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Betsy Echagarrua

Professor Pierson

ENC 1101

23 October 2017

Fixed the heading with the correct format.

Autoethnography

The beginnings of my pursuit of a career in the film industry all began in high school. When I

randomly selected film as my elective for freshman year, I would never have foreseen that I

would fall passionately in love with the art and be forever shaped by my high school film

community. Throughout the four years of high school, the film program I was involved in

served as my Secondary Discourse. With intense involvement in this community, be it through

actual film classes, film productions, scriptwriting, or film critique, my writing style developed

and my artistic voice blossomed alongside with the new perspective that filmmaking helped me

obtain. Although there were several gates and tests, such as with developing the expertise of a

certain skill in order to gain more acceptance or notoriety in this community, through the help of

my film teacher, other fellow filmmakers, and actors, I was able to develop my literacy in film

and integrate myself as a prominent member of the community.

Although making movies seems to be simple, as anyone can grab their devices and record a

video in this technologic age, the true art of filmmaking is extremely complex and vast. Thus, in

order to gain a true gasp of its intricacies, it is necessary to have others, literacy sponsors, who

help develop one’s language and knowledge of filmmaking. In my high school’s film program,

the most prominent literacy sponsors were my film teacher, other filmmakers, and actors.

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All the essential aspects of filmmaking, such as scriptwriting, story development, and film

critique, were learned via film class. My film teacher’s motivation for participating in this

community was to be a trustful and inspiring literacy sponsor, making sure that with his

teaching, he instilled in his students the necessary knowledge to become avid filmmakers, with

strong foundations in scriptwriting, terminology, story development, and film critique. Brandt

(1998) suggested that most times, literacy takes its shape from the interests of its sponsors.

However, thankfully, my film teacher also had the interest of his students in mind, allowing us to

develop our own artistic voice and style. Although, he also had the motivation of developing

notoriety as an able teacher, as well as, although seemingly not primary, monetary motivation,

since teaching is his livelihood. With teaching the film elements, he would always give the class

different forms of access to this knowledge, such as with sample videos, movie screening,

examples of film critiques, film scripts, and other wide array of sources, to appeal to all learner

types and to make sure that every student, his audience, understood the information that was

necessary to develop true literacy in film. In regards to scriptwriting, the teacher helped develop

my new perspective in story and character development. For example, in learning how to apply

the Three-Act Structure and the Hero’s Journey, as the backbone of a successful script, I gained

new insight into the complexity of a story and its characters. The Three-Act Structure consists of

the crucial plot points of a cinematic story, the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution. In

it, the main protagonist goes through a Hero’s Journey, otherwise known, as stated by Vogler

(2007), “[the collectively] few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy

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tales, dreams, and movies.Through learning about these scriptwriting devices, not only did it

develop my film writing skills, but it also helped me create a new perspective on storytelling and

characterization, which helped shaped my overall writing style.

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Through the film teacher, each film student learned that in the film industry, often the most

successful filmmakers networked well and would use other colleagues’ works as inspiration for

their own, all for the purpose of learning from others in order to develop their own literacy in a

certain skill. Having several avid filmmakers in my high school film community made it a very

good area, ripe with talent. Being that I specialized in editing, since I enjoy the fact that I get to

visually put together the portrayal of the story in the script, I would always look to develop my

literacy in that department. One of my highly regarded colleagues specialized in special effects,

which was a skill I had always wanted to add to my editing arsenal. Through in-person

discussions and physically sitting in front of a computer with the editing software and with him

doing demonstrations, I was able to learn how to use the Adobe After Effects special effects

program, and thus, develop my literacy in the program and in editing. As both of us had the

motivation to develop our editing literacy, in order to be more successful in our future ventures

in the film industry, I also became a sponsor to him in exchange. I would aid him in learning

how to cinematically edit in order to convey a good story, while basing it off a film script. Stated

by Brandt (1998), “Sponsorship as a sociological term is even more broadly suggestive for

thinking about economies of literacy development.” Thus, through the social exchange of

knowledge within the community, we not only served as literacy sponsors for one another, but

through shared knowledge, we allowed each other the necessary, motivated, access to develop

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concise and since literacy our editing skills, contributing to our own literacy development and exigencies of personal sponsors were already success in our filmmaking careers.

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with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take unnecessary.)

-----> As stated by James Paul Gee, “A Discourse is a sort of “identity kit” which comes complete

on a particular role that others will recognize” (Gee, 1989). Being part of the film community in

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my high school, a major way to gain recognition, or go through “tests,” was to make

collaborations with other fellow filmmakers, produce your own films, or make yourself known

for being apt in a certain skill. As a shy freshman, I made my mark through producing amateur

films, applying the ideas I learned in film class, only with my friends. Over time, I was

beginning to be recognized, particularly, for my skills in editing. As I grew as a member in the

community, I began to be more confident, open, and collaborative with other filmmakers. By the

end of senior year, I was the “go-to” editor. I also became a sort of sponsor, as I would help or

teach anyone who needed help or had technical problems when editing, and thus, it would

contribute to improving their editing literacy.

As I established my identity as a filmmaker, it brought about a whole new literacy and set of

language for me. Being part of a Discourse, language is a major component, not only for the

purpose of communication, but for identity as well. ““Language” is a misleading term; it too

often suggests “grammar” (Gee, 1989). I found this to be evident when relating it to the

equipment terminology in film class. For example, we often used clothespins to attach color gels

to lights, in order to change the color of the light. Clothespins, in the realm of film terminology,

are called “C-47s.” Therefore, as it has happened, whenever someone calls a clothespin a C-47,

outside the film class or context, I label them as a filmmaker and can identify as being part of the

same community. With under the context of Discourse, language not only has grammatical

purposes, as stated by Gee, it also serves a social purpose.

Through being part of a tight-knit community, we also made a hobby of critiquing films.

Being open with one another, we had, often passionate, debates. However, as part of this

Discourse, I believe we recognized that, due to the dynamic nature of the art of film, everyone

had something valid to say and, whether we agreed or disagreed with their opinions, we had to

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acknowledge and understand their perspective to gain more insight, which can even contribute to

our own knowledge of film. After all, through studying the works of several notorious

filmmakers, we knew that often times, filmmakers borrow concepts from one another. That being

said, I would consider the filmmaking Discourse to have dynamic beliefs. Yes, there are certain

guidelines for achieving the final product, but in the end, everyone has their individualistic

beliefs and artistic expression, much like how everyone has different opinions on different films.

Due to the complexity and variety of the filmmaking Discourse, in regards to Rhetorical

Situation, literate activities such as scriptwriting, movie critique, film analysis, and storytelling,

were vital in the identity of the community. Focus on scriptwriting, since it is a major part of

preproduction and the foundation of every film, was the dominant literate activity. As Grant-

Davie (1997) reiterates from Consigny, “the art of rhetoric should involve “integrity” – the

ability to apply a standard set of strategies effectively to any situation the rhetor may face.” This

is applicable in the sense that, being that a script is the heart of a film, whenever a situation is

encountered, the script is always referred to or modified as a solution in any circumstance. In

scriptwriting, the text has a certain format, specifically for script. Using reliable screenwriting

programs, such as Celtx, it provided access to learning this format and more easily engaging in

the literate activity. Every filmmaker’s exigence was to plan and create a visual story through

cinematic expression, and in order to fulfill that need, a proper script is needed. It is also

important to note that, as rhetors of our scripts, the feedback of the audience that the film is

intended for is needed to be kept in mind, as the favor of the audience can increase the notoriety

or popularity of the film, and thus, ensure success. In other terms, as stated by Grant-Davie

(1997), ““receptivity” – the ability to respond to the conditions and demands of individual

situations,” is a vital aspect that the audience gives, in which the rhetor, or screenwriter in this

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case, has to acknowledge this reception and make the necessary modifications to ensure success.

In my filmmaking community, anyone who views the film can be considered the audience,

especially considering the wide variety of mediums that the film can be exhibited through.

However, not many films would be as successful, or they would be limited to the primary

audience of the filmmaking community. This was especially evident if it was a class assignment,

where the film had to include a certain technique or aspect that only we were aware of as to why

it had to be included. This provided constraints, for there was no true free reign to what was to be

developed into a film, pertaining to the times they were to be done as assignments. Another

constraint was that actors might improvise, and thus, as well planned as a screenplay may be, it

might not always go exactly as planned when filming. Thus, developing the additional constraint

of time. In addition, when scriptwriting, our film teacher would often put a constraint on

profanity, in order to expand the audience of our films. Despite these constraints, the literate

activity of scriptwriting is the essence of every rhetorical situation in the filmmaking community,

and a script still maintains structure despite constraints.

Having been so immersed for four years of high school in my film program, my personal

writing has gone through a monumental process, one of necessary growth and development,

which I now know to be necessary in pursuing my aspirations to be involved in the film industry.

Being that in class we essentially always peer reviewed each other’s scripts, I had also noticed

that my colleagues’ writing style had developed as well, thus, serving as evidence that as a

community, all our writing styles were shaped by our involvement in said community. As per the

words of Michelle Hung, a colleague who went through the same program, with regards to

writing film analysis essays, “It’s changed the way I write research papers because before, when

I wrote research papers, it was like regurgitating information I found elsewhere. But in film, you

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really have to make a claim and use film language to back up your claim. Sometimes you use

theory…other times you use culture. It’s taught me how to treat literary devices like film

language” (M. Hung, personal interview, September 26, 2017). Like my colleague, I had a

shared experience with her in that I had a completely different perspective about writing at first,

but then had it changed through filmmaking. When I had first began, I believed that

scriptwriting and filmmaking was simple and done with ease. That, how I had done my first

movies with colleagues, every movie could be done through improvisation. Stated by Gee

(1989), “Mack (1989) defines “mushfake,” a term from prison culture, as making “do with

something less when the real thing is not available.” In a sense, due to our lack of experience

starting out, we “mushfaked” our way into the filmmaking community, yet with this, we showed

interest and dedication to the community, despite not actually developing true, good movies.

However, as my knowledge of film increased, through involvement in the community, I realized

I needed to develop my writing and skills seriously in order to truly begin my journey to the

pinnacle of success. From then on, my writing took a dynamic change, as I was able to develop

more complex stories and characters, which gave access for me to produce films with merit.

As per my personal writing process, filmmaking goes through the stages of pre-production,

production, and post-production, in which all stages revolve around the script. Throughout the

progression of these stages, it is important to acknowledge that the script has to withstand several

modifications, due to the exigence of the audience, while still keeping true to the central story.

Thus, as explained by Grant-Davie (1997), rhetors have a primary and secondary goal. I had to

acknowledge that in order to achieve my primary goal of creating a successful film, I have to

also have the secondary objective of pleasing the audience, in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

Aside from that, as part of my writing process, I find myself taking breaks in between writing the

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script, ranging from hours to days, in order to clear my mind and, when getting back to the story,

clearly noticing any errors or improvements that could be done. I find that this helps in avoiding

fatigue, and thus, avoiding the probability of causing writer’s block for me. Often times, I

Expanded

on my

writing

process such

as

mentioning

incubation,

writer's

block,

writing environment intextuality is important in films, I often read other scripts, books, and watch films, to draw ideas

, etc.

become so immersed into the scriptwriting, that I engage in incubation. While on these breaks, I

often keep on alert to see what I could draw from experiences, or picture the movie playing out

in my head, while developing different scenarios that could be included or modified. In addition,

while writing, as a way of inspiration, I also listen to music; being either the actual songs I want

in the movie or being inspired to include a new song, if relatable to the movie. Being that

from them that could be utilized in my film. Seeing as several elements have to be taken into

account, upon looking back at my writing process, I realized that I wrote the best in the evening

or late at night, a time when I could reflect and think back about what I could do to improve the

script. Although my writing has gone through several drastic changes already, the process is

continuous, since I am now majoring in the Film Bachelor of Fine Arts program and am involved

with this new community. In wanting to pursue a career in the film industry, having been

adjusted to only producing scripts for short films, I now have to again tailor my scriptwriting,

and change some aspects, to produce full, feature-length films.

Through my literacy sponsors, Discourses, and the rhetorical situation, evidently, I found that

the complexity of cinematic expression required extensive and laborious planning, in order to

produce a good film of notable merit. As I honed my literacy in scriptwriting, heeding the advice

of my community, I was able to gain more notoriety in the community, and thus, become more

ingrained into the folds. Not only in regards to filmmaking, but my writing as a whole has gone

through a dynamic change, mainly in my writing style and in the development of my artistic

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writer’s voice. In a sense, as how Grant-Davie (1997) described a rhetor as a person responsible

for the discourse and its authorial voice, I found my rhetor’s voice in the filmmaking Discourse,

due to the influence that the filmmaking community had on me. Although my involvement in

this community gave way for the foundation in my literacy of scriptwriting, such as with

providing me with the necessary elements of writing a successful script and learning film

terminology, I find that now, having come into a different film community, I again have to go

through tests and gates in order to be accepted into this new community. Even more so, knowing

that “competition shapes the incentives & barriers of [literacy]” (Brandt, 1998), I recognize that I

have to amount to the competition in order to get to the best potential of my still developing,

soon professional, filmmaking literacy. Despite this, it is again important to acknowledge that

being part of my high school’s film Discourse made me develop an identity as a filmmaker and

planted the roots for my passion of film. Now having developed my technical skills as a

filmmaker, through language, as well as my social skills, through making connections and

working through collaborations, I now find that I have the necessary skills to pursue my ventures

into a more notorious community, the Film Industry.

Fixed heading of "References" page, alphabetized references, and change the references to have the correct formating and proper citations.

References

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Brandt, D. (1998). Sponsors of Literacy. In E. Wardle & D. Downs (Eds). Writing about

Writing: A college reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.

Gee, J.P. (1989). Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction. In E. Wardle & D. Downs

(Eds). Writing about Writing: A college reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.

Grant-Davie, K. (1997). Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents. In E. Wardle & D. Downs

(Eds). Writing about Writing: A college reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.

Hung, M. (2017, September 26). Personal Interview.

Vogler, C. (1998). The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. (3rd ed.) (pp. xxvii).

Studio City, CA. Michael Wiese Productions.