Kim Jong Un, shootouts and puppy chow~

The UWM Office Of Undergraduate Research Office has a fantastic program where incoming freshman stay in the dorms for a month, make new friends, and have a great time getting adjusted to college life while they are also getting paid to work in a research setting. We were fortunate this past summer to have two students, James Kuckkan and Sydney McBee, interning at doc|UWM through this program. Please read this expressive reflection from James about his experience:

I saw a documentary once.  It was about a team of filmmakers who subverted North Korean security by posing as medical documentarians so they could examine the inner workings of the ironclad country and expose what really goes on in the land North of the 38th Parallel.

So, when I received a letter from the Office of Undergraduate Research offering me an opportunity to work as an Intern at doc|UWM, my expectations were slightly distorted.  What kind of  hard-hitting, jaw-dropping exposes would I bear witness to while a part of the doc|UWM team?  Would we expose the twisted vines of corruption snaking through local, and possibly even state governmental offices? Would we find ourselves in the middle of a firefight while doing a piece on a turf-war between rival gangs and the socio-economic impact of that turf-war on the community? If so, how would I survive? Would I need snacks?  Maybe some juice?   

This is not what I found at doc|UWM. Instead, I stumbled upon a hidden gem tucked away in the warrens of Milwaukee. An enclave of filmmakers, artists, collaborators, and most importantly, good people who were and are willing to teach me and others the ins and outs of film as I take my first tentative steps along the collegiate path.     

I have learned so much in only three weeks, not only about my craft and its intricacies, but about what it means to be a facet of a group such as doc|UWM.  Whether I was transcribing interviews—a necessary evil that turned my brain to cold oatmeal, in the best possible way–or practicing cinematographic techniques with the students who call the program home, or even out on an actual shoot, operating the camera and interacting with the wonderful subjects of doc|UWM’s most recent project, I was doing something I had never done at any job before–I was having fun. Never before have I encountered a group of people, professionals, who are not only incredibly personable, but also incredibly willing to take time from their daily tasks to help me with my own work. It’s an oddity that I am thankful for in a world that needs more like it.     

Though I may not be infiltrating North Korea, pummeling Senatorial perpetrators, or munching on puppy chow during a gunfight, my time at doc|UWM has been worth tenfold of the aforementioned activities. The experiences I’ve had, the knowledge I’ve accrued, and the confidence I’ve been able to muster–with a lot of help from my friends–is invaluable.  It’s worth all the Kim Jong Uns and shootouts and puppy chow in the world.     

Because through it all I’ve made friends.   And I’d be a fool not to be thankful for that.

-James Kuckkan 

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