Mizzou professor brings film program to Miami High School

Pictured: Christian Rozier (standing) brings his filmmaking expertise to Miami High School, teaching students the finer points of movie production. Rozier will visit the area through the making of his feature-length movie titled “Peridot.”

In its attempt to create innovative programs giving students life skills to take into the professional world, Miami High School has partnered with a University of Missouri film studies professor for a film project set to begin in early 2019.

The project had its beginnings when MHS Principal Glen Lineberry met a man by the name of Christian Rozier in 2011.

Rozier, assistant professor of Film Studies and Digital Storytelling at Mizzou, is a documentary and narrative film director who has produced films, music videos and commercials throughout the world.

His work focuses on stories of social justice within indigenous communities, and according to his Mizzou biography, Rozier has produced films, including titles such as “Voices of the Forest,” a documentary series produced in Myanmar and Cambodia, “Among the Trees,” “Lineage,” and award-winning documentary “Racing the Past,” as well as content for Hearst Interactive and Geffen Records.

He is committed to bringing access to education to underserved communities to give those students an opportunity to learn new life skills and expand their creative horizons.

“The goal is to contextualize [filmmaking] and give them working experience,” Rozier said in a recent interview. “It’s also a way to create a model to bring in a low-cost teaching experience to local schools.”

For the upcoming project, Rozier has obtained funding to make a film next spring and will be teaching local students the art of filmmaking.

Students will also make a documentary about making the film tell the stories of the filmmakers themselves.

The film’s working title is “Peridot,” and is about a young Apache man who is living with the parents of his wife and young child. At odds with his father-in-law, the man has been given an ultimatum to find a job or get out.

As they live on the reservation in a town without many employment opportunities, the young man is seeking to enroll in a job training program but has procrastinated and has one day left to submit his application.

“It’s a coming-of-age story and a road movie,” Rozier said. “It’s about a young Apache man who’s rudderless and without purpose. The movie plays out over the course of a single day and follows the kid trying to get everything together to apply.

Rozier said the movie intends to highlight the challenges of life on the reservation and in San Carlos in particular. Problems the man experiences run the gamut from transportation issues to old family resentments finally coming to a head.

“The film production itself is a realization of that dynamic between Globe and San Carlos,” Rozier said. “But it’s uplifting and about growth through challenges. We’re excited about the project.”

The film has been bubbling in Rozier’s mind for a while and now the “stars have aligned” for the project to come to fruition and he finally has the resources he needs.

“It’s like a street full of green lights,” he added.

Not only does the film represent an educational opportunity for participants, it will also be something of a minor economic boon for MHS, as a portion of equipment used for production will be left behind and donated to create an ongoing program and participants will also receive modest stipends for their work.

“Our students will be trained in production and we’ll be able to reproduce it for future students,” Lineberry said. “We’re looking at it like a jobs training program.”

Lineberry adds that students will not only learn technical skills, but also learn to tell stories, which can help them in other aspects of their professional lives as well.

He also sees it as a way to prepare them for future jobs that have not even been conceived yet.

“Not only will they learn how to do the work, but they will learn how to work with other people,” he said. “We don’t know what to teach our kids (for a future job market), but we do know that we need to teach them to be literate and to be able to tell their own stories. It also exposes them to what’s on the outside.”

For his part, Rozier has traveled back and forth between Missouri and Arizona the past few months to lay the groundwork for the project, from creating an LLC to working with writers to finalize the script to raising money and finding regional people to train. He intends be in the Globe area full-time after the beginning of the year.

Initial work will start in late-March to mid-April 2019 with training beginning in early February.

Once personnel have been identified, the group will start scouting locations and casting calls will take place in the near future.

“We want our first casting calls to be very local to explore local talent,” Rozier said. “This project will be community oriented and inclusive, with professionals working side by side with our neighbors.”

Lineberry sees it as a win-win for everyone involved: Rozier will finally get to make his movie and new teaching opportunities and some economic activity will come to the region.

“The equipment, skillsets and capital will stay here,” Lineberry concluded.

For information about the movie and updates on upcoming casting calls, go to the film’s website at www.peridotmovie.com.

Christian Rozier (right) works with former San Carlos High School student Victoria Volante (class of 2014) on a movie titled “Racing the Past.”

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