Featured Alum: Jolene Pinder

Featured Alum: Jolene Pinder

DI Class: 2007

Thesis Film: Bismillah: In the Name of Allah

Current Job: Associate Producer at Arts Engine, Inc.

The Arts Engine Website
Big Mouth, the production arm of Arts Engine has released 8 feature-length documentary films to date.

What are you currently doing at Arts Engine and how did you get your position?
During the summer between my first and second years at the Doc Institute, I interned at Arts Engine in the production department. I had many responsibilities as a production intern that summer but my main project was working to get their latest film Arctic Son out on the festival circuit. I loved the film and really enjoyed learning the ropes of the festival world. When the film’s producer, Elizabeth Mandel, went on maternity leave last May, I interviewed to fill in during her absence. Arctic Son was going to be broadcast on the PBS series P.O.V. and Arts Engine needed someone familiar with the film to help prepare for the broadcast and produce the DVD.

How do you feel your education and experience at the Doc. Institute has helped you with your job?
Before I decided to go to grad school, I had been trying to gain production experience on my own, in this kind of piecemeal way. Needless to say, it wasn’t working for me. I came to the Doc Institute in search of a total immersion experience where I could just focus on learning production skills (I had picked up a video camera twice before I landed in Gainesville) and make a film from start to finish. I think the Doc Institute was an ideal environment for me to do both of these things. To be a producer you really don’t need to go to film school, but if you have been to a program as specialized and attentive as the Doc Institute, you definitely have an advantage. We had some really challenging shoots over the course of making our thesis film (filming solo in Minneapolis for three weeks is at the top of my list!) and I came out of it feeling confident that I could handle a variety of tough production situations. I also think the time I spent at the Doc Institute learning the craft of editing, both in class and in working on our thesis project, was invaluable. Having a more in-depth understanding of editing has really helped with my current job at Arts Engine; it also keeps me connected to the creative process. As the tools of production become more and more accessible and companies expect that you can be well-versed across many areas of production, the education the Doc Institute offers allows you to be a really versatile player in the documentary field.

What are some of the most valuable skills or knowledge that you gained from the Institute?
Aside from the production and editing skills I mentioned above, I would say that I really honed my storytelling skills while at the Institute. I was exposed to many different kinds of storytelling, from Dziga Vertov to Errol Morris, through classes there and through watching dozens and dozens of films. When it came time to craft a story for our thesis film, I had spent so much time deconstructing the films of others that I felt pretty comfortable doing it to my own, painful as it often was! There are so many ways to tell a story; the Documentary Institute cultivates an environment where you can roam these paths and learn to defend the one you ultimately choose.

One of the most amazing gifts of my time at the Institute were the relationships with my peers that grew over those two years. I had an incredibly talented and supportive class. Our experiences and styles couldn’t have been more different, but that was what kept it interesting. I learned so much about collaboration and about how to give feedback and process criticism.

What sort of productions have you worked on at Arts Engine thus far?
Well, they jokingly call me “the closer” at Arts Engine because since I’ve been there, I’ve worked on two films that have technically wrapped production, Arctic Son and Election Day. Arctic Son aired on the PBS series P.O.V. last summer and Election Day is slated to air on P.O.V. this summer. When a film is gearing up for its broadcast, there are quite a few details that have to get ironed out, deliverables to hand over to the broadcaster, organizing press, etc. In the case of Arctic Son, Arts Engine was really eager to have a DVD available at the time of broadcast but one didn’t exist when I came on board in May. That was one of the larger projects I’ve assumed since I’ve been there—creating the Arctic Son DVD with our distributor, Docurama. I had a chance to do some editing on one of the DVD extras which was really exciting. I’m now working on a project to release all of the older Big Mouth Films on DVD in time for our 10-year anniversary (yes, a box set!). I’m currently serving as DVD producer on three of the older films while also getting ready to start production on the Election Day DVD.

In terms of new project, I’ve had a chance to do some shooting and sound on one of the films we have in development, Asexuality: The Making of a Movement. While turning the conventional perception of sexuality and how we relate to it upside down, this new doc will profile four people who are trying to live their lives as asexuals. I’m fascinated by this film and hope to be move involved as production moves forward.

How are you working on marketing your thesis film now?
Since Sarah and I both started full-time jobs within weeks of graduating, it’s been challenging to work on the marketing and distribution of Bismillah. We have been entering film festivals but that can be a discouraging process, to be honest. We’re actually going to have a chance next month to concentrate on the outreach and distribution of the film. We were accepted into Working Films’ Content + Intent Documentary Institute, a five-day residency for filmmakers. During that time, we’ll create an audience engagement plan for our film and identify potential social justice organizations with whom to collaborate in outreach. When we arrive, Working Films shares with us their own thoughts about the film’s potential for outreach and then we go from there. I really respect the work that Working Films (founded by doc filmmaker Judith Helfand and film curator Robert West) does and feel so grateful to receive guidance from them. Sarah and I are really looking forward to using this time to regroup and strategize about the marketing, outreach and distribution of Bismillah.

Do you plan on creating your own films in the future?
I hope to. I feel really fortunate to be working at Arts Engine, a place that is full of talented and creative people who love the work they’re doing. I hope to serve as a Producer on one of the films we have in development and see a project from start to finish.

In terms of my own projects, I still feel like I have my hands full with Bismillah at the moment. Of course, I’d love to continue directing my own projects in the future but for now, I think I’d have to stick to shorter pieces. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!