CCI’s Digital Media Production Program to Donate Equipment to Schools in the MS Delta

Since 2018, FSU College of Communication and Information (CCI) alumni and faculty have been teaching high school students filmmaking in the Mississippi Delta (MS Delta). This summer, the kids in the MS Delta will be working with new production-grade equipment. As part of the Mississippi Delta Film Academy, School of Communication professors Dr. Davis Houck and Dr. Brian Graves have been working with FSU’s Digital Media Production program to get their surplus gear to the Delta. This way, students from the Delta can continue to develop as filmmakers even after the two-week summer program concludes.

Students working during last year’s workshop.

“We want to be in as many public schools as possible,” Dr. Houck says. “Of course, we’re limited by resources, but with great partners on the ground our mission continues to grow, and the kids we reach also grow.”

Led by Dr. Houck and CCI Alumnus, Dr. Pablo Correa, The Emmett Till Interpretive Center’s Mississippi Delta Film Academy is a “two-week program for highly motivated high school students from the Mississippi Delta.” In 2018, the first filmmaking academy was launched as The Sunflower Film Academy. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 17 students from the MS Delta worked with professional-grade equipment and studied the life and legacy of civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. The first workshop was taught by CCI alumni, Joy Davenport and Dr. Pablo Correa, and Sunflower County native, RJ Fitzpatrick.

“The program has, since then, continued to grow into the Mississippi Delta Film Academy with the mission of helping the population of the MS Delta the best we can,” RJ Fitzpatrick says.

RJ Fitzpatrick, CCI Alumni Dr. Pablo Correa, Valencia Simmons, and SCOM Faculty member, Dr. Graves, will conduct this year’s workshop and guide fieldwork. Dr. Houck, Jay Rushing, and student mentors will be on hand to assist new students. The workshop’s goal is to teach high school students how to shoot, produce, and edit their own high-quality documentary film while learning about local civil rights history.

Dr. Correa and Dr. Graves working with students in a past workshop.

“The Delta is, historically speaking, one of the great places of creativity in our country’s history: from short stories, novels, memoirs and always The Blues, creativity and the Delta just go together,” Dr. Houck said. “We are very confident that the equipment and the training will be used to tell stories and tap into that creative vein that runs through MS culture and places.”

Through the Mississippi Delta Film Academy, students are finding their own voices and excelling in the world of filmmaking. Some of the academy’s students have been in the Oxford Film Festival, Crossroads Film Festival, Sundance, and several other notable film competitions.

“Schools in the area have noticed this inspiration and began to offer filmmaking classes in some form during the school term,” RJ Fitzpatrick says. “So now, not only can we watch these children grow and develop their skills during the workshop, but we can reach out afterward and see their continued growth from non-filmmakers to filmmakers to early veteran filmmakers.”

Learn more about the Film Academy and the work our CCI alumni and faculty are doing in the MS Delta here.