Filling the Frame

Triple Threat: Assistant professor Sam Henderson (left), senior lecturer Maverick Moore (center) and chairman and professor Chris Hansen (right) all discovered their passion for making films in different ways. Now, they work to provide students with resources to follow their passions as well as producing their own films. Photo by Maran Shales

Filling the Frame

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what happens when those pictures are moving?

Story By Rachel Chiang

From Shakespeare to Mozart, moving an audience through live entertainment and human performance has been a method for storytelling thousands of years. Within the last century, the rise of filmmaking has staked its claim in the spotlight for human entertainment as well as a new medium for sharing stories.

Sam Henderson, an assistant professor at Baylor University, earned his bachelor’s in theater performance at Baylor after switching from the business pre-law track. He said he realized that if he wanted to be involved in film, a career in theater was the best route to achieve that.

“I think film is such a universal medium,” Henderson said. “Even though theater has been doing it a couple thousand years more, I still think the theater is the best way to learn how to tell a story, but I think film is the best way to share it.”

Chris Hansen, Baylor film and digital media chairman and professor, said the biggest difference between film and the theater is the close-up. 

“What film has is that realism that makes you feel like you’re really part of that moment,” Hansen said. “And that’s what I think I like about it. I can really go very tight on the person’s face and see that minute expression in their eyes that tells you something that you can only see because you’re in that close. So it’s like you’re very intimate with that person; it’s like you’re in the room with them.”

Baylor film and digital media senior lecturer Maverick Moore said while a play is something that you watch live, not every performance will be the same—unlike a film, which is the same every time you watch it.

“It’s an experience,” Moore said. “And it’s an experience that can be shared. You listen to a song, when you read an article, read a book, a lot of the interpretation is the words, the lyrics. But also what you see in your head, right? A film you know you’re not going to have that freedom of interpretation.”

“You have to find joy in the process. If you don’t actually enjoy making films then you shouldn’t be doing this. It can’t be all about the destination. You have to find joy in  the journey itself.”

– Baylor chairman and professor Chris Hansen

Over the last 10 years, Henderson’s passion for acting gradually has been shifting to more writing and directing. He said writing and directing is the most creatively satisfying thing he does, and writing became the reason he transitioned from wanting to be in front of the camera, to behind it.

“Writing was the thing that unlocked everything because was the thing that I could do without anybody’s permission,” Henderson said. “Writing was the thing in my tiny apartment I could sit down and do and expel some creative energy that didn’t require me leaving the house.”

Apart from writing, Henderson said he also has a passion for directing because unlike a play or a good novel, it is up to the director to bring a screenplay to life. He said as a director, you have to build a bridge and be able to communicate what you want from the people who do their jobs. This includes working with the actors and guiding the crew. 

Like Henderson, Moore said also he enjoys directing the most. He said he loves turning stories into creative visual pieces as well as working with actors. 

“What I truly like about films is that you can sort of guide an audience into what you want them to think and what to expect,” Moore said. “And that’s what I love about filmmaking and sharing films with audiences, is surprising them.”

It can be unbelievably overwhelming when coordinating with everyone involved in the filmmaking process, Moore said. Because the process can be exhausting, he said, learning to pace himself to alleviate the stress and just soaking in the moment has helped.

“I could be better about that. That is something I need to remind myself,” Moore said. “The opportunity to create and tell stories is very special, and I think reminding yourself that can relieve you sometimes of the pressure, and the anxieties and the negative things.”

Tag Teaming: Sam Henderson and Maverick Moore co-teach a class called Short Film Production which introduces students to advanced filmmaking techniques. Photo by Maran Shales

For those who are looking to improving and begin filmmaking, Moore said the easiest thing is to just watch more films. While what’s in theaters and renowned films are good, he said, watching culturally historic and important films is from various eras will greatly enhance the stories you tell. Hansen agreed with Moore on learning to relax during the process rather than stressing about the outcome.

“You have to find joy in the process,” Hansen said. “If you don’t actually enjoy making films then you shouldn’t be doing this. It can’t all be about the destination. You have to find joy in the journey itself.”

He said one of the things he has learned over the years is redefining what success means to him. He said while he does want his films to reach wider audiences, he doesn’t necessarily want to win big awards. Even if you don’t achieve the big success that you hoped for, but you still enjoyed the process, that is still success, he said. 

“The concept to me is more about telling stories that connect with people emotionally, that move them,” Hansen said. “I have to be OK with enjoying the process of making it and being proud of the result, and the rest of it is just going to take care of itself.”

Film as an art form is essentially something you create to give away, Henderson said.

You can’t explain it, he said. He also said he hopes in all his films, others will relate the humanity of characters to their own experiences.

“Art is very specifically and uniquely human,” he said. “Not every living thing can appreciate art. A cat can be entertained, but a dog knows nothing about art.”