Movable Type Interview: O’Shea Woodhouse
KS: Can you give me a bit of background about your work in the documentary film class?
OW: I’m calling my documentary film “The Social Divide: Bridge Through Media.” During my second year at U.Va., I took a class called “The Wire” with Professor Bruce Williams, and that class inspired my interest in figuring out why the University of Virginia and the inner city of Charlottesville are so disconnected. We’re in the same space, and we’re within a two-minute walk from the inner city, yet most people who go to school here don’t even know that there is an inner city. That inspired my interest in making a documentary about that divide. I wanted to tell the University about that divide, but I also wanted to find a solution. You don’t just tell people the problem, you have to try to figure out a solution. For me, growing up in the inner city of Houston, Texas, one thing that kept me motivated and inspired, and helped me express myself, was artistic media—videography, photography. When I’m thinking about a solution for how to bridge the gap, I think that if you involve media, which helps us communicate with people that are similar to our age group, people that are in high school, you know, we can communicate with them, we can work on things together in a creative environment, and then that can help bridge the divide. Really, what I wanted to do was make a documentary on the inspiration behind an independent study I’m working on.
KS: What is your vision for this independent study?
OW: We’re going to call it “Workshop Media,” and it’s going to help at-risk students in Charlottesville high schools create their own projects—music, photography, or videography. Instead of just being mentors that tutor, we’re going to be guides as the students create pieces for their portfolio that we will help them build. That’s going to be a way that we can actually interact with these at-risk students in the community to help bridge that divide.
KS: What professor are you working with for this project?
OW: Bruce [Williams]. I kept up with Bruce every year after “The Wire” class, and started doing an independent study in which we discussed, in detail, what this program would look like. It actually didn’t start with this—it took time to figure out what we really wanted to do. Since it’s my fourth year now, and I actually won’t be able to see this program come into complete form, it was more a question of what can I do to help inspire the people that are going to continue this; what can I do to build the foundation of what it is that we want to happen. I took an intermediate documentary production class, and it was the perfect opportunity for me to make a film that mattered to me, and that actually mattered to the community. With this film, I wanted to dig into that divide [between the University and the inner city.] Then I wanted to answer the question of why I am the person to help solve this social divide.
KS: Why are you that person?
OW: It’s interesting because I grew up in Charlottesville as well as Houston and I have family here. I’m just as much a part of that inner city. My little brother who was born and raised here. So I am the right person to communicate this because I have my feet on both sides of the fence. I’m at the University. I came form the inner city. I was raised partially in the inner city. The film has all these elements, and we’re trying to make it come together.
KS: What step are you on in the production process of your documentary?
OW: Right now I have a rough cut of the film edit with all of the substance of the divide. I go into detail with a couple of interviews, some with people of the inner city, some with Bruce, some with students, some with myself. I’m the narrator. The next step is to show the bright side—what is the bridge through media. For that part of the edit, I want to show myself in the studio making music, people making videos, and people creating images. It’s a two-part project, and the documentary is split into the divide and bridging that divide. The beginning has a feel of the problem—it has a different tone to it. The second half is a lot brighter and has a lot more color. It’s been very time-consuming to get all the footage, but I love to create visuals, and I love to express myself through media. It feels more like an opportunity than an obligation. It’s doing something that I can put into my own portfolio, something that I can leave with the community that I care about, and it makes the institution a better place.
KS: You’re really creating a great legacy to leave behind. Do you have any artists that have inspired you along the way?
OW: I can tell you right away two people who have inspired me: someone who always inspires me and someone who has inspired me recently. Although people have a lot of negative things to say about Kanye West as a person, I believe he has a great mind, and whether you agree with him or not, I feel like his ability to rap, produce music, create visuals through video, design clothes—he has his own fashion line and creates his own sneakers—I feel like he’s a Renaissance man. I’m growing in all these different things, and I want to be a Renaissance man. I want to have my own fashion line and create my own sneakers, and I want to have my own album on iTunes.
The second person that inspires me is Gordon Parks, one of the first African American photographers to really go mainstream. When he worked with LIFE magazine, it was unheard of because there weren’t many African American photographers that had power at the time. He was a Renaissance man as well because he didn’t just do photography, he was a director—he shot the movie Shaft, which is a really funny movie. He also composed music, and was a writer. I really want to be like those people that are masters of many things rather than a master of one because that’s part of culture—you have to influence from different angles.
KS: Have you ever tried your hand in writing?
OW: I’m definitely a writer—I think that’s where it all started; just being in school and enjoying the papers I work on. And I’m a musician. I write my own songs and produce beats. Any song that I’m rapping in, I wrote, and, though I haven’t written for other people, I’d love to.
KS: Are there any other classes in the Media Studies Department that have really inspired you?
OW: “Digital Media and Publishing” with Jane Friedman helped me to create my own website. I appreciate classes that take me outside the regular class period—classes that actually mean something. Believe it or not, a lot of good classes don’t do that, but this class meant a lot to me, and I’m actually using a lot of the things I learned about WordPress and creating a portfolio.
I’m in a class called “Breaking Bad” this semester with Professor [William] Little. He’s so passionate about what he teaches, and that means a lot to me. I haven’t met anybody that loves what he’s talking about more than him, so that’s been an inspiring class for my fourth year.
“Marketing and Promotions” has also had a big impact on me. If anybody has the opportunity to apply for that course, I would tell him to do it because it is the most impactful and beautiful class I’ve taken at the University. It’s one of those classes where you learn so much about yourself, and you learn what it means to be a business professional and how to mix that with the creative side.
KS: What does your future look like right now?
OW: My future is going to be amazing. I picture being self-employed. There’s nothing wrong with someone who wants to rise up the ranks in a company, but that’s not my future. I feel like my future is through becoming someone who can live out every one of their dreams and work with other people that are like-minded, make a lot of money, and create a lot of art to enhance the culture. I just love the art world and I love how you can express yourself. I like to influence people that will influence people that will influence people. I love the hip-hop culture and everything that comes out of it. I want to shoot videos, I want to make music, I want to do photography, I want to do fashion. In the near future, I want to work somewhere where I can learn. I don’t want to just clock-in and clock-out. I want to learn as much as I can so I can take everything that I’m learning and implement it within my own business.
KS: And where do you see this happening?
OW: I want to go back to Houston. The thing with Houston is that it’s a city with a lot of culture. It’s big, but it’s not New York or Los Angeles, and I feel like if there’s a place where you can make your name and stand out, it’s a place that isn’t already huge on the map. I’m not closing any doors—whatever happens, however it comes to me, wherever I can get what I need to get I’ll do it, but I would love to be in Houston.
KS: Have you done any internships that have helped you in these fields?
OW: I’m a busy person…so I’m interning with Mojo, a professional internet marketing company. It’s good experience with editing videos and doing basic marketing tasks. I’m also interning with Pando Creative, a video company owned by a young couple. They’re about 23 and they make a lot of money and beautiful work. They’re living their dream right now and it’s inspiring. I had a summer internship in Houston called Workshop Houston which helped to inspire workshop media, as well. We taught high school and middle school kids how to produce music and do fashion design. Not only did we teach the kids how to do that, but I learned too. Not only fashion, but I learned how to make my own beats. I’m still learning, but I’m getting pretty good. To me it’s about the culture of hip-hop— sampling and making something new again. I hear something I like, and I use it, I add to it, I reshape it. It’s like play-dough. Play-dough is already play-dough, but you make the shape. I want to be an artist who creates.