With the emergence of digital media and the transition from print to online journalism, the short non-fiction film has proved capable of exploring current topics and questions on a public scale that local newspapers and media outlets can no longer afford.
StoryLens produces short independent documentary films about pressing social issues in order to promote education, encourage public dialogue, and facilitate change.
StoryLens also seeks to provide professional development opportunities for Oberlin College alumni who are pursuing careers as filmmakers by hiring new StoryLens Fellows each year.
To date, StoryLens, with the support of the Nord Family Foundation, has created seven original short documentaries. The films bring focus to specific non-profit organizations in Northeast Ohio, exploring issues such as prison recidivism, opiate addiction, child homelessness, gun violence, food access, and the foreclosure crisis.
StoryLens donates its program content to the organizations whose work the films highlight in order to help them tell their stories to clients and to provide material for their fundraising and outreach efforts.
StoryLens seeks to present its films at community gatherings, in festivals, on public television, and on digital journalistic platforms in order to bring the subjects’ perspectives and experiences to a wide audience.
By telling the stories of individuals and groups whose activities make a difference in their own neighborhoods, StoryLens hopes not only to foster awareness and understanding within local communities but also to give those communities a voice in the national conversation.
DIRECTOR / CO-FOUNDER
Geoff Pingree (Director, Co-founder) is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker in the U.S. and Spain and a professor of Cinema Studies at Oberlin College. After earning master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago, he worked in public television in Washington, DC, where he directed Catholic University’s Program in Media Studies and George Washington University’s Institute for Documentary Filmmaking. His film work for public television has received an Emmy Award; his photography received National Geographic’s 2008 World in Focus Grand Prize and has appeared in venues such as National Geographic Traveler and The New York Times; and he has written about media, culture, and politics for magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, TIME, Wired, Ms., The Nation, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor. With Rian Brown, he created BLUE DESERT, a multi-channel video installation filmed in Antarctica, and is finishing post-production on The Foreigner’s Home, a film that explores the artistic and intellectual vision of Toni Morrison. He is also finishing a feature-length documentary he shot in Guatemala. With Brown he founded and directs the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education and community outreach program in Oberlin, Ohio.
Pingree created StoryLens with Rian Brown in 2014.
Leah Aki Wood is an aspiring filmmaker and artist from and currently based in Oberlin, Ohio. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2016 with majors in Cinema Studies and East Asian Studies.
Ian Kelly is a filmmaker, animator, and video artist from the Boston area. He started with StoryLens in 2016. He is a Cinema Studies major at Oberlin College, and is one of the student major representatives for the department. Ian has studied documentary, narrative, and experimental filmmaking while at Oberlin. He has also studied at the Prague Film School in the Czech Republic. Ian taught filmmaking and animation with the Apollo Outreach Initiative, and has produced videos for the Oberlin Office of Communications, Office of Development, Alumni Committee, and Oberlin Career Center.
Kyle Hartzell is a sound designer and artist based in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the digital media engineer for cinema studies and studio art at Oberlin College and is currently pursuing an MFA with a concentration in sound art at Vermont College of Fine Arts. In the past he has worked for public radio’s StoryCorps and as a multimedia engineer for Princeton University.