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!