Student Filmmaker Explores Using Creative Voice to Address Social Issues

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, Claude Hill, III, completed his Senior Capstone Film, for completion of Tulane University’s Digital Media Practices Program. Over the course of a year, Claude wrote, directed, shot, and produced a 10-minute short film highlighting the conditional work-life affair exacerbated by the pandemic. Claude is a graduated senior from the Class of 2022 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and Digital Media Practices.

In the last year of my Tulane undergraduate journey, I had the wonderful pleasure and opportunity to complete a Senior Capstone project in fulfillment of my degree program. For the duration of the entire year, I was enrolled in an advanced filmmaking class and had the supervision of my professor while completing the project. For me, this opportunity was about honing my creative voice and allowing myself to be immersed in the ups and downs of the filmmaking process as someone who is interested in the intersection of artistic expression and social justice: artivism. But, I didn’t know what I wanted to make a film about. Nonetheless, I knew the inspiration would come whenever it was meant to come, and boy, did it hit me hard.

Inspired by a true story, the short film, “Rules Are Rules,” takes place within the context of a pandemic similar to that of the worldly COVID-19 pandemic where businesses are struggling and employees are being let go each and every day. Not only are people’s jobs “essential-ness” in question, but also these people’s literal, physical essential-ness at their place of employment is quickly coming under scrutiny as well, unveiling the true objectified and dispensable view large corporations actually have towards their workers, mere pawns in their well-oiled capitalistic machines. “Rules Are Rules” illustrates how these events have worked together to uproot and alter the lives of a caring son, Robert, and his sickly mother. As Robert grapples with the circumstances of his new reality, it leaves him uneasy, disturbed, and in disbelief. He cannot “forgive-and-forget” and becomes obsessed with leveling the playing field.

Quiet on set! Director Claude provides some feedback to the main character.

But now nearly 9 months removed from that initial idea, I have now written a script, organized the necessary funds, recruited and led a crew and cast, shot and edited nearly 4 hours of footage, and produced a 10-minute short film now available on Youtube. I could go into each step of the process and talk about the things that went well and the things that did not go so well; however, in retrospect, I am happy with the way everything turned out, especially given the context in which this film was made. Along with the other ton of pre-production and post-production work, I was able to coordinate a crew of 15 students from three universities, a professional stunt coordinator, and 8 other cast members to put this production together and make it come to life as beautifully as it did. That is no easy feat, especially while taking other classes.

What I am most proud of is the final product. This was the first time I led a project of this scale with access to funds and high-quality equipment. That was also probably the most exciting, but also the most stressful part of the entire experience: managing it all. In the end though, I got to make a movie! That is something that I am proud of.

My main and biggest takeaway from this experience is:

To give myself some grace from the harsh critic that is myself

I am growing in this field and in life, and as I progress, I will come to  see and understand that some of my past decisions and choices were probably not the best, but they were the best given all that I had and knew at that point in time. I try not to harp on the could-have-been’s. And, I have come to appreciate these past choices more because they allow me to see the growth in myself and look forward to the next thing, and I couldn’t be happier.

Filmmaker Claude Hill III poses after the class screening in the Prytania Theater

As I move on from college into my professional career, this amazing educational and immersive experience will be at the forefront of my mind not only because it was my very first short film, so it will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart (and in my portfolio), but it’s also because of the many lessons I learned about constructing a narrative project about social issues. I am looking forward to my next piece, and taking all the things I learned with me as I continue to explore my creative voice!