Academia and Why I Think Don't Get Grants

Woah! Sorry about the blog break- I'm not dead yet! Breaking one's leg is a pain in many, many ways. Mainly there is the pain. Then the pills meant to intercept the pain and lie to your brain that there is no pain. Then there is the hazy immobility. Then you see someone acting suspicious out your back window through your binoculars...wait, I mean (check out this awesome Rear Window time-lapse video if you get a chance!). My head is a bit more together and my pain, still there, but at least I am able to be somewhat coherent (the pain was so piercing I one day found myself biting my tongue in an attempt to offset it). I even have sobered up enough to enjoy some reading and grant applying. Speaking of which...I never get grants. Of any kind. Which I only find weird because people read this blog. Not a ton but a decent amount. Enough that I've been asked to write other things for other people. You know what...I want to talk more about this I think?

I just got denied a fellowship to this Summer's Flaherty Seminar- a film organization that seeks to define, discuss and promote the beautifully lush grey area between real life and the film life of the documentary landscape. This is a topic I am VERY passionate about. One that I've devoted a large chunk of my life to in a weird sense. But...I didn't get this grant. And I can't afford to go to the seminar without it. Which makes me wonder: who DOES get these grants? Who is deemed worthy of project loans and other forms of money doled out by organizations who support thinkers in need?  Well the answer one new.

A lot of grant-like outlets tend to act like a centrifuge, spinning around academia in a way that both perpetuates itself- picking out the ideas that it deems worth more inquiry- and removing the impurities of those of us without elaborate letters after our names...but, this has never been the way I view an intellectual life. In fact, I view it as just the opposite. I think the more ideas and influences that reach out beyond specific disciplines can lead to a more rounded way of problem solving- a thing that, in fact, has been proven to be a sign of real intelligence.

One of the major collector's of the filmmaker I used to work with was a scientist. He turned to the arts to spin his brain around, to think outside of science and look for creative solutions to problems in his own field.  One of the most successful art related projects I encountered during my travels over the past few years was X-Square, a "Cross Institute Initiatives" class at Arizona State University. It was a class that produced a sustainable campus public art project, the catch was that each team had to contain students across different majors forcing each group to move beyond pure aesthetics and think about psychology, science, and the ways data & ideas are communicated-  interdisciplinary problem solving & inquiry ballooning concepts into one vision.

The more global we get, the more technology transmits ideas across the invisible plane of ones and zeros, the more widespread our discussions become, the more informed our thinking can be... a thing we should foster off the web too, right? I dunno...maybe I am just trying to reconcile the fact that some deem me unworthy of membership in their organizations and, who knows, maybe my applications to these things aren't the best.... But, like a lot of fellow film writers, independent bloggers, and citizen journalists I know, I consider myself a part of a community that is working in a larger conversation and pushing around our individual ideas- our ideas culled from the experience of seeing underground movies in a darkened basement of a micro theater or experiencing the skeleton of a Ground Sloth for the first time, not just ideas learned in classrooms or on our daddy's film set...- to others in a way far more important  than ever before! So, chin up to me and chin up to all other independent culture makers, critics and the like! We might not have the grant money but at least we have our thoughts....! xox (PS. I'm not saying academia is useless hell, I love reading a good film theory essay more than most... but, what I am saying is academia needs to be a little less closed off!)



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.