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Documentary Producer Xan Parker Visits BMOS

Award-winning independent film and documentary producer Xan Parker kicked off our series of amazing guest speakers for BMOS students. Ms. Parker is well-known for her work on films such as Rebuilding Paradise, After the Bite and The Big Payback. She attended The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, MD, graduating in 1988. Earlier this year, she answered some questions about her career path. How did you get started on this career path?

My first job after college was at MPT! Then I saw the film “Brothers Keeper,” at the Charles Theater, and was entranced by the cinema verité genre and the methodology behind it. Then I moved to New York and found my way to one of the top documentary production companies at that time, Maysles Films. I learned most of what I know about filmmaking there, from some of the preeminent documentary filmmakers of the time. Then I went out on my own to co-produce/direct my first feature documentary, “Risk/Reward,” – as it happens, with another Bryn Mawr girl, Elizabeth Holder.

What is it about telling real stories that fascinates you?

Being an active listener is at the core of what I do. I I love learning about real stories, giving voice to the people living them, and then figuring out the puzzle of how to deliver the best version of that story to an audience that is digestible, entertaining, and that holds true to the spirit of what really happened and how it felt to the person at the center.

How do you choose your projects? Do you intentionally choose to pursue films that address issues of inequity? 

Some projects come to me and some I choose. I have been committed to telling stories about women since I started making films. And I came to understand that there are two overarching stories that I will probably want to work on for the rest of my career; inequity and climate change. I am an abolitionist and a feminist, and that’s what guides me in the filmmaking process as well as in the films I make or help to get made.

What is something students should know about pursuing a career in the arts?Filmmaking is a little different than other arts because it is such an expensive and collaborative art that it requires a lot of compromise and finding common ground. But it can also have a lot of impact because it can reach a wide audience. It’s important to be as enthralled with the process of making art as it is with the final product. Because you spend most of your time living the process!

In Case You Missed It...

Meet Mallory Pladus

English Teacher

Where do you live?
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

What do you like about teaching online?
I like the small school environment, the ambitious students BMOS attracts, and the flexibility learning and teaching online affords students and faculty.

What do you like to do when you’re NOT in school?
Hike, travel, play frisbee, and spend time on the Jersey Shore.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Japan. My dad is half Japanese, and there is a rumor in our family that he and my aunt relinquished property rights to a small portion of a mountain in Japan. I’d like to go see that mountain.

Best way to spend a Saturday?
Reading outside.

What do you want students to remember about you?
I want them to remember that I did my best to make literature open up for them in surprising, intriguing ways and that I cared about their ideas.

Personal catchphrase?
“Let’s reflect on this.”

Who inspires you?
Writers I love: James Baldwin, Marilynne Robinson, Louise Erdrich, to name a few.

What activity/class have you enjoyed the most through BMOS (and why)?
The poet Sarah Ali visited our English 9 and 10 classes to discuss her poem about animal roadkill. The students asked great questions, and she gave thoughtful answers. We broached a topic that often feels too intractable to talk about.