Creating Dangerously

The Value of Cross-Cultural Education for America's Youth

A Georgetown University American Studies thesis film.

Mar 18

Mar 7

Aug 13

Working with Ellie



I first heard about Meridian Hill Pictures’ staff filmmaker and educator Ellie Walton from afar. As an American Studies student at Georgetown, some of my more prominent interests included local city history and labor rights. Two of Ellie’s films, Chocolate City and Igual Que Tú deal with both of those themes directly. So, I decided to approach Ellie to see if she would be the adviser to my senior thesis film, Creating Dangerously. Expecting a “nice project, but I’m way over extended with my own work,” type of answer from a filmmaker aslauded as Ellie Walton, I was very surprised when after I finished my pitch and she responded with a simple, “sure.” I had not expected to be successful! Even in this very first meeting, Ellie demonstrated so many of the qualities that I continue to appreciate about my time spent working with her.

The first thing I realized about working with Ellie is that she is accessible. Although her reputation precedes her (and that can be intimidating), after our first meeting I found it so very easy to speak with Ellie. This proved to be one of the things I most appreciated in our adviser/advisee relationship. In addition to being accessible, Ellie is flexible. We met in person about once every two weeks, often meeting in coffee shops, restaurants, at my school, in the Meridian Hill Pictures studio and occasionally intercepting each other on street corners. We would also often communicate through email, phone and text. Throughout the school year I heard stories from my classmates about their less-than-present advisers and how they were navigating the daunting thesis terrain more or less without guidance. Each time I heard such a story I felt lucky knowing that not only was my adviser responsive and receptive, she was actually actively motivating me in my work.

The next thing I noticed quite immediately about working with Ellie is that she “gets it.” Despite my finest efforts to string my thoughts and storyboards together, I always felt frazzled describing my ideas and what I wanted my final project to be. Often times my ideas did not resonate with my friends or classmates. Yet when speaking with Ellie, without delay or confusion, she always seemed to get it! The fact that I could communicate my ideas with another creative thinker proved invaluable in the construction of the narrative of my final film. Without making me feel as if my ideas where no longer my own, Ellie wisely guided my narrative to help me understand how to communicate effectively in the film medium. She taught me how to put the rubber to the road and how to form a project that others could “get” as well.

Finally, Ellie is supportive. As a young filmmaker, it is easy to feel that there is so much you don’t know, or to feel frustrated that you can’t make a scene look the way you want it to, or confused about the various ethical issues that come along with documentary filmmaking. Ellie guided me on all of these concerns. Not only did she guide me, she made me feel capable and motivated me to challenge myself. Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I certainly have not forgotten Ellie’s sage words nor her inspiring projects. What I mean to say is that rather than leaving our meetings feeling inexperienced or “small” (as one so often does as a student), working with Ellie always left me feeling “big” and capable as a young artist. It is thanks to that feeling that I truly have grown after working with Ellie.

Aug 8

Jul 2

Wow Sarah, this is quite a master piece. THANK YOU!
You are so genuine in the filming and making of this. I love how you cover step by step the impact that Global Potential (GP) has had on Graciela, Lesley and Alicia and how much impact these three amazing GP youth alumni have had on GP as well!

Similarly without facilitators and media advocacy professionals like you, GP would not exist. You can see that in your film when Lesley was in Nicaragua in 2010. Facilitators there like Ilsa and Kim really made a huge impact, like you in the DR last summer!
Each of you are part of the GP journey of transformation.

MUCHAS GRACIAS for making this GP thesis video. We can use this with new staff / youth participants to know what to expect about this transformation! Graciela, Lesley and Alicia are three wonderful examples of the 100s of youth participants and alumni now from NY, Boston and Paris who join the GP movement, as well as of those in the DR, Nicaragua and Haiti.

Review from Sarah Gogel, Managing Director and Founder of Global Potential. 

“When you help somebody it makes you feel good. A lot of people are not paying attention…I go to some place where there is no help because they need help. Since I am with GP, I am more involved and community oriented.” Graciela Rodriguez

“If you don’t know me you can’t judge me. So if I don’t know this place then I can’t judge it. I can’t go to a place with a poked out lip!” Alicia Wade

“May 12, 2010, it was almost the beginning of everything…I would like to have a mark in the world one day but first I need to learn how people live in this place called Planet. With the help of GP I will make this journey come true. Without fight there is no journey. You have to fight for your dream. I used to think that fighting physically was how I would make my mark, but I guess I was really confused…I now see that there are many ways to fight, the fight that you do with love and passion and determination for a cause, that’s the fight that is worth it…to leave the little that you have, for everything, to make sure that the people behind you would be safe, without ever expecting to get something back.” Vinicio Bronfield

May 29

Finally, the finished product!

Finally, the finished product is ready for the world to see! Check out the “watch the film” tab on the top of the page to view the final film. Or, view it here:


Apr 19

A little candid moment with Alicia! Can’t stop, won’t stop…

Apr 18

One of my favorite parts about editing this film has been seeing the archival material that Lesly, Alicia, Graciela and other Global Potential friends have given me. 

Here are two photos of Alicia in Batey Cuchilla, Dominican Republic during the summer of 2009.

Apr 16

What does it mean to be a “global citizen”? Lesly shares his thoughts…

Apr 15

In one of my interview clips, Lesly plays this song as he prepares to paint. 

Apr 5

I base my definition of what a “Millennial” is according to the Pew Research Center.

I base my definition of what a “Millennial” is according to the Pew Research Center.

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