Beyond The Classroom: The Project She Took To Europe

Reported by Mollisande Williams

Photographed by Kate Gray

Geneva García, a senior at George Fox University (GFU) never thought she would direct a film. She imagined herself editing or doing cinematography, but never directing. 

Not until her junior year did something shift. A year-long documentary class with Professor Dawn Ford started it all. There, a class assignment turned into a personal project that would lead her to sell her car, carry a backpack full of film equipment around Europe, and face her own self-doubt as a filmmaker. There “180G Got Me A Degree” came to life. 

While researching for a topic, García stumbled upon an online article about the amount of student loans the U.S. had accumulated, which was $1.3 trillion. Right then, she knew her topic was higher education and student loans in various countries. 

Toward the middle of the school year, García realized she did not want her documentary to include a bunch of Skype interviews. She decided she would need more than just two semesters’ time to fully investigate the subject and do it justice. 

The project continued outside of the GFU classroom when she took her documentary with her while studying abroad in Europe. Visiting many countries, García was able to interview students and sources in Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, and England. 

A big challenge she faced was playing all the roles of a normal filming crew. During interviews she would be asking the questions, monitoring the audio, adjusting the mics, and setting up the tri-pod. 

Another difficulty she encountered was the rules when filming cities. “They are stricter when it comes to filming using a tri-pod,” Garcia said, “but when you are using the camera hand held, they are more accepting.” 

Also, certain landmarks are copyrighted by architects. The copyright design on the Eiffel Tower has expired, but the lights on it have not, so the footage for filming the Eiffel Tower during the evening will not be usable. García still has to figure out which footage is fair to use. 

According to Business Insider, the national student debt now exceeds $1.4 trillion and only continues to grow. The United States has some of the highest student loan debt when compared to other countries. 

Students often go through their lives thinking that loans are a necessity. García wants to find out through this documentary why some societies and other countries are willing to invest in students.

“I think that, at the rate student loans are going, it’s completely unsustainable. I view my documentary as a catalyst for a conversation that is long overdue,” she said. 

Although “180G Got Me A Degree” is not yet finished, García has already learned much through the process. She has learned more about higher education and different options that she is passionate about sharing with others.

“This is the film I wish I would’ve seen before I went to college,” she explains.

García has learned how to get past self-doubts and insecurities and face fears. She has also figured out what kind of filmmaker she ultimately wants to be. 

“I want to give a voice to the voiceless. I want to find the stories that deserve to be told, and create a platform for those stories. I want to shine a light to issues like social rights and humanitarianism, or basically any issue that pisses me off,” she said and laughed. 

To see a teaser of the documentary, be sure to visit Garcia’s Vimeo for “180 G Got Me A Degree” trailer.