The Take Away from LPA

The Take Away from LPA

Jenni Monet is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker based in New York City.  Since 2006, she has been chronicling the contemporary lives and issues of indigenous peoples worldwide, including among America’s tribal nations.

Date Posted: 
2011-08-29 00:00

Blog Series:


If ever there were a boot camp for emerging filmmakers, the folks at NALIP have laid the groundwork for how things might go: early mornings, late nights, constant networking, and in between, squeezing in sessions of proposal writing, film editing, music composition, crowd-funding and practicing the perfect pitch. After 10-days of non-stop work-shopping at the Latino Producer’s Academy, I felt as though I had pulled the ultimate all-nighter, extremely fatigued, but reflecting on the experience with much satisfaction.

First of all… I’m not Latino, but Native American (Laguna), so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to NALIP for making this rewarding opportunity open to indigenous filmmakers like me. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to walk away breathing fresh life into my fledgling one-hour doc, KIVALINA, a film I have been tirelessly working towards since 2008. I spent the better part of the winter and spring editing scenes and crafting storyline. The ultimate test would be whether my cut actually resonated amongst my peers and mentors at the LPA. Turns out, it did not. 

I brought with me, Kivalina: Act I to workshop at the LPA. The idea was to tweak the cut while there; the LPA is also set up as an editing lab, a nice touch. My problem with the project has always been that I have operated mostly alone, including in the edit process. So I brought along Dax Thomas (another Laguna) hoping he might fall in love with the film and want to take it on after the LPA. Turns out, that didn’t work either.

While I did not walk away with any fresh cuts, the takeaway was far greater in many ways. Over the course of nearly two weeks of dissecting my project amongst people like Caroline Libresco of Sundance, I realized that I was not capitalizing on a most compelling main character. In the words of one mentor—I was claiming to tell a human story about climate change, but with no real human to identify with. Point taken, I walked away from the LPA with a new vision on how the story should be told. The reality is, though, I will need to follow up with some light shooting to achieve my new cinematic goals. Read: Raise more money!

In the end, I also realize that I have been working in a vacuum—a situation that aids no worthy production. Since leaving the LPA, I have been fervently searching for an editor to help with the project. If you know of anyone, hit me up – I’m excited about the push towards post-production and encourage anyone interested in some grueling evaluation of the filmmaking process to consider 10-days with the Latino crowd at the LPA. Good and productive times.

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