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BELONGING

OVERVIEW

Belonging is a short documentary exploring the transformative experiences of BIPOC students in nature. North Hennepin Community College hired us to document their student life as part of their nature immersion course, GCST 1970, to attract future participation.

CHALLENGE

Although happy with their first attempt at documentation, Ana Munro, North Hennepin Faculty and Course Creator, wanted to have a heart-moving story. Ana wanted to create a documentary that could capture students’ experiences.

CLIENT

TEAM

SERVICES

Story Strategy
Project Management
Filming
Editing
Distribution

FILM SYNOPSIS

 In the beauty of Northern Minnesota, Dalorian and his classmates confront what it means to belong in nature as people of color.
In 'Belonging,' follow Dalorian, a student in the college course GCST 1970, as he embarks on a journey through nature-based education and environmental justice. Exploring serene Minnesota lakes and the Bois Forte Museum, he and his classmates confront a profound question: What does it mean to belong in nature?

This film weaves raw, poetic visuals with deep reflections on identity and community, highlighting their transformative experience in understanding their connection to the natural world.

STORY STRATEGY

Uncovering the Story

We built our film around 5 keywords, identified the film's characters, and developed the narrative arc to captivate and engage the audience.

Defined Keyword Purpose
During a 2-hour interactive kick-off workshop with Ana, we determined the film's purpose in 5 keywords. These keywords represent the story's inspiration, tone, audience, action, and uniqueness.

  • Relational: Focus on the relationships between students, staff, and nature.
  • Breaking Barriers: Reducing false expectations of people, spaces, and cultures.
  • Outdoor Gatekeepers: Those in power who influence and have access to nature (education institutions, lawmakers, and budget authority holders at foundations, etc.)
  • Motivated: The story aims to empower the audience to support equitable outdoor access.
  • Inclusive Outdoor Learning: Our story seeks to spotlight and encourage more inclusive outdoor educational experiences.
Character Finding
We pre-interviewed 9 students and ranked them based on their big 3 (desire, uniqueness, and motivation) and relation to our keywords.
 
Dalorian tied with Greg for the highest total score, but he was a better fit for the story due to his desire to find a sense of belonging and purpose through his connection with nature.
 
His reflective nature and bi-racial identity set him apart from the other students, causing the viewers to lean into his story.
Story Development
Lastly, we developed the story's narrative arc by ideating the 6 essential plot points. These plot points keep the story engaging. They follow a specific order, each uniquely contributing to the story's overall structure and impact.
 
  • Hook: The opening of the story that instantly captivates the audience's attention. 
  • Conflict: The problem or situation where the main character encounters a significant challenge.
  • Initiation: The moment after the Conflict. It's when the character's journey begins, showing determination and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • Journey: Key moments happen when our character attempts to overcome the conflict.
  • Resolution: The ending of the story. It's the big punch to the gut that the audience feels and is left with. It expresses what the Heart has learned from its journey and what it wants to share with the audience.
  • Jab: The Jab is universal and often includes a call to action for the audience, tying back to the action the story was designed to create.
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OUR APPROACH

Raw Yet Poetic, A Guiding Principle for Filming and Editing

The documentary used natural light and settings to maintain a realistic appearance, showcasing the rougher aspects of the environment.

To contrast these raw elements, we also included visually stunning shots of nature, focusing on small details like dewdrops on leaves or bark textures.

Handheld camera was used for personal interviews and reflective moments, while tripods helped capture still shots of Camp Northern Lights.

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Our raw yet poetic filming approach drew people into the student’s experience and themes of nature inclusion. This approach amplified the story strategy.  

STORY EXECUTION

Blending Elements of Participatory and Observational Filmmaking

We engaged with our characters to explore deeper emotional and intellectual layers while stepping back at times to let events unfold naturally. 

We filmed two critical moments of the film outdoors to emphasize the relationship between nature and the students, as relational was one of our keywords.

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THE OUTCOME

Award, Licensing Deal, and Dope Reviews

Since its premiere, the film Belonging has won the award for Best Regional Film at the Ely Film Festival and secured a licensing deal with WaterBear Network.

Moreover, people have been captivated by the story and the main character, Dalorian.

List of Screenings
  • North Hennepin CC Screening, MN, Oct 2023 
  • Minnesota DNR Diversity Training, MN, Nov 2023 
  • National Place-Based Education Annual Conference, Grand Forks, MI, Nov 2023
  • International Association of Experiential Education Annual Conference, Univ of Madison, WI, Nov 2023 
  • Minnesota Association for Environmental Education Conference, MN, Nov 2023
  • Edina HS American Indian Advisory Meeting, MN, Nov 2023
  • Ely Film Festival, MN, Feb 2023
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Ana-Munro-belonging

Ana Munro

PAINTER & NATURE LOVER

"I have received so many compliments about the film’s message, content, and stunning visuals. This film captures students’ experiences, elevates their voices, and also puts the viewers in the scene."

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Hannah Anema

PAINTER & NATURE LOVER

"Belonging touched my soul. I loved the feeling of solitude and unsureness at the trip's start and the togetherness, confidence, and bliss the students developed within 5 days."

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Mike D. Jones

DIRECTOR

"Featuring multiple voices while focusing on [Dalorian] was skillfully done. It avoided confusion and showcased diverse perspectives with one clear leading voice."

JenniferMontas-belonging

Ana Munro

POET

"This doc returned memories of youth retreats – the fear of opening up to strangers that became a shared bond. The ending was beautiful and full of love."

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Ember Berg

STORYTELLER

"The authenticity of those kids is what moved me. They were open and vulnerable. I felt like I was right there with them."

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Christian Vang-Dixon 

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR

"Seeing such a diverse group of young adults bonding over nature was moving. It brought me back to my childhood and why I got into environmental work."

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