Grant winners examine social issues through films

Stephanie Chen

Communication senior Osato Dixon smiles modestly and sheepishly averts his eyes when asked about his film awards.

Dixon’s talent for film cannot be masked even with his nervous laughter. His honors include the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker grant, given to only ten student filmmakers across the country. His work has been displayed in exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institute and the Baltimore Museum of Modern Art.

Dixon, a former DAILY staff member, and fellow Communication senior Stephen Deline this year received major grants from Northwestern’s School of Communication. Dixon received a $5,000 grant, and Deline received a $7,500 grant. Each will use his grants to write, direct and produce a film to be presented in June at Studio 22.

Dixon said the application process was highly competitive, with seven directors applying with their own producers, story boards, scripts, budget outlines and production plans. Dixon’s film, “Even If I Told You,” and Deline’s film, tentatively titled “Outpost,” both dramatically explore social issues.

Both Dixon and Deline said they were not expecting to win the grants, considering the other talented applicants.

“I never would have guessed I would have been the person to receive it,” Dixon said. “I believe I received the grant because of the subject the film touches upon.”

This quarter Dixon is set to direct his film about the struggles of a black 11 year old who is albino. His winning script parallels his own childhood. Dixon said his blond hair, fair skin and hazel eyes did not make growing up in a black community easy. Albinism affected the way people perceived him, but Dixon said he is not afraid to share his experiences.

“This deals with something that has never been done before. This deals with the subject of albinism,” he said. “Any film student realizes that they need a film to represent them directorially or writing-wise.”

Dixon said albinism usually is portrayed negatively, but his project is a great opportunity for him to use his passion for film to alter that perception.

“Society is often afraid to know that people are being destroyed,” he said. “It’s easier for them to look than to understand.”

Dixon began working with film his sophomore year of high school. Starting with animation, he became increasingly interested in creating films dealing with social and racial issues, which have appealed to some people.

“His work is inspiring,” said Communication sophomore Raysh Weiss, who is working on stage design in Dixon’s new film. “He doesn’t leave any detail untouched, which is what makes his work so compelling and convincing.”

Deline has begun directing his film about middle-class suburban families. Deline also based the script on his experiences growing up.

“It gives people a sense of what it means to be a part of those families in this kind of a social setup where certain expectations and certain things are looked down upon,” Deline said.

Deline said the grant has given him valuable experience as a director. Producing the film allowed Deline to learn about filmmaking, and his crew of 35 students has learned a great deal about what happens behind the scenes.

“The dedication that so many people put in from pre-production to post-production should be emphasized,” Deline said. “It’s amazing to see that Northwestern has this kind of student film culture.”