PLU MediaLab tackles diversity in new documentary series

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MediaLab at PLU member Rachel Lovrovich operates drone on location in El Paso, Texas while filming for “A World of Difference” documentary series in June 2017. Photo courtesy of MediaLab at PLU

MediaLab, the award-winning applied research program at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), will premiere two episodes on Thursday, April 5 from “A World of Difference,” the organization’s new, multi-part documentary series.

“A World of Difference” explores issues of diversity, including gender, race, immigration and social class. The episodes debuting on April 5 will focus on race and class, and will screen at 7 p.m. in Ingram Hall, Room 100, 12180 Park Ave.

“A World of Difference” is jointly sponsored by PLU’s School of Arts and Communication, the Wang Center for Global Education and the University’s Diversity, Justice and Sustainability (DJS) fund.

Under consideration for numerous festivals and other recognitions, “A World of Difference” recently won a total of 12 awards in various categories from the Accolade Global Film Competition of Southern California. One of the episodes about race relations in Sedalia, Mo., earned six accolades, including for the Use of Film/Video for Social Change, Original Score, Editing, Documentary Program/Series, and Contemporary Issues/Awareness Raising categories.

The series was produced in the past year by a documentary team of four MediaLab students: project director and graphic designer Rachel Lovrovich (class of ’18), a digital media major; director of photography and editor Joshua Wiersma (’18), a communication major; chief writer Julia Grosvenor (’19), a communication major; and producer Mackenzie Cooper (’19), a communication major.

Cooper said she hopes that highlighting diversity will help viewers to see the humanity in people different from themselves.

“I think that there’s humanity to every situation,” Cooper said. “I want to kind of galvanize other people to do their own research or to kind of cross boundaries that they’ve never crossed before and maybe go introduce themselves to other people, or even just begin to challenge their own misconceptions.”

The team filmed on location in communities across the U.S., including the midwestern city of Sedalia, Mo., a small city roughly halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City in the northern part of the state where racial tensions have simmered for more than a century.

The filmmakers also traveled to Richwood, W.Va., a small, economically depressed town. In both locations, they anticipated issues would be clean cut.

“We came in with a lot of expectations, and in both of these places the story was crazy,” Grosvenor said. “When people see the episodes, I’m hoping they can go through that same journey that we did in realizing how crazy these issues get, and how things don’t even make sense sometimes, because it really just shows the reality of the situation that the way that people handle race and class is just as crazy as the way people handle every other aspect of their lives. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s crazy, and that’s just life.”

Two other segments of the production that addressed gender and immigration premiered in Seattle in early February.

In addition to the four primary filmmakers, the production team included music major Dalton Rouse ’18 — who composed the project’s score – and narrator Jonathan Spielmann ’18, a communication major.

The Tacoma premiere of “A World of Difference” is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged, however, to RSVP at worldofdifferenceseries.com/rsvp to ensure adequate seating.

A question and answer session featuring the filmmakers, as well as audience discussion, will immediately follow the screening. Refreshments will be served during a reception at the end of the event.

Visit worldofdifferenceseries.com for more information about the documentary series, or to see a trailer.

Helen E. Smith is a Tacoma-based freelance writer and a member of MediaLab (https://medialab.plu.edu) at Pacific Lutheran University. She can be reached at (smithhe@plu.edu).

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