WRAC assistant professor Alexandra Hidalgo completed her film Vanishing Borders, a documentary following the stories of four women of different backgrounds, but with the same backdrop of New York City. However, a group of women you don’t see are from behind the lens. They’re five professional writing students—Katie Grimes, Becky Harris, Shannon Roe-Butler, LeeAnn Connelly, and Carly Mangus—and were, and continue to be, a fundamental component in ensuring the success of Vanishing Borders.
A film depends on a variety of tasks for its promotion, and this is where the PW students stepped in. Each student came with their own skill sets, experiences, and background, and this diversity in abilities was incredibly beneficial to Hidalgo. She said:
“I think it was really exciting to have the students bring in their own talents and abilities to the project, but also to be able to work with a group of people who were going to help me see my vision through. They brought great freshness and amazing ideas, but they were also very respectful of what I wanted each of these pieces of the film to be like.”
As far as Becky Harris’ vision went, she was in charge of designing the poster for Vanishing Borders, as well the logo for Sabana Grande Productions. She found out about the position through her work at the Creativity Exploratory (CE), where Hidalgo had been working with other employees at the CE on the trailer for Vanishing Borders. It was through Harris’ boss whom Hidalgo learned of Harris’ skills and asked her to join the team.
Harris says her favorite part of the whole experience was finally getting her hands on a tangible print of the poster. The poster would be used to advertise the film around the world, and it wasn’t until the poster was in her hands that Harris realized the scope of the project.
“It was truly an exciting moment for me!” said Harris.
In addition to a poster, a trailer also had to be created for the film, and this is where Carly Mangus stepped in. Mangus was able to learn to use her writing background and apply it to a digital medium. She said:
“Writing isn’t just pen-to-paper or fingers-to-keyboard for me, it’s a more broad construction of meaning. So I apply the same principles of storytelling I learned as a kid, and refined as an adult to everything I create, from an article, to a trailer, to a project management plan. If we consider our world in stories, we can capture meaning that resonates with people, which is important to a piece like a trailer where you really want people to absorb and remember your work.”
Vanishing Borders also needed a website and a social media campaign, and this is where Shannon Roe-Butler, LeeAnn Connelly, and Katie Grimes were able to help out. Roe-Butler, who graduated in December, designed the film’s website on WordPress. In fact, Grimes referred to her as “the resident WordPress expert” and “partner-in-crime for all things Vanishing Borders.” She said:
“I really enjoyed working with Shannon; I had had only a little experience with WordPress before working on this project, but with her guidance, I feel much more comfortable updating our website.”
Grimes also was in charge of the Twitter account, which involved creating regular posts and live-tweeting from events. Grimes took part in copyediting how-to articles that were inspired by Vanishing Borders. These were published in agnesfilms.com, an online community and venue for publishing work about female filmmakers and their films, created by Hidalgo.
Grimes worked over the summer with Hidalgo, and was invited alongside a group of women to watch an early version of the film and give Hidalgo her insights. This was Grimes’ favorite part of the project, and said:
“After viewing the film, the group of us was able to discuss our favorite parts and suggest which scenes might be cut. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation—everyone’s comments helped me think more deeply and in different ways about the film. It was incredible to be a part of this process in the production of the film because I felt like I was really helping to improve the final product.”
The third social media specialist and the newest member of the team is LeeAnn Connelly. Connelly works on the Twitter, Facebook page, WordPress, and the agnès films page, and joined the team when Roe-Butler graduated in December. Through Roe-Butler’s recommendation, Connelly joined the team.
So far, Connelly says her favorite experience is learning new things. She has never done social media before, and she is enjoying getting used to it. Her knowledge base of WordPress is expanding as well.
Finally, The agnès films website features several great, informative articles, written by the students and Hidalgo, which you can check out below:
Seven Tips for the Preparation and Production of a Micro-Budget Movie Trailer
Eight Tips for Making a Micro-Budget Movie Poster
Nine Tips for Making a Film Website on a Micro-Budget
Six Tips for Making a Micro-Budget Feature Film You Can Be Proud Of
Each student was able to gain something from the experience, be it through pieces for their portfolios to learning and sharpening their skills. They all had positive experiences, and feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with Hidalgo. Hidalgo also benefited, and if you haven’t seen the film, you definitely to check it out.