Filmmaker’s Workshop Immerses St. John’s Students in the Art of Documentary Creation

Students watching a presentation
February 26, 2024

In the middle of Hollywood award season, St. John’s University students had the opportunity to learn about the practical aspects of film production from award-winning documentary filmmaker Chris Schueler. The workshop took place on February 21 at the University’s Queens, NY, campus and was open to students from The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies looking for inspiration and tips on success in the field.

Mr. Schueler believes in using filmmaking to promote social change. As president of Christopher Productions, he has developed over 100 television programs on a variety of social issues, including vaccination misinformation, mental health, and bullying prevention. He has worked with organizations such as the United Nations, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and PBS Television Network. Mr. Schueler is a winner of 20 Emmy® awards, a documentary judge at film festivals, including the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards; a former teacher; and a passionate mentor.

“Students of St. John’s or students of film in general, I want to expose them to documentary film and social change because I think we can change the world with that,” Mr. Schueler said.

Students were introduced to strategies for creating content for a specific audience, and practical skills ranging from location scouting to budgeting and more.

Barry E. Sherman, Associate Professor, Television and Film, Collins College of Professional Studies, came to the event with students from his Documentary Production class. He found Mr. Schueler’s class inspiring and informative because it featured “business information, financing projects, distributing projects, production tips, and some really enlightening anecdotes that were very enjoyable,” he said.

As smartphones have become a new production tool, students now have more means to begin creating and promoting their work, Mr. Schueler said. He also emphasized the importance of passion, discipline, and organization over project financing. “What we’re talking about in terms of social change and the media can be effective in any class, in any form, in any way,” he explained.

The class was helpful for students with filmmaking aspirations, and those pursuing careers in other media or communications-related disciplines. Paul Cobourne, a sophomore from Brooklyn, NY, studies Game Development and Emerging Media, and said Mr. Schueler’s class connects to his field on multiple levels. In game development, Paul said, you also must identify your target audience and consider how you will reach them. “It all takes coordination,” Paul said.

Mr. Schueler’s connection to St. John’s dates back to when he first met and filmed Anne Y. F. Lin ’84P, ’86Pharm.D., FNAP, Dean, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, for his 2021 documentary Vaccination from the Misinformation Virus. At the time, she was still Founding Dean and Professor of Clinical and Administrative Sciences at the Notre Dame of Maryland University School of Pharmacy. They stayed in touch and connected again when Dean Lin returned to St. John’s.

The evening before his St. John’s lecture, Mr. Schueler hosted a screening of Invisible Corps, a documentary on the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and its commitment to combating health crises. Whenever possible, he hosts similar workshops for students as he screens his work, believing every student project has the potential to transform the world.

As Mr. Schueler’s presentation concluded, he said he hoped to return to St. John’s and host a more extended workshop over several days, working more with students interested in filmmaking. He reminded aspiring documentarians to have confidence in their ability to positively influence people’s lives.

“Know that you can do it; know that you can create change with it,” he said.