Valpo Student’s Stories for the Soul: Documentary Filmmaking

As Carmen Vincent ’20 approaches her final semester at Valpo, she knows she is well prepared for life after graduation and to live to her full potential. Carmen has become an experienced storyteller in a variety of contexts and mediums.

The digital media major and Kemper Scholar is also one of 10 nationwide winners of the 2019 Nikon Storytellers Scholarship, a program “developed to empower and support content creators as they seek to push creative boundaries and become the next generation of world-class visual storytellers,” according to Jay Vannatter, executive vice president of Nikon Inc. in the press release announcing the winners.

Carmen says she was honored to win the scholarship, but it wasn’t an easy task. She applied previously at the recommendation of Jon Hendricks ’01, director of University photography and videography, one of her internship mentors. She made it to the semi-finalist round, but was not awarded the scholarship. Looking back, she is confident this rejection helped her grow and develop as a filmmaker. This time, she submitted a film she made while studying abroad in Cambridge in spring 2019.

“I needed my skills to develop and mature with experience before I could put my best work forward,” Carmen says. “If you ever hear a ‘no’ from anyone or any application, take it as a ‘not now,’ because you will be a different person in a year.”

Seeking opportunities to stand out and make a difference during college, Carmen discovered Valpo was a perfect fit from the start. She found her passion and has pursued it relentlessly. While her major required only one internship experience prior to graduation, Carmen completed four. She works in the Communication department equipment rental room in addition to her academic and internship responsibilities. Carmen has also served on the Student Advisory Board, a group that suggests improvements to Christ College — the Honors College and assists with extracurricular programming for Christ College students.

During her time here, Carmen has learned from professors who are passionate about student success and supporting students beyond the classroom. Some professors have made lasting impacts as mentors to Carmen. Elizabeth Wuerffel ’00, MFA, associate professor of art, taught Carmen in classes that “stretched me beyond my comfort zone in the best of ways,” Carmen says. “She answers the flood of emails I send her with thoughtfulness, and she thinks of me for opportunities outside of the classroom, which means the world to me.” Carmen has also worked closely with Charlie Anderson, MFA, associate professor of communication, in all aspects of filmmaking, especially in production of a documentary she will make in the spring.

“Carmen’s warm-heartedness, eagerness, dedication, and willingness to do whatever job is necessary, all the while carving out every last free minute to write and produce her own content, is inspiring. These traits are some of the reasons why she received the Nikon Storytellers Scholarship, an award that places her next to top students from major film schools,” Professor Wuerffel says. “Carmen has done the hard work of creating her own film school here, one that is rooted in hands-on experience not only with the camera or in a director’s chair, but with many aspects of the field that don’t get much attention in film programs.”

While studying in Cambridge, she created her favorite film to date. “Forever a Champion” is about a wheelchair racer named Claire Connon, with whom Carmen connected after she reached out on a Facebook group in search of someone who wanted to tell their story. Claire allowed Carmen to share her story of medical chaos and personal turmoil, as well as her ambition and drive as an athlete. Carmen’s film was screened at the Georgia Documentary Film Festival and won the Best International Director Award. Carmen’s films can be viewed on her YouTube channel.

Carmen is exploring her post-graduation employment and documentary filmmaking graduate school options. “I’m so lucky to have found my passion, and it will keep me going through whatever life will throw at me.”