Walkout: The School Funding Rebellion

Recently shown at the Red Dirt Film Festival, Walkout is a documentary that follows two Oklahoma teachers as they decide to walk out of their classrooms to protest for better funding and pay. In this Tuesday Threat Q&A session, Kate Grumke and Kevin Clancy discuss the story behind their special report into the teacher walkout movement.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your role with Walkout.

Kate Grumke: I’m Kate Grumke. I’m a producer with Newsy and was the director for Walkout.
Kevin Clancy: I’m Kevin Clancy. I’m a videographer with Newsy and the Director of Photography for Walkout. 

Why did you want to tell this story?

Kate: The teacher walkouts were one of the biggest stories of 2018, and so when we heard that teachers in Oklahoma were thinking about walking out, we wanted to go through that process with them from start to finish. We hoped to immerse ourselves in the walkout and show a national audience the reasons teachers felt they had to leave their classrooms and join the protests. 

What were some of the most surprising and shocking things you learned when working on this project?

Kate: It was really striking to spend time in some of these overburdened classrooms. We spent a few days in Tulsa Public Schools and followed one of our subjects through some very hectic days. Her class sizes were very large and increased from last year. We also learned from an education policy expert in D.C. that Oklahoma had cut the most in school funding since the great recession — that really put the project into perspective. 

What got you interested in journalism?

Kate: I love the idea that journalism is the “first draft of history.” Being able to document some of the most impactful events of our time is one of the best things about this job, and Walkout was a great example of this. It’s also a great field if you love getting to know strangers. We spent a lot of time with the subjects of Walkout.

What was the greatest challenge you overcame in this production?

Kate: We are the documentary unit for a newsroom, so we really treated this as a breaking news situation. That meant the greatest challenge of making this documentary was the quick deadline. We spent about two total weeks in Oklahoma, first during the “work the contract protests,” then from a few days before the walkout until a few days into it. Our editor back in D.C. was putting everything together while we were shooting. From start to finish, the project took us just over a month. We released the documentary on the day teachers returned to school. It was a tough deadline, but worth it for such an important topic.

Let’s get a bit technical. What equipment and gear did you use to make this documentary?

Kevin: We filmed Walkout entirely on the Sony FS7 Mii. Although the first few weeks of production we were working with a single camera, we added another camera operator in the later weeks of filming so that we could capture multiple storylines playing out at the same time. Almost the entire film was shot on 18-35mm lenses which allowed for pretty awesome scale when working around protests and intimate moments while in the classroom or at home with the teachers.

What advice would you like to share to aspiring documentary filmmakers? 

Kevin: Some of the best filmmakers are self-taught. While going to film school may seem like the best option to many, it’s simply not accessible to all. Luckily camera technology is improving for cheaper cameras which allows almost anyone access to quality equipment. Filmmaking isn’t learned in the classroom, it’s learned in the hours spent behind the camera making mistakes and learning from them. 

Why should one see the movie?

Kevin: The education system is broken in many US states, and no person is better equipped to tell the story of this than teachers themselves. This film puts a face to the thousands of teachers that walked out of their classrooms last march. 
Kate: And I hope Oklahomans will enjoy seeing something they lived through documented in this way. We had a great time traveling through Oklahoma for this project and we hope it shows in the film.

Anything else you want to say or let people know?

Kevin: We want to thank all those who allowed us to follow them throughout this story. Especially Emily, John and Anthony, who gave us all the time we asked for and then some. We couldn’t have made as impactful of a story without their willingness to open up to complete strangers. 

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Dennis Spielman

I'm Dennis Spielman, the Producer of Uncovering Oklahoma, which I started in 2009 as a way to show that Oklahoma isn't boring. As for about myself, I’m a creative person that writes imaginative stories. I also run The Show Starts Now Studios, which is my umbrella organization for all of my shows I create. Come join me on Patreon as I create content that adds adventure and wonder to peoples' lives. More about my stories and projects are at DennisSpielman.com

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