The question of what role to play…

I had this brilliant Penn professor come through a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about the ways in which kids were approaching their CSpan films and then he was talking about how his students ought to approach my students as they approached their films.

He noted that he was putting on his “producer’s hat.”

I was thinking about this as we work through our films. In some ways, I’m the producer for these twenty-six documentaries. I’m helping kids frame them, gathering resources, trying to ask good questions, and pushing on spots I see as weaknesses. I think this is what producers do or at least some of what they do.

On great days, that’s what I feel like I’m doing. I do a bit of teaching — here’s something you all need to think about (transitions, framing a shot, invoking the Constitution) — but then I’m just traveling around talking to students about their films. As they see a need, I try to help them address it, as much as I can. It’s their work. I’m there to help.

On other days, though, it’s much harder. You can’t sit in that producer role when the director doesn’t want to work. You can’t make the film for them.

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