Kelly Matheson will earn her MFA in natural history filmmaking in May, but she’s already working her dream gig. Since November, the science-teacher-turned-lawyer-turned-helmer has served as program coordinator for North America at Peter Gabriel’s Witness organization, teaching human rights activists and lawyers to make films that effectively portray their causes.
Matheson credits MSU’s unique grad degree for the opportunity. After mentor Dennis Aig helped her secure funding and equipment, Matheson shot her first student film in Costa Rica, which assisted in dissuading the local government from supporting the George W. Bush-linked Harken Co. campaign to drill inside a turtle-populated zone. In 2007, she landed a Fulbright grant to study the effectiveness of Intl. Conservation and Education Fund teams showing educational films in Congolese villages.
Prior to the Africa trip, Matheson had already begun logging hours at Witness. “At Witness, we sit down and talk about how we can adapt our (filmmaking) model for their particular issue, whether it’s child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo or the right to (obtain) water in El Salvador,” she says.