Hanna: Hothouse Goes Guatemala

A week ago, I was telling my photographer to get a tighter shot of the woman leading a female empowerment workshop for International Women’s Day. We were in Santa Cruz, a community on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and the sun matched our spirits as we created a video that would hopefully bring the village increased funding for education and economic growth.

Yesterday, I was stuck inside my bedroom as snow and wind knocked against my window and barred me indoors. It was yet another snow day and I couldn’t help but text my filming team, “Why did we come back from Guatemala to THIS?”

After a bit of complaining about the ice and the cold, we realized that we should instead focus our energy on gratitude. After all, if it weren’t for our times in snowy Boston, we wouldn’t have earned the trip to Guatemala in the first place.

Yes, for this spring break, Boston University funded a trip to Guatemala for six students and the professor of Hothouse Productions. Hothouse is a class within COM, but to call it a “class” is a gross understatement. In Hothouse, students operate within a pseudo-production company. The executive producer? Professor Garland Waller. The network and source of funds and resources? Boston University. The production team of producers, photographers, editors, writers, managers, and more? Students.

Each year, Hothouse creates videos for real-world clients, all of which are non-profits or organizations involved in social justice. It’s genius – students work in a professional team, practice the role they hope to turn into a career, and use all they have learned in COM to give back to the world. Many thanks to Professor Waller for creating and leading such a program with such grace and compassion. If you want to use your Film and TV skills to make a difference, Hothouse is a class for you.

For the entire semester, my team of two producers, two photographer/editors, one photographer/location scout, two writers, and a production manager worked through the post-production process to plan our shoot. Our main client was Amigos de Santa Cruz, an organization who has helped the impoverished community of Santa Cruz establish self-sustaining education, health, and economic systems. Our video would play at the Guatemalan Embassy, various fundraisers, and online in an attempt to bring awareness and support to the mission. As we planned, we didn’t know what to expect, but we knew we were part of something important.

While I won’t go into the details of our experience (there are too many amazing moments that would take all day to write) I will highlight the takeaways for which I am most grateful. Firstly, Hothouse has given me true professional experience I know will transfer into my career. Professor Waller trusted us with each step of the process, critiqued us honestly and constructively, and supported us through every stressor or challenge that came our way. As a producer I was forced to balance kindness with authority when it came to leading the team, and I had no choice but to trust my own creative opinions and put them forward without hesitation. No other class has offered such a real-world opportunity, and much of the difference comes in that we were working with real clients, for a real purpose, with real people. To have had such an experience before even receiving my diploma is incredibly unique. I cannot wait to share these videos with prospective job options.

Next, Hothouse and Professor Waller have shown me that I can use my passion, my skills and my career to make a difference in more ways than expected. As the production rolled on, talks of future documentaries, charity-oriented production companies and Guatemala-inspired stories hijacked our conversations. We were energized to do more, and now we realized we could do that in this industry. Whether it be through a video for an organization we believe in, or through telling a story we believe should be told for the sake of greater good, we saw Professor Waller dedicate much of her career to creating a positive impact and that alone inspired us. Not a single student walked away without considering how they can do the same with their own careers, and I truly believe every Film/TV student should study with Professor Waller to learn from her example.  

Finally, Hothouse introduced me to people who are more than wonderful teammates. As we worked on the project and filmed for only a week, we immediately grew close enough to know we would want to work with one another again someday. For me, this is so indicative of COM in general. This college is not a competition. It is not a place to prop yourself up and spring forward to individual success. COM is a place that brings you to creative minds and devoted friends who want to work with you and support you all in one. This Hothouse team came together around a common goal and with a common passion. In the end, we came out with a project we were proud of, a group chat that will not quiet down, and friends we will hold dear even after graduation. While the professional experience has made me feel secure about my future, my confidence comes mostly from knowing I will never be alone out there. Whether working together or cheering each other on, Hothouse and COM have given me a strong, smart and energized group of wonderful friends. I couldn’t be more grateful for that and I cannot wait to see where we all go from here.

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