Go to Content
Columbia College Chicago

Consuming Media with a Critical Awareness

CA+S MFA Candidate Robert-Carnilius Jaspa’ Jenkins, a Regional Winner of the 41st Annual Student Academy Awards, advanced to the National level where an elite panel made up of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected winners.

Robert-Carnilius reflects on inspiration for his short experimental film, courage, collaborations, and screening a personal piece before an audience.

I was inspired to write Jaspa’ Jenkins after years of being brain-washed into thinking that Caucasian features were better than my own African-American and black features. This included everything from lighter skin, to smaller lips, a smaller nose and straighter hair.

Even in the corporate world and in media, this message is reaffirmed when cultural and ethnic hairstyles like dreadlocks and cornrows are considered extreme and where blacks have to cut or straighten their hair or wear wigs in order to appear more "presentable" and therefore less black or ethnic.

I had to deconstruct the messages I was receiving from the corporate world, media and society at large and realize that there is nothing wrong with my features. It is therefore my intention that Jaspa’ Jenkins reinforces the idea of consuming media with a critical awareness of what's being sold to you.

Had it not been for CA+S faculty member Karen Loop’s encouragement, I honestly never would have thought to submit to the Student Academy Awards. I guess I always thought they were something above me with only a slim chance of getting in, but there’s something about a faculty member's encouragement that makes things seem feasible and obtainable at this level of our filmmaking careers. 

I think the main success of the film lies in the development and classes that exposed me to alternative short films. We were paired up with two students from the acting department as well as cinematographers and had one day to shoot on location (with film) and one on the stage (with digital). In addition to other stipulations, like mandatory lighting gags, we really had to grind our gears to think of things to film that were simple and obtainable.

Jaspa' came together with Claire Bruce’s ('15) talent and CA+S faculty member Adam Jones’ help in letting us shoot on black and white stock film, the crew, who were battling sickness, AJ Olstad and Jeff Franko, the actor's performances and the support and hard work from my classmates, MFA Candidates: Bubba Murray, Fahima Mohamood, Jonathan Moeller, and Jerrod Howe

The 41st Annual Student Academy Awards Regional Winners screening at the Gene Siskel Center on April 28, 2014 was absolutely splendid. The turnout was great, and Jaspa’ really felt alive and legitimized seeing it on the big screen for the first time!

Jaspa’ Jenkins is a very personal piece for me. It’s always scary wondering what people will think, especially because it’s not a film for everyone. In the end though, every filmmaker has a choice to let the film exist in a vacuum or to see how far it can go. Sometimes all you need is faith in yourself and the film and encouragement. Rejection is inevitable, but somewhere is a silver lining. It requires being vulnerable, but you can’t win unless you play.

Learn more about Robert-Carnilius. Follow him on Twitter and Vimeo.