Stories captivate people. They shed light on the unknown and give perspective provoking change in society and worldviews. It’s hard to argue against the uncanny and seemingly inherent human inclination to hear and tell stories. After all you are reading one right now. Through film-making Pepperdine senior Jeffrey James “JJ” Starr of Chicago Ill. applies this innate gravitation to change the world around him. Whether through documentaries promotional spots or short films Starr challenges his audience to see the world differently.
Starr realized that filming was a passion of his while filming sixth grade bicycle stunt videos of “sick jumps” with his friends.
“Filming has always been there for me he said. It’s something I kinda fell into.”
In high school Starr began studying filming technique through his involvement in television production. However even now he is a big believer in the ‘live-and-learn’ mentality: “So much of film-making is just doing it and figuring stuff out…Kind of like life he explained.With all its complexities and nuances, life is about experience. Since Starr wishes to affect lives, the same truth applies to his filming. In short, cinematography has value; but for Starr, the bottom line is always the story that’s being told.
Just like other story-tellers, whether writers or musicians, Starr has the ability to see a deeper meaning in everyday occurrences. What’s unique in his filmmaking is his ability to show rather than merely tell his stories. This deeper meaning ties directly to Starr’s spiritual faith.
My relationship with Jesus enables me to see the world differently. It determines what I tell and how I tell it he said.
Starr rejected the perception that many Christian filmmakers have an obligation to create overtly Christian-themed films.
When Jesus told parables he was talking about normal everyday things that happened to have a spiritual undertone Starr said. I just want to get people thinking of life in general.”In his works Starr uses common themes like a routine day to evoke reflection and the possibility of change.
“He seems to always be thinking about film. When a professor or other student mentions a film he is quick to look it up and point out the connections that it has to other films or the implications that it has in real life said junior John Kempe, Starr’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother, by e-mail.
Starr is currently staying busy with many film projects to keep his work from becoming stale. Through his Step Forward Day 2009″ documentary which was featured Wednesday Sept. 31 at morning chapel; “Life Adagio a short film on everyday life and vocation; and his Global Fast” promotional short “busy” seems to be an understatement for this aspiring filmmaker.
Starr acknowledges Pepperdine as a valuable outlet for his passion. However because Pepperdine lacks an actual video production major (only boasting a film studies major) Starr and fellow senior Alex Palmer have taken initiative to help create a sharper focus in the Film Production department. By working with the television production program Starr and Palmer have gained experience they could then put to their own use when filming videos.
Video professor Craig Detweiler has worked to start the Center for Media and Culture. Through this program Detweiler has been working to expand the film department on campus which is something Starr is eager to see continue growing.
“The nice thing about Pepperdine is that it’s given me room to create and do what I want to do he commented. He said that he often gets asked why he didn’t choose a more film-oriented university.
To that, Starr replies, A lot of college is who you’re becoming as a person. Pepperdine has developed my character and has put me in the right place to tell the stories I want to.”
What stories will Starr tell once he leaves Pepperdine? His dream is to go international.
“I would love to be a freelance filmmaker where organizations would fly me places to do promos and documentaries he said. However, Starr is also a Young Life leader and is very passionate about high school students. In his documentary Golden he explores the current issues kids deal with on a regular basis.
I’d love to do something with that. I guess whatever comes my way I just want to keep telling stories Starr mused.
JJ has an incredible vision to capture peoples stories and his passion and love for God and filmmaking shows through his films. He is an inspiration to me and all those around him said Alexandra Curry, one of Starr’s close friends, about his drive to create meaningful art through film.
In essence, this life is just a compilation of stories. It is through stories that people connect with others and see the world. Through storytelling, Starr offers a connection and a glimpse of understanding. Through his vocation, Starr challenges his peers to see and hear beyond the mundacity into the joy of everyday life.
Visit Starr’s blog at www.jjstarrfilm.com to learn more about Starr’s past, current and future projects.