“I think research is crucial because of the potential that every single person on this planet has to offer to contribute to the knowledge that is in this world.”
Pioneer scholar Andrew, from Los Angeles, California, wanted to be a better filmmaker, so he applied to research areas in the humanities for his Pioneer Research Program. For Andrew, this made perfect sense. The mechanical skills of filmmaking can be learned anywhere, even on the job, he says. However, telling a heartwarming, emotionally deep story that will move the viewer requires a real grounding in the humanities, and an in-depth understanding of human nature.
Andrew’s research concentration turned out to be a surprise, something he had never thought of before. His cohort studied the history of religion and the apocalypse. As it turned out, this focus had a natural connection with one of Andrew’s film interests, parapsychological thrillers. These films, he says, ask a lot of questions and spark conversations, and “I feel like that’s what I want my films to do.” For his own research topic, Andrew researched futurism and its founder, Julian Huxley, and how Huxley’s views might compare with traditional Christian beliefs. He was curious about why people like Huxley and George Orwell might devote so much of their lives to speculating about human behavior in a world that does not yet exist, one that they will never see. He concluded that religion can play an even bigger role in people’s lives than he had realized.
Andrew’s new knowledge was just one part of what he gained through his Pioneer Research Program. He feels that in the process of participating in the Pioneer program, he became much better prepared for college. Learning the process of doing independent work is very important, he says. “The process is what allows you to learn the material, and if you are struggling through the process, you might not gain the material or the knowledge that you need to learn the things that you want to learn.” Pioneer was a huge help in “learning the process and taking that first step towards being independent in your own learning.” The structure of the Pioneer program helped Andrew develop “my own personal qualities like time management and communication and all those other important qualities that make a good person.”
Andrew has been working on his filmmaking skills through an intensive, three-year program that takes much of his summer and weekend hours. His colleagues are other young filmmakers that he expects will be the leaders of the next generation—a group that is far more diverse than the present generation. The program also provides valuable contacts with successful filmmakers and the kind of film studios where Andrew hopes to work after college, and so, rather than focusing on filmmaking in college, Andrew will continue to pursue humanities and liberal arts studies at Williams College, deepening his ability to make the kinds of films he dreams of. “The feeling of being able to tell a story that others can relate to and others can feel emotions from is just such a beautiful feeling. It’s why I really love filmmaking.”