SATW Young Writers Scholarship - My Family Travels

In my senior year at the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago I took a documentary filmmaking class. I wanted to do a documentary on masks and how they were used in theater performances throughout history. While filming Behind the Mask, I was granted the opportunity from my school to travel to New Orleans to film at The Fanciful Mask Market. The mask market had taken place in the historic French Quarter at the French Market’s Dutch Alley. The mask market is held every year with thirty mask makers from around the county that showcase and sell their work.


I was excited about going to New Orleans, because it was the first time I traveled anywhere outside Chicago. My film crew consisted of three people myself, my cinematographer Heather, and my production assistant Warren. We had agreed to take the Amtrak train instead of flying, because we were on a tight budget for the film. The train ride was a total of 19 hours that passed through the states of Kansas, Memphis, and Mississippi.


We arrived at the Union Station eagerly waiting in line with our boarding passes, backpacks, and camera equipment waiting to board the train. As we pulled out of the station, I could barley see outside of the window because of the snow blizzard. The train attendants walked up and down the aisles offering the passengers pillows and directing everyone to the diner car for drinks and snacks. However, I came well prepared with a backpack of goodies stuffed with a pack of oreos, doritoes, and a bottle of apple juice.


The train ride was more exciting that flying, because we were able to enjoy a scenic view of Kansas, Memphis, and also riding across a bridge that passed over the Mississippi River. When we arrived in New Orleans we were exhausted and stiff from sitting on the train for so long, but also excited and anxious to explore New Orleans for the first time. When we departed from the train we had to take off our winter coats due to the warm 70-degree weather. The sidewalks were filled with people playing and dancing to jazz music, while wearing Mardi Gras beads.


We stayed at a quite two-story hotel located off Bourbon Street called The Provincial Hotel, that had a small courtyard with outdoor seating and an outdoor pool.  We spent three days interviewing and shooting footage at the mask market and a maskarade shop in the French Quarter. We also got a chance to celebrate Mardi Gras and attend several parades while enjoying great food such as, jambalaya, crawdads, and poe boy sandwiches at the local restaurants.


Traveling to New Orleans to shoot my documentary was a great experience; we enjoyed it so much that we didn’t want to leave to go back to the winter blizzard back in Chicago. After completing my documentary, I decided to apply for graduate school at the School of Visuals Art in New York for the MFA Social Documentary program. I was selected out of 12 students to attend the program this fall.


 I believe traveling to New Orleans has prepared me to be able get over the fear of traveling and exploring new places.  I have not been to New York before and this will be my first time moving away from my family, but I am excited to start a new adventure.

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