Senior Project Focuses on Passion for Film

Ximena Davis holds senior project titled "Culture You Can Eat"
Ximena Davis presenting her senior project before she turns it in.

As a current senior, I am completing my Senior Individualized Project, or SIP, in the English department this year and often look back to when I first learned about what the SIP was. I first heard about this requirement while touring Kalamazoo College four years ago, and I imagined the hours spent writing a fifty-page research paper. However, I soon learned that at Kalamazoo College, this senior project can be creative, as well as research-based, depending on what interests you. Once I heard about the creativity I could have with my SIP, I immediately scheduled a meeting with the head of the department fall term of my first year here. While I was told I was way ahead of the game, I was still excited about the possibility of doing a film, something I have been very interested in for a long time.

As I came to the end of my junior year, I was planning on doing a documentary, and I was having trouble coming up with the topic. Knowing that this project was supposed to be a culmination of what I have learned at K, I thought back to all of the opportunities the college has given me. I recalled the externship I was able to do after my first year of college in New Orleans. An externship is a competitive opportunity where alumni of the school offer to let one or two students shadow them at their jobs and see what it is like to live a few weeks in their shoes. My placement happened to be with a college professor and filmmaker in New Orleans. He was shooting a full-length, independent feature film and on that set, I was given the hands-on knowledge of what it is like working on a film. I had the opportunity to perform many jobs on-set, which helped cement my love of film and commitment to a career in the industry. I was able to be behind the camera and create shots, download and back up footage, clap the slate in front of the camera and call shots, and even had a small cameo in the film itself!

Sandwich with french fries for senior project
While filming her senior project, Ximena Davis enjoyed trying the different food found in New Orleans.

My senior project therefore, led me back to New Orleans where I shot a documentary on the unique food culture of the city. I spent two weeks down south over the summer developing my story, choosing restaurants, shooting footage, and gathering interviews. I met so many interesting people and ate more beignets, muffalettas, po’boys, and sno-balls than I could count! I was able to enjoy the Southern Decadence festival in the French Quarter, see baby alligators in the wild, and visit the friends I made while down there for the first time. I was able to explore the intricacies of the city in a way I had been unfamiliar with before because of the independence I had when filming my SIP. Learning about the importance of the city and the people through its food helped me gain a deeper understanding of how culturally unique it is. Now that I am back at K, I have been editing my film under the guidance of my SIP advisors. I couldn’t be more excited to premiere my film for the college community and take another step toward my chosen career. Now, to book a room for the screening…!

Ximena Davis is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Anthropology and Sociology. She has a concentration in media studies and American studies.