Name: Stephen Allcock
Class Standing: Senior
Major: Documentary Film
Interviewed by Rachel Arner
You recently went to South Africa. Why did you go there?
I went for two reasons. The first was my involvement with the Ubuntu Design Group, which is Wandile Mthiyane’s (Master of Architecture, first year) organization. I work for that in the capacity of running operations, envisioning and also the fundraising side of things. The second reason is because I’m shooting my thesis documentary, which is my final film, on Wandile himself. So (I’m) telling his story of where he came from and trying to capture the essence of what it is that has driven him to do so much.
So, what is the Ubuntu Design Group and how is it portrayed in your film?
In a brief way, it is an organization that seeks to restore dignity and choice to people around the world living in informal settlements by creating and developing an architectural model that residents can become engaged in, that allows for expansion and growth as their needs change or grow, and also provides a commercial space. We are trying to change the migration to cities and instead create opportunities back in their home areas for growth. So instead of creating more problems in the cities and more informal settlements, we are able to put commercial spaces into these areas so that they can flourish and have their basic needs back. We are bridging the gap between the people that don’t have a voice and the authorities that are putting them into box houses that just do not work and completely rip away their culture and identity as a people. The film covers that to a certain extent.
When does the film come out?
Tentatively, Dec. 2017.
That’s so awesome! Why did you decide to be a film major?
I was never going to do film. I was actually in the security industry before I switched into this. I used to do event security in London, and I enjoyed it; I was going to do close protection (working as a bodyguard) but I could not have remained Christian, yet alone Adventist, had I continued on that route. Film was a 180 degree flip, and it was very God-led. The reason why I decided to study film is because I love storytelling. I love that it’s real— that it’s exploring what exists in the world. Whatever the subject may be, it’s always been a powerful education medium to me. I really love storytelling, the element of discovery and adventure and breaking down cultural perceptions.
What are your feelings on what you’ve learned in class and applied to the field?
What you learn in class plays a role in preparing you to know what steps to take before going into your field. You can’t just get a camera crew together or organize a whole trip with no experience. What I’ve learned in classes—producing, film, cinematography, communication and business classes—has helped me in the field of film tremendously.
Would you suggest to the students to travel somewhere outside of the classroom?
Think about what you can do to change the world. Students need to understand that changing the world starts where you are now and not when you graduate. I think you should find what you enjoy, build up those skills and then be driven by your passion. Don’t just sit around. If you really want to solidify what you’re learning, and you want to make that experience way more unique, then you should travel. You don’t have to travel far.
What role did you play while in South Africa?
I took a cinematographer with me to help with the filming. Normally, you would have a crew of about 5-7 people for a very small product, but because we were on a student budget we didn’t have as many people. I will be launching a fundraiser for this film. I do aim to make this film a solid production with a budget so I can push the standards of student films in general, not just with how it looks in the production, but also in its reach and the place that it goes.
That’s great. You mentioned mission trips. Would you consider it a mission trip?
It was a trip with a mission. We took a graduate class of architecture students along with us. We also took another group of students into a different environment where we all interacted with each other. Even though you might be there for an academic or work-related purpose, never underestimate the power of conversation with someone. To me, a mission trip is traveling with God, and reflecting that character of Christ. That in itself becomes mission work even if it wasn’t your full-intended purpose.
Looking to your future beyond Andrews University, what are your career plans?
Considering it was God who brought me here to Michigan from London, I’m going to leave it up to Him. Obviously I don’t believe in staying stagnate; I firmly believe that you make moves and that you take steps and then you are open to God directing those. So, personally I hope to put myself in a position where I can empower others and enable others to make a difference. I want to take a concept of a producer beyond film. There’s a lot of need in this world and with our generation for people to feel empowered and supported. There are people with amazing ideas and they just don’t know where to start. Sometimes all it takes is someone saying, “You can do this and here’s where you can start,” for that person to really take off. So, if I can start my own company or organization I would like to do that. I also hope to continue to be involved in the Ubuntu Design Group as long as I can make a difference there. I do see myself moving in a business direction with film. That seems to be my natural passion. All I want to do is help break down cultural barriers, educate and inspire people. That’s what I want my future to look like.