Professor Sally Rubin has always been passionate about social issues. It is one of the primary reasons she became a documentary filmmaker. Since 2010, Rubin has been funneling this passion into Chapman’s annual Community Voices Documentary Film Program, which connects student filmmakers with local and national nonprofit organizations.
“I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world, and to be creative while doing it,” says Rubin. “Community Voices has done something even better; it has allowed me to teach others to make a difference, something that is exponentially rewarding.”
Generously sponsored by the Dhont Family Foundation, Community Voices enables groups of students to work directly with non-profit organizations to produce short character-driven portrait films highlighting important social issues. The films are then used in the outreach and fundraising campaigns of the partner organizations and are distributed via PBS broadcast, online streaming, educational distributors, and festival release.
As with most new ideas, there was a bit of a learning curve early on. However, it didn’t take long for it to grow into a successful, nationally recognized program, due largely in part to the supportive Orange County community and Rubin’s persistence.
Looking back over the impact of the student’s work, Rubin says, “Eight and a half years later, we’ve worked with 68 of Orange County’s 500 non-profit organizations and built solid community partners. 240 students have gone through the program, and 106 documentaries and promotional videos have been created to spread the word about social issues in Orange County.”
Utilizing her more than 15 years of experience in the documentary and editing fields, Rubin challenge her students to succeed in their work, finding a way to balance constructive criticism with relentless encouragement. “I definitely don’t sugar coat it with my students, but I am not one of those doom and gloom professors,” she says. “You have to walk the fine line, to absolutely encourage them to take a risk, and be realistic with them.”
Rubin walks this line by having a direct and honest rapport with her students. She is excited to see them grow over the course of her class and makes the best use of their time by remaining focused. While her ambitious attitude can sometimes be a lot to handle for some students, at the end of the day, “You still want to be her,” says Blair Pennington (BFA/NWD ’18).