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Summer class celebrates history in an interactive way

Summer class celebrates history in an interactive way

Professor Carter explains to her class how to set up hot spots for the iPad’s. The iPad’s will be used during the interactive documentary to watch mini videos about the black history in Denton. Cameron Roe

Summer class celebrates history in an interactive way
August 14
13:29 2017

Focusing intently on the screen, the 36-year-old media arts professor finalizes every finishing touch on her summer semester’s long awaited documentary, titled FreedmanTown2.0.

As an independent filmmaker herself, Carla LynDale Carter-Bishop’s main goal is teaching students how to share their personal stories while also representing stories that haven’t been told before.

“A big part of my work is celebrating some of the history that is not in the history books,” Carter-Bishop said. “I want to bring in more of the history that isn’t spoken about.”

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Carter-Bishop received a job offer from UNT’s media arts department in 2015. She is going on her third year of teaching this coming fall semester.

Carter-Bishop has always been a film lover and knew she wanted to study it in college. But her lack of hands-on experience in filmmaking became a barrier when applying to undergraduate schools.

“Most of these competitive film schools require an ample reel of your work, and I didn’t have that yet,” Carter-Bishop said.

Carter-Bishop was accepted into a program at the University of Chicago, where she studied the history and analysis of film. It was there where she received her bachelor’s degree in cinema studies before going on to complete her master’s in filmmaking at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Before long, she developed what she called her own personal style of film.

“I went to under-represented schools, and trained students on how to tell their own stories,” Carter-Bishop said. “[Students] have certain issues and struggles, so I try to bring in my background in filmmaking as a way to use film for the students to be able to express themselves and share their own stories. I’ve had huge success with that.”

Now, Carter-Bishop is wrapping up her five-week summer session, titled Interactive Community Video, where she and a class of 18 students spent time doing intense amounts of research about the hidden history of several black Denton communities.

Carter-Bishop wanted to express different topics, like how southeast Denton is predominately a black community, through the class in order for her students to be able to draw inspiration from various paths of Denton.

“In the late 1800s, when a lot of slaves were freed, they moved to this area called Quakertown,” Carter-Bishop said. “It used to be a thriving black community from the late 1800s. Until the early 1920s, they were self-sufficient. They had grocery stores and businesses, they were prosperous – and this was located right in front of Texas Woman’s University.”

In order to get reliable information for her lessons and the projects, the class has spent the summer doing various forms of research.

“We’ve been interviewing a lot of seniors, we’ve been doing field trips to the local senior center and the recreation center, and we’ve just been interacting with the communities to get their stories,” Carter-Bishop said. “We’re also getting a lot of history of life before southeast Denton, in terms of how southeast Denton became a predominately black neighborhood.”

While the story of Quakertown is a huge inspiration for this project, it isn’t the sole content of the documentary.

“This project does not just focus on the oppression or violation of black communities, but also the resilience, strength and beauty which comes through in the videos that the students are creating,” Carter-Bishop said.

Students are doing a final test run for their interactive documentary student make sure their trigger photos work. The interactive documentary previewed at a children’s summer camp on August 9, 2017. Cameron Roe

This documentary isn’t like any other student-classroom project, Carter-Bishop said.

Instead of a two-dimensional project, Carter-Bishop pushed her students to take their talents a step further.

“The cool part about our project is that it’s interactive — it’s not like a traditional documentary,” Carter-Bishop said.

The interactive documentary uses augmented reality technology to create an experience that is unlike the standard linear documentary form.

“We’ve actually broken down the film into 17 different shorts, all [showing] varied histories of different buildings, structures and people,” Carter-Bishop said.

Students will be able to interact with the documentary by walking around the community with their tablet or smartphone.

When they approach a certain building or specific location, a video about the history of the structure and people there will appear.

“It’s interactive in terms of location-based and image-based,” Carter-Bishop said. “We will have photographs hanging up throughout the recreation center, so if you download the app and it recognizes the image, the video will pop up of the interview we did.”

The idea of working on an interactive documentary came about from Carter-Bishop witnessing her previous students playing the popular game Pokemon Go about a year ago.

While the interactive element is unique, that does not take away from the project’s educational purpose.

“It’s still educational, but it’s fun,” Carter-Bishop said. “[People are] not going to want to watch a two-hour documentary, but if you make it a ‘digital scavenger hunt’ and it’s interactive, you have to find different places in your community. You learn the history just by walking and engaging with different people.”

Last week, the project was showcased to summer camp children at the Martin Luther King Recreational Center, where a lot of filming took place.

“I feel like this project opened my eyes to what it truly means to be a part of something that can reach and affect an entire community,” media arts senior Okoye Anderson said.

Anderson was a part of the group whose task was to find more about the history of Quakertown. Anderson said they tried to seek out a new perspective by challenging the master narrative found in previous documents about the town.

“I’m going to walk away from this knowing that we gave a lot of people in the community fresh content about the story of Quakertown and historical black Denton,” Anderson said.

Fellow media arts junior Valorie Buentello worked on covering the Women’s Interracial Fellowship in Quakertown for the FreedmanTown2.0 project.

“It was really interesting because a lot of the black women still meet up and go to the senior center for Bible study,” Buentello said.

Buentello interviewed many women in order to get a variety of information on what life was like for them.

“There was so much history I never heard about in the Denton community, and it got me thinking, ‘what else am I not aware of?'” Buentello said.

Inspiring her to perfect her craft, Buentello said working on a hands-on project as big as this is very stressful, but it is even more rewarding when it all comes together.

“It inspired me to get more involved with the [Denton] community, and any community really,” Buentello said.

That’s exactly what Carter-Bishop was hoping for.

Her goal in all her work is representing the unrepresented groups and making sure their stories are brought to light and shown in mainstream media.

Although Carter-Bishop specializes in community documentaries, her main focus is passing on this passion of storytelling to youth for generations to come.

“Me being young, me being black and me being a woman gives me three strikes as to why a lot of people don’t take me seriously,” Carter-Bishop said. “I feel like people understate me. I am constantly surprising people.”

Featured Image: Professor Carter-Bishop explains to her class how to set up hot spots for the iPads. The iPads will be used during the interactive documentary to watch mini videos about the black history in Denton. Cameron Roe

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Nina Quatrino

Nina Quatrino

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