Pin-pointing the ‘Point of Entry’

// PLU’s MediaLab documentary explores journey of immigrants

Canada and the United States have always been beacons for the downtrodden, the oppressed, and those seeking to rebuild a future influenced by life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A new film, "Point of Entry: Migrating to North America," produced by the Emmy Award-winning MediaLab at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), examines how Canada and the United States share similar histories, but often differ dramatically in their handling of immigrants. The film premiere will take place at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma on Oct. 17 at 2 p.m.

The documentary team, comprised of PLU communication majors and a faculty advisor, began their initial research for the project in fall 2008. However, the team began conducting interviews and gathering footage in February 2009. The filmmakers interviewed immigrants in both countries, as well as policy makers, business leaders and social service providers. The members traveled more than 15,000 miles across Canada and the United States by car, train and plane, to document the challenges, issues and stereotypes associated with immigration in North America.

Andriana Fletcher, lead videographer and editor for the project, said she found out about the project a year ago, after a premiere of another MediaLab documentary titled "Illicit Exchanges: Canada, the U.S. and Crime."

"Professor Rob Wells was asking students if they were interested in producing another documentary, so I volunteered right away," Fletcher said.

The filmmaking process shattered Fletcher's expectations, as the team was pushed to explore controversial topics and listen to stories of triumphs and hardships.

"I knew the topic would be really big and complex," she said. "I was really interested in it because members of my family were immigrants. I wanted to hear other people's stories. I really learned a lot more as the project went on."

Co-senior producer of the documentary Kaelen Knutson-Lombardo said that as a novice filmmaker, he has never had the opportunity to contribute to such a large-scale production.

"I was just going with the flow of things," Knutson-Lombardo said. "In the end, we've met some incredible people and heard some incredible stories. I feel really grateful for what we have living in this country."

For Fletcher, the hardest part of creating this documentary was the editing. She said the team interviewed many people throughout their journey, but because of time constraints the team was forced to choose only a few stories to share.

"Everyone's stories were so unique," Fletcher said. "But we had to make executive decisions."

However, most of the team's hardships were overshadowed by the lifelong lessons they will walk away with.

"The best part was listening to the stories. I learned that producing a documentary is a lot harder than it seems. It's a long process," Fletcher said. "However, I learned a lot about other people's journeys and about immigrations policy."

Knutson-Lombardo learned that there are similarities between the United States and Canada, but that the differences can often be very stark.

"We think of Canada as a similar neighbor, but immigration is a major difference between the two countries," Knutson-Lombardo said. "The process of how both countries go about selecting who comes in based on quota systems and seeing how Canada uses a point system, is very interesting."

Along with Fletcher and Knutson-Lombardo, seniors Kelsey Liddle and Hilary Hilpert shot more than 35 hours of original footage. MediaLab adviser Dr. Robert Marshall Wells oversaw the project.

Immediately following the documentary screening there will be a panel discussion featuring former Canadian Ambassador Martin Collacott, Chief Chris DeMello of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, University of Washington sociologist and researcher Dr. Charles Hirschman, Canadian performance artist and author Lainie Towell, and Tacoma Community House Executive Director Liz Dunbar.

This film marks the fourth in a series produced by the MediaLab organization. Other films are: the Emmy-award winning "Illicit Exchanges: Canada, the U.S. and Crime," "A Hard Trade: Rebuilding Broken Lives," which explored a vocational training program in a women's state prison, and "Building Connections: Reclaiming Lost Narratives of the Alaska-Canada Highway," which won a first-place award from the National Broadcasting Society.

MediaLab is a student-run media organization established in 2006. It provides PLU students with opportunities to explore various methods of mass communication through numerous creative outlets.

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