Featured Student Work: Combined Culture’s “Am I Next?”



Story by SOJC student Chandler Carroll
Video by SOJC student Johnny Hammond for Combined Culture

In 2015, I became part of a group of students that became my inspiration. We call ourselves Combined Culture. Maybe you’ve seen some of the things we’ve done. We created a few films last year, including “The Shoes,” “Dream. Create. Conquer.” and “Let’s Rewind.” We even won a College Emmy for our short film “Numb in America.”

If you can’t tell by our content, we are a creative agency that isn't afraid to voice its opinion on things other people won’t.

One of the things we have an opinion on right now is police violence and race. That’s what our most recent project, “Am I Next?” is about.

The project started with me, the writer and strategist in the group. After the Alton Sterling shooting, I didn't know how to feel. Then the Philando Castillo shooting happened. I was confused, I was angry, I was hurt, I was saddened. I’m a mixed-race suburban kid, from Orlando, Florida, with tattoos and darker melanin and a white stepmother who lives in a gated community. All I could think when Trayvon Martin was shot was, “That could have been me.” That’s why I’m dressed up as Martin in “Am I Next?” I am him, and he is me.

But there’s more to it than that. I am a person, just like police officers are people. We are all human; we are all flawed. I feel that a lot of black activist groups don't allow others in the conversation, which prevents them from understanding our pain.

I was thinking about all this over the summer, and I decided to write some spoken word. When I was done, I asked photographer Blair Barnes to take some photos to go with it. Then the newest member of Combined Culture, Johnny Hammond, said he wanted to make a video. We printed the spoken word and planned the visuals. We found a location, rounded up the troops and started filming.

Filming lasted five days. We recorded the voiceover 20-30 times, and Mitch Feingold, our producer, mixed and mastered it. Then came countless editing sessions over about 12 late nights to get the photography, design and video production right. We went through two rough edits of a complete video.

When we were done, I asked Johnny, “What are we going to call this?” He said, “Isn’t it titled ‘Am I Next?’”

This is the first project for Johnny and me working as a writer and videographer team, so we’re calling it our warmup. But we have so much more in store. And we want the other students in the J-School to try to top us. Go ahead, beat our campaigns. Make us push ourselves. As a senior, I have 240 days to leave a stamp, and that all starts Sept. 26, 2016. Join me?