Filmmaker David Godin’s work combines what can be ‘learned’ with the inner voice of instinct

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Monday, March 14th, 2022

When you combine instincts with knowledge, powerful results can spark what happens next. 
That’s underpinned the career of filmmaker David Godin, who speaks at PCA&D March 29 as part of the College’s Liberal Arts Speaker Series. From humble Hi-8 home video beginnings to a career developing work for clients and for his own personal projects, Godin’s style blurs the line between narrative filmmaking and documentary. 
No matter the project, Godin’s work builds a personal connection that reflects its subject— and he’s learned to trust his artistic intuition in the process. It is, he says, his “most-trusted inner confidant.”
We asked Godin about his filmmaking career so far — how he’s learned to listen to that inner voice — and why the best art doesn’t necessarily come from having unlimited time and resources. 
What is it about the medium of film that really grabbed you at the start, all the way back to your major at Franklin & Marshall College (The Psychological and Anthropological Foundations of Film)? In other words, what was it about this particular creative outlet that cornered your interest?
David Godin: Well, it may be cliche or be obvious as a filmmaker, but I’m just a visual person. The experience of engaging my imagination always starts with images, so when my dad came home with the first Mac iBook in 1999/2000 — and he showed me iMovie — it was honestly like the heavens opened. Love at first sight as a twelve-year-old boy. I could shoot something on our Hi-8 home video camera, upload it to iMovie — and then tell a story visually with sound and music. It was an obsession and joy, and that excitement never really goes away for me. The combination of moving images, and sound, compiled together to create some type of cohesive meaning and experience … wow, it’s just a beautiful thing.
Liberal Arts Speaker Series: David Godin
Tuesday, March 29 7 pm
Your LinkedIn profile notes that you came up in the “DIY school of production” … can you explain a little bit about that?
DG: When I say “DIY school of production” it means that I learned the craft of filmmaking by trial and error for the most part and observing from a distance — working on sets, but no real formal education on filmmaking itself. I by no means feel like I have filmmaking “figured out,” although what I have learned over the years is that my intuition as a filmmaker is paramount. Art is related to instinct, and whether a painter, musician, poet, graphic designer, or filmmaker, you learn how to use the tools, study the language, you observe the greats — and then listen receptively to your soul’s cries for imaginative expression — and that’s the intuitive instincts speaking. For me, this voice has become my most-trusted inner confidant. Filmmaking can be taught, but filmmaking cannot be a personal expression until the intellectual and academic part of the filmmaker’s brain can take what’s been learned and communicate again to the primal instincts.
“Art is related to instinct, and whether a painter, musician, poet, graphic designer, or filmmaker, you learn how to use the tools, study the language, you observe the greats — and then listen receptively to your soul’s cries for imaginative expression — and that’s the intuitive instincts speaking.”
What changes do you see coming up in the near future for your segment of the industry?
DG: That’s a great question. My gut reaction is that it’s never been a better time to be a filmmaker because of all the potential options for distribution. However, there is also an overabundance of quality work; audiences are totally overstimulated and inundated with films and series. Therefore, for a filmmaker in this current climate, being able to identify a core niche audience, and get your work in front of them, is key. One thing that terrifies me is the current obsessions with virtual reality and the “Metaverse” and what that means for the filmmaker as an artist. If films serve this more narcissistic experience of the audience member being the center of “entertainment” — as in a first-person perspective — choosing where to look, where to go in this digital experience, the voice of the filmmaker is lost in many ways. My personal opinion is that there is so much left to be explored in the 2D film experience, both filmmaker and audience, that falling in love with flashy new tech is not the right way to go.
Can you describe your last project? What was the biggest challenge you faced in completing it?
DG: My last project was actually a commercial project for a client. One of the biggest challenges was that it was for a Fortune 500 corporation and we filmed it on the main campus of the corporation, and there were so many rules and regulations to what we could and couldn’t shoot. We had one 10-hour shoot day to make a three-minute documentary film that covered a lot of ground. After that one day, we did it, and the crew and client were all jumping up and down — because somehow we got it done.
You and your wife are working on a project about refugees in Lancaster. Are you able to talk about that a little?
DG: Yes, my wife/creative partner, Rasha Clark, and I have been developing our first narrative feature film for nearly five years. Originally, we were interested in exploring a documentary about the American Dream through the eyes and experiences of refugees who have been in Lancaster for varying lengths of time. This concept came about after we learned that Lancaster had been named “America’s Refugee Capital.”
If you had unlimited resources to pursue any project, what would your dream project be?
DG: Oh wow. That is an insanely challenging question. Honestly, I would either want to write and direct a modern-take of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” about a single American’s journey into the psychological underworld of our deeply repressed historical/cultural past, or a series of some kind that would hopefully reawaken a collective audience to the mythic side of human experience. By mythic, I don’t mean “false,” but the language of our primordial, more nature-bound human experience, and re-assert its position as equal to the heavy oppression of the more mainstream scientific, rationalistic, literalistic, human mode of experience.
Honestly, I think the best films and art come from limitation, and having 300 people on a film set with a $500 million budget — that doesn’t sound appealing at all.