The Mosaic Film Experience hosted its 2022 Mosaic Event on Tuesday, November 3.

This year’s event was full of eager students, inspirational stories, and an atmosphere of learning. The annual event took place at Celebration Cinema Studio Park and hosted 400 West Michigan students to hear and learn from a diverse group of speakers and interactive workshops.

“Using the platform of film and digital media, we are educating young people about a variety of careers that exist in the world while teaching 21-century career skills, like creativity and storytelling, which are helpful no matter what industry they choose to pursue,” said Skot Welch, founder, Mosaic Film Experience.

An impressive group of speakers from the digital media industries united to provide high school students with exclusive looks into their careers, their journey of how they got to where they are, and the significance of storytelling and creativity.

Here are the talented speakers who inspired students at our 2022 Mosaic Event.

Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

Marisa is an award-winning producer and contributing NPR correspondent who spoke to the students about the struggles she has faced and the power of sound. She explained how sound affects our emotions and can create a memorable, lasting experience.

“The power of sound is incredible because in film, radio, and television, sound drives the message,” said Marisa. “It drives the mood, and it drives the feeling.”

According to Marisa, not only does our media and sounds matter but so do our thoughts. Everything storytellers produce comes from thoughts, and as those thoughts are put out into the world of digital media, they have the potential to bring about change.

“In this life, you are going to be challenged,” said Marisa. “By showing up and raising your voice, you can use your media to create a positive impact.”

After learned about the impact of sounds from Marisa, students heard from Jane Feldman next.

Jane Feldman

Jane Feldman, who began her career as a New York fashion photographer, shared a handful of her favorite photos with the students and explained how she has been able to use the camera to capture the beauty of our diverse world.

“My vision of our world is exactly what I am looking at when I look out at all of your beautiful faces,” said Jane to the students. “The camera is a beautiful tool to show people of all colors, ages, and backgrounds.”

She also discussed her work with world leaders like former South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Jane shared how working with these global icons influenced not only her photography but her outlook on life.

“Life really is a journey and we all want the same things. A roof over our heads, full stomachs, to be treated with kindness and understanding,” said Jane. “If you take home one thing today, it’s to stay positive and true to yourself.”

After learning about the power of photography from Jane, students met Nate Hargress, who shared his unique career with Netflix.

Nate Hargress

As an entertainment attorney practicing in Los Angeles, California, Nate Hargress serves in the Business and Legal Affairs Department for Netflix. He spoke with students about this unique career path and explained that not all entertainment careers are in front of a camera.

“I was always attracted to the behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Nate. “The beauty of working in this industry is that you come across a lot of different individuals so there’s never a dull moment.”

During Nate’s presentation, he went over how he got to where he is now and described what his job looks like day-to-day. He also shared the challenges he faces in his career.

“I’m negotiating a lot of contracts with opposing sides and people want different things,” said Nate. “Trying to make a deal and come to a happy medium is the most challenging part, but it’s also pretty exciting because you get a sense of accomplishment after it’s all done.”

Following a short lunch break and breakout workshop sessions, students returned to the main theaters for a special surprise.

Phillip Boutte Jr., Mike Uwandi, and Aldis Hodge  

Founded by Phillip Boutte Jr., Mike Uwandi, and Aldis Hodge, 9B Collective is the first black-owned concept art studio. Mike and Phillip spoke to students about how they work on feature films, animation, TV, video games, graphic design, and more. 9B Collective is focused on creating more accurate representation in media and providing more opportunities for artists of color.

“We try to find opportunities for artists to be able to use their diverse voices on projects,” said Phillip. “We focus on making sure that we can get an artist of color behind the scenes to be able to give their perspective and input.”

Mike Uwandi spoke more on the educational side of 9B Collective. He explained that as a Nigerian child, he didn’t feel fully supported and encouraged to pursue his love for art and drawing. He also explained that the lack of opportunity and support for students of color pursuing a career in art was his motivation behind getting involved with 9B Collective.

“As well as doing mentorships, we also make sure that we help cultivate talent instead of expecting you to have the necessary skills,” said Mike. “We want to see the potential.”

Although SAG Award-winning actor Aldis Hodge couldn’t attend the Mosaic Event in person because of his work on Black Adam, he did surprise students by appearing on screen via Zoom. Students were ecstatic and jumping out of their seats when they realized his video was live and not a recording. Students spent time chatting with Aldis about his work as an actor and why he is proud of 9B Collective.

“As an actor, sometimes you walk into a set or you’re playing a character and the clothes don’t look like you, the set doesn’t look like you,” said Aldis. “That starts in the drafting world with artists doing conceptual work. A lot of times, artists will create things but not with the intent of celebrating the culture that they’re representing because they may not know the culture. And that’s the biggest joy of being a part of 9B. When we draw something, we want to celebrate and elevate the cultures that we’re representing on screen.”

In addition to the diverse lineup of speakers and workshops, the Mosaic Film Experience recognized its 2022 Mosaic Mobile winners:  

1st Place – Laylah Addison and Ja’Mira Roberts-Butle, Innovation Central High School

2nd Place – Jana Kalumbula and Rosabel Yeo, City Middle High School

3rd Place – Erika Govea, City Middle High School

Rick Wilson Memorial Award Winner (public vote), Jai Patel, Wyoming High School

As another Mosaic Event comes to a close, we hope to see you at the event next year. Until then, stay up to date on all things Mosaic Film Experience by signing up for our newsletter.

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