New film club focuses on diversity, representation



New club on campus, On the Reel, holds their first meeting on Friday, Aug. 23 in the Rhatigan Student Center.

Senior Arina Ross doesn’t think there’s enough discussion about African Americans inside her classrooms and across campus. She’s particularly concerned about the lack of recognition for African American filmmakers ⁠— her field of study.

“I’m a black woman and being in the department that I am in, I see very little representation of myself,” Ross said. “We never discuss anything about African American filmmakers.”

She said she feels underrepresented within the film industry as a whole. 

This inspired her to start a film club on campus called On The Reel, which is dedicated to African American cinema and African American contributions to the film industry.

“I wanted to create a safe space for me. I wanted to discuss this on campus,” she said. “I wanted to give people a chance to learn and have fun.”

As an African-American woman majoring in media arts with a filmmaking concentration, Ross feels the time to have conversations about African-Americans in the film industry is now. It needs to be planned and purposeful, she said. It’s not going to happen on its own.

Ross said she doesn’t know if the lack of African-American representation within her courses and at Wichita State, in general, is intentional, but it happens, she said. She’s used to being the only person of color in her classrooms ⁠— or one of few. 

She said she thinks that white characters are the default when it comes to character creation, but she wants people to realize there are alternatives, and not just for non-white filmmakers and storytellers. Characters of color should be created more often, she said.

“We do character building and character development. Our professors tell us to make sure we give people an identity and that it doesn’t default to white,” Ross said. 

Ross said she feels like this white default happens regularly in all of her classes.

“I mean, it’s me with a whole bunch of other filmmakers, and it’s me bringing my ideas to the table. That’s something that they really don’t understand,” she said. 

Ross said she thinks that a lot of people simply don’t know any black stories, storytellers or directors. This is a big part of the problem, she said. It’s also one of the driving factors behind the creation of On The Reel.

“We need to you know, educate on the different areas,” she said. “We’ll watch a foreign language film or like different types of films, but we never touch on films that are made here, by black people. It just never happens,” she said.

That’s what On The Reel is all about ⁠— changing the conversation and changing the focus.

On the Reel Film Club held its first meeting on Friday, Aug. 23 in the Rhatigan Student Center. 

“The first meeting was awesome,” she said. “I had a really big turnout. I didn’t expect that many people.”

About 50 people gathered that evening for the first On The Reel event. Ross said the club will meet every Friday at 7 p.m. in the RSC. She said she hopes to have members of all colors join them for discussions and events. 

“I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes or put down the institution. But me being here, I want to educate people. I want to make a difference,” Ross said.