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La Sierra University film student’s PBS, NAD projects aim for positive impact

La Sierra University film student’s PBS, NAD projects aim for positive impact

La Sierra University senior filmmaker Michelle Noland, right, gives direction to Zoephia Decker who plays the young Rebecca in Noland's short film, "She Isn't Here." [Photo courtesy of NeoAisling Productions]

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Michelle Noland, a senior La Sierra University Film and Television Production major, recently launched into the world of professional storytelling where she is using her talents to impact others’ lives.

PBS affiliate KQED inked a distribution deal with Noland in August for inclusion of her award-winning short film “She Isn’t Here” in the nationwide series, “Film School Shorts.” The film, which is expected to be released in April 2019, explores the anxiety disorder agoraphobia.

Stewardship Series

Additionally, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) in Columbia, Maryland, hired Noland to serve as a cinematographer and editor on a millennial-focused web series titled “I Am a Steward.” The 24-episode video series is a promotional campaign designed to increase awareness of the Adventist Giving mobile app and foster understanding of stewardship through personal stories. The first episode will appear in January on the Adventist Giving app, the Adventist Giving website, on the Hope Channel, and through the NAD’s social media outlets. The series will also be available to NAD conferences for distribution to churches.

“Personal stories are extremely effective at teaching stewardship and we have had a great response from the test audiences of the “I am a Steward” series,” said John Matthews, NAD Stewardship director.

The NAD project took Noland to 12 states and to Calgary, Alberta, Canada “Before making this series, I had a very narrow view of what it was like to live in other states besides California,” she said. “But these trips have definitely broadened my mind. I was invited into strangers’ homes, ate with their families, heard their stories, and saw the practical ways in which they lived out their faith. I would say that this has reaffirmed my own beliefs and reminded me of my own need for God.”

Student Film

“She Isn’t Here,” which Noland wrote and directed under her company, NeoAisling Productions, was slated to air nationally on PBS stations as part of the series’ sixth season. It will also be available for three years through the PBS video-on-demand service and YouTube channel.

“When I was first contacted by KQED at the beginning of the summer notifying me that I was selected to be part of their show, my initial response was to jump up and down in excitement,” said Noland. “I felt as though I was going to burst. I had never been offered anything like this in my entire life.”

"I'm delighted, but not surprised, to learn of the successful distribution of Michelle Noland's film on PBS and elsewhere. She has a passion and a talent for filmmaking that has rapidly developed under the expert guidance of our faculty,” said Rodney Vance, Department of Film and Television Production chair.

The fictional film draws readers into the reclusive and anxious world of a character named Rebecca, played by Liz Sandifer. Rebecca grapples with agoraphobia, a disorder that induces panic attacks or feelings of being trapped or helpless in public spaces or crowds. “We get to see an insider’s perspective on how difficult day-to-day life is, how debilitating the disorder can become for some people, and how Rebecca deals with pressures from work, family, and relationships in general,” Noland said.

The film falls in line with Noland’s goal of “telling stories that haven’t been told,” of touching people’s lives toward influencing positive change and healing, including in the arena of mental health. “I wish to help make anxiety disorders and mental illness something that we can all freely talk about without feeling judged or marginalized,” she said. “I hope that my film will somehow be a part of making others feel like they aren’t alone and that it is okay to bring up these topics.”

She added that inspiration for the film project derived from anxiousness and awkwardness she has experienced, and from her mother’s struggle with agoraphobic tendencies when Noland was a child.

In addition to receiving the KQED contract, “She Isn’t Here” won Best Dramatic Short at the NAD Sonscreen Film Festival. It was a finalist and won Best Actress at the Eclipse International Film Festival, and was a semi-finalist at the Caribbean Market and Film Festival. "She Isn't Here" was also an official selection of the following festivals: Cameroon International Film Festival, Converge Art and Music Festival Film Showcase, IAWRT International Documentary Awards, and the AFC Global Fest in India.

Noland and her husband, Jesus Noland, a software engineer who designs story-based games and apps operate the family-oriented ministry, FamGrowth.org, which aims to provide events and resources that help strengthen families. “A big influence for our work and ministry comes from our belief in God and our belief that we weren’t made to be idle and unproductive. We were created to create and reflect God’s love to others,” said Noland.