Insight and opportunity: Filmmaker leads discussion as Humana Visiting Lecturer
First-year student Chase Sweger wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to meet and maybe pick up some pointers from an Oscar-nominated filmmaker.
Documentarian J. Christian Jensen arrived on campus thanks to an invitation from Assistant Professor of Chinese Mei Li Inouye as part of the Humana Visiting Lecture series. Jensen met with students across campus to help with screenwriting, vlog editing and more. The prevailing message he discussed: Is documentary truth?
Jensen visited classes taught by Assistant Professor of Education Nisha Gupta and Assistant Professor of Biology Mark Teshera, along with two of Inouye’s courses where students are showcasing their language and cultural learning by making vlogs. Kennia Hernandez, a member of the 2025 class, noted that Jensen’s information has practical career applications.
“He shared ways that we can actually break into a space that I think no one really knows about,” Hernandez said.
Jensen led a convocation and hosted a workshop on how to write a film treatment. He also screened “White Earth,” his 2015 Academy-Award nominated documentary short focusing on the North Dakota oil boom told through the eyes of an immigrant child.
Inouye met Jensen while working on her Ph. D. in Chinese Literature at Stanford University. Jensen was in the Documentary Film M.F.A. program at the time, and both connected through their interest in film. Inouye said that Jensen’s skills — from editing to educating — show students how they can present information to a broad range of audiences.
“I want to help students acquire the tools they need to make their research accessible to the world,” Inouye said. “The visual narrative approach is a mode of communication that we all could benefit from learning — it’s the communicative mode of today’s generation.”
Filmmaking piqued the interest of Sweger, who said he’s been interested in cinematography and videography since the start of high school and has held internships in the industry. He wanted to learn about Jensen’s career and how he got his start.
“We talked about my personal career. He gave me some advice on different ways to go and how I can expand what I'm thinking about when making a film,” Sweger said.
Emma Peterson, a politics major and Chinese minor, noted that Jensen did a great job at showing students how pursuing a passion can lead to career successes.
“We were the first people to ever see a new film that he is working on,” Peterson said. “He was so knowledgeable and obviously very passionate about what he does. As college students we are often very unsure about what to do after college and wonder if anyone is really happy in their job. It was so encouraging to see someone actively happy in their field.”
The Humana Visiting Lecture program was funded through a gift to Centre from the Humana Foundation, a philanthropic branch of Louisville-based healthcare corporation Humana Inc.
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