January 06, 2020

Gun violence affects us all, but especially students

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By Calvin Mumm

Over the course of the last year I’ve been producing a documentary. The film, “Sown,” focuses on how gun violence impacts students emotionally and socially.

When I was pitching my film nearly a year ago, SpyHop’s producers board asked me what my target audience was. It's a simple question, and considering the scale of my film, it's not one that matters very much. 

However, looking at these producers, I saw that for older generations this was an issue they hadn’t experienced, and further, it was alien and distant to many of them. Knowing this, I had to make something that captured the essence of America’s students honestly; a documentary that captures what may be obvious to many students, but likely unknown to others.

Cinema itself reflects our reality, perspectives, and the revelations of our lives through emotional and aesthetic communication. The documentary format is often seen as merely recording reality, but all cinema shares that. For me, documentary gave me the chance to tell the cohesive story of a generation, their struggles, and how they’ve been ignored. Using each individual’s perspective with branching and similar ideas, a narrative becomes clear, almost shockingly so.

Such was the case for my interviews. Each student came to similar sentiments, ideas, and unrest from their experiences. Even without the same questions, students were quick to mention how events like Parkland impacted them, their isolation from government action, and the various ways it has all become normalized for them.

Editing down our rough cut from the near five hours of interview footage we had was difficult. Each student put into words the nuanced insecurities we feel every day as students because of gun violence. If I am to be completely honest, the editing process of this film was consistently depressing. Few subjects expressed any hope for change, and sadly their sentiments seem to be correct for now.

After the premiere for my film at Rose Wagner Theatre in November, a viewer told me that my specific interview subjects were the only ones who could’ve told such an honest story, but I disagree. The experiences I showcased in my film could be told by most contemporary American students.

My school has been subject to several incidents involving guns this year, and we are not even halfway through our school year. This may be shocking to some, but the reality is that for most students this is rather common.

Most students in the nation have had some encounter with gun violence, legitimate or otherwise. Threats, drills, and lockdowns are more commonplace now than we may like to admit. We are in a “post-Columbine” world, where the anomalies in our safety and security are no longer exceptions but expectations.

As a high school student affected by threats of gun violence, I want to encourage common sense gun reform, but it’s up to those who have the power to change things – our elected officials, adult voters, and consumers – to consider our perspective and take action.

It may be inconvenient or difficult, but I believe the essence of our humanity is stepping up when we don’t have to, and helping others in the ways they can’t help themselves.

Calvin Mumm is a resident of Fairpark and a senior at West High. He made his film, “Sown,” as part of SpyHop’s Pitchnic Program and is currently applying to college film programs.