Religion & Documentary

People ask me all the time what led me to pursue a religious studies masters degree. Even for me I had never anticipated going that route. It happened from being exposed to different disciplines in college, and when the opportunity came up, I jumped at it.

I am the college student that changed majors half way in. I first pursued a computer science degree. I enjoyed the challenge of my classes but I remember sitting in class day dreaming how my life would look in the future and it just didn’t fit. I left school for some years and came back fully focused on a new pursuit… Film! I was very confident in my creative talent and wanted to connect it with theory and technique. After going through my first production class I knew I wanted to specialize in documentary films, I really enjoyed the unscripted. Film students at Georgia State have to take a minor and I chose psychology. I found that in my film theory classes psychology was an essential part of understanding the camera. I enjoyed psychology so much that I added it as another major and graduated with both film and psychology degrees.

After college I was focused on filming international films and I had several opportunities from several countries. One of my lead advisors at GSU was Dr. Abbas Barzegar, an assistant professor through the religious studies department. He spoke with me about pursuing a religious studies master’s degree and asked me to seriously consider it. Though my heart was set on leaving the country, after perusing the religious studies website, I saw the need to acquire specific skills that would make me a better filmmaker. Having made independent films, I had realized how often people spoke about or through the lens of their faith when being interviewed. If could acquire the necessary tools to ask the right questions based on the understanding of that interviewee, I could get more authentic answers to the subject matter of the film. It was a no brainer. I held off my plans for a few years and embraced the religious studies department and it has been a match made in heaven. The department knew I was coming in as a filmmaker and they have given me every opportunity to use a camera they is available. I spoke with the department chair Dr. Kathryn McClymond about a film I was doing on veterans and she added some of the interviews to the syllabus of her War, Peace, and Religion class, whereby the graduate students gained experience in conducting oral history interviews. The department also has hosted a film screening of a film I shot it Turkey on the Syrian refugees (spoken about in an older blog post) and I was given the opportunity to speak about religion and documentary to fellow graduate students and undergrads (video above).

Now you know why I chose religious studies, I hope this helps you to pursue your dreams!