Documentary Center features student films at festival

by Raleigh Davis

Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that you don’t have to work on… they just make sense. For William Badgley, local musician and filmmaker, that idea was the Documentary Center. After his time in previous years working in television and film he desired something different. Wanting to give the knowledge he had accumulated over the course of his experience back to the people, Badgley devised a plan to teach and thus the seeds for the Documentary Center were sown.

“The idea of starting it came about pretty organically. When I was producing documentaries for television in New York there were always a lot of interns in the office, I started out as an intern as nearly everyone does and when, so teaching people how to operate basic production tasks had always been a natural part of my day,” Badgley explained. “Learning in the office/on the job was how I learned everything I knew so it felt really naturally to turn around and teach that back to others.”

Opened in 2013, Badgley’s vision was always to help people translate their artistic visions into reality. Teaching through hands-on, real world experience in conjunction with the class room, The Documentary Center has come up with a unique way of learning that seems to be resonating with the people of Bellingham.

“The main goal for The Documentary Center has always been to instruct people in what I like to call ‘modern literacy’,” said Badgley, “the ability to translate individuals artistic and personal visions through the selection of their topic and the telling of their subjects experiences in the documentary form. It’s my belief that being able to communicate in this form is something that more and more people will need to know how to do as our society starts to rely more heavily on moving images to communicate ideas.”

While the Documentary Center was nervous about how their unorthodox methods of instruction would be received, their fears were quickly dissipated when they signed up a whole class in the first three hours of their debut open house and collected a total of 49 students their first year which has maintained steady throughout their existence. It’s easy to see how they are doing so well when you take the time to talk with their students and see how pleased every one of them seems to be with the whole experience.

“I first got involved with the Doc Center when I met Bill Badgley at one of the Makeshift Art Studio’s open house nights. Once I understood what the place was about I knew I could not pass up on the opportunity to get first hand help from an experienced documentarian with an impressive resume.” explained Doc Center student Tommy Todd. “It is a fun environment that resembles an actual documentary production setting. Students are taught how to organize and design a production plan of a documentary of their choosing. They then, with guidance, go and shoot their documentary and edit and produce their film in the class.”

Tommy Todd has the distinct pleasure of being about to publish his very first finished documentary. Tentatively titled “Is This RL?”, Todd’s documentary short looks to shed light on online videos games and the diverse psyches of those that play them.

“The Doc attempts to explore the online gaming culture and shares some aspects of how people are able to overcome addiction, relationships, and other aspects of playing video games that interact with an online community.” Shared Todd, “This is my first documentary production that I have had the pleasure of finishing. I am very thankful for the guidance of my instructor, William Badgley and my fellow peers at the Documentary Center.”

The Documentary Center hosts an open house every first Friday of the month at the Make.Shift from 6 to 9 p.m. to give prospective students the chance to meet the people in its inner workings, see what it’s all about, and sign up for classes.

They are also proud to announce their first annual student film festival to be held at The Pickford, Saturday Oct. 4 to showcase their student films produced from their first year of operation. If it makes you feel particularly inspired, fall registration will be available at the event.

Published in the October 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine