Fiction. It’s become quite an addiction. I can come home and escape into the enveloping arms of my newest Netflix binge. It makes me feel good. The thing about fiction is that I can consume the good parts and avoid the bad.
But what about fiction’s brother, non-fiction. There’s some non-fiction in my life that I like such as my marriage, my family and my job. But there’s also non-fiction in my life that I DON’T like and I can’t seem avoid it all.
This unwanted reality tends to overwhelm me. So I relieve my non-fiction fatigue with more and more fantasy.
But here is where I ask myself an important question.
What do we do with the ugly truths of our world that DON’T make us feel good?
As a video editor for Amusement Park, storytelling is my job. Recently I worked on a project for our pro-bono account Taller San Jose Hope Builders. Hope Builders provides disadvantaged youth in Orange County life skills and job training. They take kids that would otherwise be victims of poverty or systematic brokenness and give them the opportunity to step out of despair with education. To date, Hope Builders has helped more than 5,000 young adults finish education and develop marketable skills. My agency has worked with Hope Builders for 17 years. Each year we produce a film for their fundraising gala, and this year I was in charge of the production and post.
Our subject was Leslye Mondragon. She is a single mom with a tumultuous past, two kids, an overflowing heart, and an education from Hope Builders. Today she’s using that education to break the cycle of disadvantage for her kids. Courtney, the creative director, wanted us to capture what it would look like to live a day in the life of Leslye, so we decided to shoot our film as a documentary. This meant getting up at the butt-crack of dawn and spending the whole day with her. I even dropped the kids off at school with her. She took our intrusion like a champ. She was unfailingly honest as she welcomed us into her life.
There’s something very attractive about the truth. The truth about Leslye is that parts of her life were rocky and she made some mistakes that society wasn’t inclined to easily forgive. Her story was an “ugly truth.” But that wasn’t where her narrative stopped. Hope Builders helped her rewrite the script. The film I edited did not end in tragedy but instead in growth, life, and HOPE. Spending that crucial day with her reminded me that THIS is the kind of non-fiction I want in my life. This is the non-fiction we NEED to hear and tell! And I feel responsible to tell it.
I’m lucky because storytelling is part of my job. It’s built into my life. But we can ALL tell these stories with the talents and opportunities we have been given. It’s my hope to tell of a world where the good outweighs the bad.
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