Academic Seminars Influence Aspiring World-Changers

Academic Seminars Influence Aspiring World-Changers

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Drue Metz
December 17, 2015

 

“The Presidential Inauguration of 2009, an experience of a lifetime and my return to D.C.”
– written by Drue Metz – writer/director

 

When I think about The Washington Center and the experience I had while attending their 2009 Presidential Inauguration Seminar for Barack Obama, I recall the excitement, growth and inspiration that infused my heart with the desire to make socially conscious films. The richness of being amidst Capitol Hill, powerful thinkers, aspiring world-changers, the level of discourse education and relationships I built in my two week visit – it all nurtured my passion to use narrative media to influence change.

 

Seven years later I would return to Virginia and Capitol Hill to attend the 2016 Mental Health America Annual Conference and serve as one of the keynote speakers to close out their conference on “Media, Messaging and Mental Health”. I would return with a project, cause and a mission to inspire change, education and awareness called “THE LOVE EFFECT.” A unique cinematic film and program I co-created and directed to present in classrooms, theatres and seminars around the world.

 

After a crowd funding campaign to fund the project, we realized our little story about two men dealing with depression, suicide and in a special way, love, would have a much bigger audience than we first anticipated. As the film tours worldwide at film festivals, we began developing an interactive program with plans to present it to the Department of Education, thanks to our partnership and guidance from the Mental Health America organization.

 

My return to Washington D.C. to present this couldn’t be more exciting for me and my team; however, it can’t go without not recognizing the powerful influence The Washington Center experience had on my development.

 

In 2009 I was a student at California State Long Beach University. I was finishing my B.A. in Film and Video Production, honing my lifelong career and pursuit for writing and directing film, television and media. Like any film student, (or any student for that matter) I was inundated by school and film projects. I remember seeing the application for my university about the “Presidential Inauguration Program.” I thought, hey, that’s cool.”  This was to be an experience of a lifetime.  A new era and generation of thought, politics and patriotism. A new time of life and growth. I liked politics a lot, more so, I liked the idea of discerning what should be done about special topics. I then thought, too bad I’m one of those ‘cinema students,’ this isn’t an opportunity for me.

 

But then I really thought about it. I realized that the discussion of politics and presidency couldn’t be a conversation without the conversation of media. I believed that my craft as a filmmaker and storyteller had a unique connection to politics and socio-political influence. And so, I took the risk of applying to the academic seminar, believing I had something to say and to learn.

 

 

In my essay, I described how now more than ever, media is directly influential on our beliefs, behaviors and feelings. From cinema, to television to daily news multi-media and digital, information has nurtured a generation that not only seeks it daily, but also depends on it as a sole headquarters for information. The success of Barack Obama’s diverse and expansive media campaign from commercials, public speaking, to pictures and iconic art, go hand-in-hand with his road to inauguration. His powerful grasp and use of media is a key factor in his influence and success in his presidency.

 

 

This is no mystery. Politicians across the world have realized the power of media, the motion picture and the use of public speaking. But storytelling and cinema is unique in this equation. From tall tales to proverbs, anecdotes, themes, and characters from one generation to another, bedtime stories to Dr. Seuss, Star Wars to Gilgamesh, Achilles or the Tortoise and the Hair– the power of story and theme have a monumental effect on the human psyche. The power of story and storytelling is something that uniquely embeds itself into the audience. Stories, characters, themes and images find their way into our heads and our hearts and they live there – affecting our thoughts, belief systems and ideas. Cinema has the very same affect.  In our culture of split second ads, 15 second Instagram clips, viral vines, tweets and hashtags – media, cinema, Hollywood and movie stars couldn’t have more of an effect on us. I ended my essay with:

 

“To analyze and interpret the use of media and its effect on society in modern day is critical not only both in politics but in the sociological, cultural and growth of human ethics.  As the world continues to use media as a device for special interests and product marketing, I believe we must assess its inherent power for the days to come ahead with the ringing in of a new president. As an aspiring writer and director, I feel attending the TWC Inaugural program will provide invaluable insight for my mission as a storyteller and will help further define my role in conveying messages in my films as a filmmaker.”

 

I was proud, excited and felt I strongly communicated my passion and interest. However, I didn’t get this last sentence out until the last possible moment. As always, stuck in an editing lab in the halls of the Film and Electronics arts building, I discovered that my essay was due today. And in 1 hour.

 

I felt like an idiot, a failure, and like so many times in life – just giving up. I felt like I had something to say and do, but I couldn’t. I sweat, I shook my head, I tried to stop myself from doing it—and then I kept going. When I had 15 minutes left to turn it in, I then found out that I needed to hand deliver my application to the other side of campus. It was absurd and it was 2009 – since when did the world stop emailing and ask for hand deliveries of applications?

 

I went to a local teacher, the beloved Steve Hubbert of the Film and Electronic arts department and I begged him to quickly print something for me.  He did, confused as to what I could be up to. I printed then jumped down the staircases out of the building and started running. I literally ran with my paperwork in my hand, from the south side of campus to the absolute most northern part. I dodged students and bicycles and even a Japanese tour group. It looked like a silly movie montage, sprinting with literally minutes before the doors would close and the application period would end. My heart was aching and I could barely breathe – being tall and having terrible second-hand smoke lungs from my father was the worst. My mother was a runner but I was just terrible. By the time I got to the mid-waypoint, sweat running down my essay application and down my face, I thought I would pass out. And then, taking after the patriotic spirit of Rocky and the American Dream (1976) - I kept running.

 

When I kicked open the hallways doors to where I needed to apply, I staggered in, breathless and said “Hi, my name is Drue Metz. This is my application. I’m sorry I couldn’t turn it in earlier, but I hope you like it. I really do.” The receptionist wasn’t sure whether to stare or smile but then a woman behind her stood up and smiled.  She slowly walked over to me and took it. Between euphoria and exhaustion and only seconds before the application closed – they took my work. She slowly pulled the documents from my wet hand and thanked me.

 

One week later I got a call. I didn’t just get accepted for the Washington Center program, I got a full scholarship, appointed by my university. Dr. Robin Lee and others in the scholarship committee told me that my perspective and reasoning for wanting to attend the seminar were compelling, unique and one-of-a-kind. I could have cried. I could have said a lot of silly, overwhelmed things like I did earlier. But this time, I just said thank you.

 

 

I spent two weeks in D.C. with TWC and my fellow students representing Cal State Long Beach.  For whatever reason, I was assigned to share an apartment with students from Montclair State University of New Jersey. They were loud, aggressive, diversely intelligent and full of life. I called them all “Joy-zee” and they called me “Cali”, short for my sunshine state. They made my day, every single day. Every morning at 5am or earlier we would all wake up, get ready and leave TWC housing. We would truck through the 29- degree weather to the monorail, where it would take us into D.C. We then walked into the reddish, brown halls of the University of the District of Columbia. I don’t know how we always did this without time or energy to make coffee, but when all got to the seminar by 7 or 8 we were met by the warm faces of educators, speakers and fellow students who welcomed us with coffee and pastries.

 

 

 

Not only was this one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen, it was one of the most inspiring. Every day, my new colleagues and friends listened and engaged with a variety of unique individuals speaking on behalf of the challenge and optimism for our new president. They were thought provoking, motivating and all so intelligent. We toured Capitol Hill, met with ambassadors, visited museums and held discussions with our mentor and advisor, Robin Lee. Between the dew of ice cold weather and the crisp air – the city of patriotism at work invigorated me.

 

 

The people I spent day in and day out with inspired me. We visited war memorials, Abraham Lincoln’s statue, and the ambassador of Jamaica (Ya-mon). I soaked up culture, debated with my colleagues, read about foreign policy, watched sunsets over ancient American stones and monuments and wrote every single night. I attended The Washington Center inaugural ball (and snuck in to another one). I went to visit my local state senator, explored as many museums as I could, walked the city at night and snuck in to an event to see Al Gore speak. I even tried to sneak me and team Joy-Zee into a private inauguration watch party. When that failed and we almost got ejected or arrested, we hit the streets. I photographed people, life and the energy and could feel the optimism for change and the faith for improvement. Every day, I barely slept from excitement, and I always wrote.

 

 

When inauguration day came, my colleagues and I witnessed history. Thousands and thousands of people. Music. Smiles. Celebration and hope. You could feel it, taste it. At 4am we traveled through the dark in the sub-zero (19 degrees in California’s weather scale) to the monorail. We rode the very first train through sunrise, surrounded by smiles and optimism for the day and for the future. When we hit the streets of downtown commercial district, everywhere we looked, all walks of life were around us, walking. It felt like a march – and it was. It was the coldest day I could ever remember and one of the most exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

I owe this experience to Cal State Long Beach, Dr. Robin Lee and The Washington Center. Waking up every day, learning, discussing politics and ideas for change directly influenced and affirmed the things I wanted to do as a filmmaker.

 

Now, with my current project the THE LOVE EFFECT Film and Campaign, I’m coming back to Washington D.C. seven years later to share our program at the 2016 Mental Health America annual conference and plans to present to the department of education.

 

Through my enrichment in this cultural and educational experience of a lifetime, I’m making films that exemplify my mission as a filmmaker. The importance of passion, education and programs like TWC, is that it shows you that change is in the power of the beholder. That the act of hard work, passion and belief, is all it takes for wonderful things to happen. Like my film and campaign THE LOVE EFFECT – education, experience and discussion is what it takes to create meaningful change. I’ve taken from my many experiences at The Washington Center and integrated it into thinking how I can create interactive and relatable experiences through film and presentations to connect people openly to our themes of depression, suicide and love.

 

My story is one of anyone else’s with belief, passion and hard work rolled together with dedication and perseverance. I think every American should tour D.C. formally, and every student should attempt to do an internship or program like the one’s offered through THE WASHINGTON CENTER. There’s nothing more powerful than travel and experience and not just learning about culture, but actively participating in it. That’s precisely what the Washington center program was for me, an experience. It was a story. And something I’ll never forget and always retell.

 

To learn more about THE LOVE EFFECT Film, Social Awareness Campaign on suicide, depression and LOVE please click here: THE LOVE EFFECT

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