Westwood High graduate pursues dream career in documentary filmmaking
|Molly Barber (right) joins colleagues at the Sundance Film Festival who rented a camel named Moses to promote a film.|
|Molly Barber attends a documentary premier in the San Francisco Bay Area.|
Aug. 31, 2013 — Molly Barber was destined to become a filmmaker but she did not know it when she graduated from Westwood High in 2006. She uncovered her life’s work the second year she was enrolled at Chico State when she chose a media aesthetics class as an elective. It reignited a love for film and helped her realize it was a serious subject. Later, a video production class provided direction by uncovering a talent for documentary filmmaking.
She now lives her dream as an independent filmmaker; making documentaries through a company she created called Destination Unknown Films.
Last year she filmed survivor videos for the Proposition 35 campaign—“Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.” It passed as the most successful California initiative in recorded history, said Barber.
This summer she worked with Sherri Binswanger, the chair of the Westwood Centennial Committee, to document the town’s rich, historic heritage in film through the stories of “old timers.”
In September she will travel to Nicaragua to document the work of an organization called “Breaking Chains” that operates a recovery house for victims of human sex trafficking ages 7 through 14 years old. This project is sponsored by Soroptimist International of Susanville.
Barber entered college with a plan to pursue investigative journalism. Yet the more classes she took, the more she realized this field was not a good fit. It seemed to focus more on politics than suffering and injustices, issues that have captured her heart. In May 2013 she received a degree in Communication Design and Media Arts from Chico State.
Barber’s first documentary was made with a classmate, Dee Thao. They created a 25-minute film on human trafficking called “Sold.” Posted on YouTube, the documentary received hits from all over the world and was well received. Barber attributes the success of the film to the good storytellers they found through research.
“I think what I love so much with investigative journalism and documentary filmmaking is that I am just a medium for someone else to tell their story,” said Barber.
The stories documented on film are more than informative pieces. The information is presented in such a way as to inspire viewers to take action.
Currently Barber and Thao are working on a second documentary on human trafficking because their first film, although successful, reflected their lack of experience at that time.
“It was the first thing we ever made so the camera is shaky and we are zooming in and out. Yet we did get good interviews,” said Barber.
The two work well together because they get different camera angles and shots that come together as a cohesive story in the editing room. Barber often supports other filmmakers with their projects just as they do her. Recently she went to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, with a friend to promote his film, which documented the protests in Egypt. They rented a camel named Moses to hype the movie. The ploy resulted in media attention but also attracted the attention of law enforcement.
Barber is hoping the second film she and Thao are making on human trafficking will make the cut at Sundance. They have interviewed people with celebrity status who are involved in the fight, such as Jeremy Affeldt, of the San Francisco Giants.
“Hopefully someone will take notice,” said Barber.
Until that time she supports her artistic endeavors by making personal videos for people to show at events such as graduation parties or memorial services. The money earned is used to purchase additional equipment or fill up the gas tank to drive to a scheduled interview for a film. Also during the summer months she works for Lassen Volcanic National Park as a sign maker.
While her dream is not yet completely fulfilled she is committed to the pursuit of it. The advice she gives to students in Westwood who feel limited because they attend a small high school is “pursue your dreams.”
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