North Texas Daily

Alum brings UNT to film festivals

Alum brings UNT to film festivals

April 26
00:09 2013

Preston Barta
Film Critic
There are often times when life presents us with challenges and situations that instill fear in our hearts, but it is because of courageous stories like Union employee Earl Thompson that give people the ability to stand up and put one foot in front of the other.

Currently being screened around the country, UNT alumni and RTVF adjunct instructor Bobby Lewis’s short film “The Union Man” gives audiences a riveting look at the lasting consequences of the decisions we make, while capturing the inexplicable subtleties that one faces while engaged in work that is often taken for granted.

The North Texas Daily recently spoke to Lewis about how he met Thompson and how the UNT program has helped further his career in filmmaking.

Did you search for a story with a theme of one decision defines your life, or did it just kind of happen?

Originally, I wrote a completely different treatment for this film. It was still going to be about people that cleaned, but I wanted to make a visual symphony with lots of movement and rhythmic pacing. The film imploded at the last minute and everyone backed out, so I had to quickly come up with another idea.

So this is when you met Earl Thompson?

“Yes. After my original idea imploded, I decided to embrace Robert Flaherty’s notion of ‘non-preconception’ and make a film without a treatment. Celebrity culture really bothers me, so I wanted to prove that everyone has a story to tell and ultimately it is just a matter of deciding how to tell it.

I like my films like I like my music, written and recorded during the same moment. Inspiration is a lot like being washed over by a breeze that takes us by surprise. I think that life works this way, so creatively it is important to remain malleable to the moment. Case in point, as ‘The Union Man’ was being shot, I totally freaked out when I heard Earl play the piano. I had been hearing that song for about a year in the Union and had no idea it was him. In fact, his song inspired me to seek out someone from the Union to compose the music for my second year film, which I actually tried to do. Everything I planned fell apart and I was left with a lesson in pure documentary.

How do you feel that the UNT program helped you? How do you feel that you came out of that?

Oh, such a great program. Yes, it was done for the advanced film class taught by Professor Melinda Levin. The film was made within the parameters of the Hollywood style of filmmaking, which basically means that everyone directed a film and worked within various crew positions for other films. We were actively involved in the production of four films. UNT gives you the tools. Education is freedom.

How can people view the film? Do you plan to put it out publicly on Youtube or Vimeo?

Right now the film isn’t available online due to pending festival submissions. It will screen later this month at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, which will be the film’s third screening. The world premiere was at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival last month and it screened before a sold out audience. I hope to find a distributor, but if all else fails there is always YouTube. In the meantime, you can go to my website and send me an email. I’d be happy to send you a link. Also, I believe that Earl is actively scheduling screenings at local schools so that he can share his story with kids.

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