Breaking the bubble

Brian Ditchfield’s latest film project seeks to create dialogue in a divided nation.

Young filmmakers at the 2016 Martha's Vineyard Film Festival. —Reece Robinson

Like so many others, Brian Ditchfield was disheartened after the election. He was angry, he was confused, but these feelings couldn’t sit for long without addressing the question, What am I going to do?

The results on Nov. 8 emphasized how divided our country is. With posters, headlines, and political campaigns reiterating this regularly, Mr. Ditchfield started thinking about the Island he grew up on.

“I realized how much of a bubble we’re in,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “Not only because we’re on Martha’s Vineyard, but because of the company we keep.”

As the managing and programming director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF), and a filmmaking teacher to youth across the Island, Mr. Ditchfield started thinking of ways to break that bubble.

“I dreamed up this project to take students to communities very different from our own,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned from teaching kids is how easy it is for them to relate to one another. They can quickly get beyond the social norms and exteriors that we as adults put up.”

The project planning is still in its infancy, but Mr. Ditchfield definitely has a vision. Through contacts with other youth groups in Kentucky, New York City, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, Mr. Ditchfield wants to expose his students to counties which voted oppositely from Martha’s Vineyard, bringing along film equipment and a platform for open discussion.

“I don’t feel like it needs to be political,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “It’s really about creating dialogue and disrupting barriers.”

According to Mr. Ditchfield, who teaches kids ranging from third to eighth grade at the West Tisbury School and the Boys & Girls Club, his students process the election in their own ways. He facilitates discussions in his classroom through open dialogue.

“I’ll ask everyone to think about their hopes and dreams for themselves, their families, and for their country,” he said. “It varies wildly depending on age, but it’s amazing the amount of perspective you gain through kids.”

Mr. Ditchfield teaches basic use of camera equipment, how to interview, and how to tell stories. He envisions journeying over the April break via rented minivans, and spending about two days in each community. He plans to bring a filmmaker along to document the process.

Much of the project depends on funding, which is brought in through donations and appeals. Mr. Ditchfield says he’s surrounded by support at the MVFF, and his co-workers have been instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

Mr. Ditchfield graduated from Boston University, where he studied theater and film. He’s taught kids in Chicago and worked on short documentary projects, but this will be his first time spearheading the effort.

“The goal is to have a movie in the end, but I don’t want to focus too much on the product. I really just want it to be an experience for the kids,” Mr. Ditchfield said. “You get entrenched in your bubble no matter where you are. Just going to McDonald’s is a culture shock when you’ve grown up on Martha’s Vineyard.”

If young filmmakers are interested in Mr. Ditchfield’s advanced filmmaking class this winter/spring, please contact or call 508-645-9599.