Oberlin Blogs

Kindness in Filmmaking and Beyond

December 23, 2015

Jules Greene ’19

Kindness. Yes, I love the work of that musical artist - "That's Alright" is a great track. But besides that, kindness is something that I feel strongly about. I take it quite seriously, just about as much as I take my academic and future professional goals seriously, which is very much considering that I'd like to win an Academy Award someday, but that's another story.

To me kindness is an important thing to exercise because it's an expression of mindfulness, mindfulness in the sense that it's the recognition of another's personhood. To be kind to another person you don't need to necessarily know their name or what their story is, you just have to respect that they're also another person dealing with their own stuff like you are.

While working on the short film I made as my final project in my Modern Chinese Literature and Film class, I apologized to my cast for my rude wording after I began a sentence with "Okay, I need everyone to..." One of my friends who was acting in it said, "No, it's fine, you're the director. You can be as rude as you want," to which I denied and insisted that I still need to be polite. As a lady that directs movies and hopes to make a living off of it one day (I'm hesitant to call myself a "film director" quite just yet), I reject the notion that directors are given a free pass to be as rude and demanding as they want to their cast and crew. That might've worked for Stanley Kubrick, but given that there were remarkable films done before Kubrick even made his first film, it would be silly to call his directing style the craft's be-all and end-all.

While working on set I tend to get attacked by what I call the "grandma worries." I worry that a cast or crew member is feeling hungry or tired, or they have a headache, or worse, a stomach ache (the old Chinese remedy for that is ginger ale, but I don't have a fridge so I never have a supply that I could administer if need be). As a result, I might ask repeatedly if everyone's doing all right, and by that I want to know if they're REALLY doing all right, and not just saying it.

Luckily, I've found the atmosphere at Oberlin a wonderful environment for practicing day-to-day kindness. I mean, if you think about it, as a student here you come into contact with a lot of people on a day-to-day basis. There's the staff at the Campus Dining Services who prepare the food you eat and who I would be a sad, hangry (hungry + angry) girl without, the other students who you hold the door for or who hold the door for you, the clerks in the businesses downtown, etcetera. At least for me, as a person whose perhaps "main thing" in life is making movies, which requires an enormous amount of collaboration between lots of people, I view small communities such as Oberlin's as a space where everyone plays a part and is interconnected. I see the involvement in one way or another of everyone who partakes in the institution (and also outside!). So therefore, each person's actions have an effect on the other people around them. Because of this, I try to keep my effects on the community positive as much as I can.

However, I wouldn't brand Oberlin as a place that's an oasis or hotbed of kindness, but I've had noticeably more "kind" interactions with other people than I have had at any other place. Though I have experienced a few instances of rudeness where I was dangerously close to going full-on Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy or Buggin' Out from Do the Right Thing, there've been plenty of occasions where I was taken off guard by other Obies' niceness that it balances it out. For instance, when I was waiting for some friends in the lobby of Third World House on Halloween, several people passing through smiled and said hello to me. It might not sound like a lot, but it put a smile on my face and made me feel invited and happy to be where I was.

I don't know if it's because I went to a private high school where other kids would sometimes get aggressive and unnecessarily competitive with each other or not that I care so much about people remembering to be considerate. But whatever the reasons may be, I believe that when everyone exercises a sense of kindness to each other, the fruits of those efforts contribute to something that's ultimately better than what would've resulted in a more inconsiderate atmosphere. Each time I direct a movie, I try to be a better director by strengthening my communications to the actors and crew, aiming to forge deeper paths with my storytelling, pushing myself to go further, but also focusing on cultivating an environment of basic kindness on set that I think essentially is conducive to the overall success of a project. Perhaps the same could be considered for Oberlin as a place of learning and higher education.

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