The final showing of these documentaries will be in the Vogel Community Center at the DeWitt Learning Commons Thursday, Nov. 7th at 7 p.m. Students and community members are encouraged to come and view the final products.
“I think people will really be inspired by the films presented,” Calsbeek said.
There are 16 participants in the workshops, four of whom attend Northwestern. Hana Spangler, a sophomore double-major in theater and history, is one of those four.
“Documentaries are important for us,” she said. “They’re a slice of human life.”
Spangler also believes that the experience will be good for her education, given her choice of majors.
“(Documentaries) are really just compilations of personal testimonies — a great way for us to understand each other,” she said.
Matt Latchaw, a senior computer information systems major, is also a student of the Festival.
“I’m excited to learn how to share stories,” he said.
Volkers recent award winning film, “The Fourth World,” was shown at Northwestern last month as a part of the festival. To film it, Volkers and his students visited the Philippines, Kenya and Guatemala interviewing and doing pro-bono work for the poor and marginalized in those countries.
Although it’s safe to say the short documentaries produced during the OrangeRind Film Festival won’t require that same amount of work, Volkers is hopeful that these workshops will encourage participants and community members to share their stories.
“It’s critical that well-trained Christians get into this culture-shaping arena,” he said. “This is something people can do, and the next big, important film could come right out of Northwest Iowa.”