Kent State’s Dynamic Film Duo
Dana White and Chris Knoblock are Kent State’s film dynamic duo. Throughout their past few years of teaching at Kent State, the couple has created an environment for students to experiment with filmmaking in a way that allows them to find their passion in the industry.
After moving from New York City to Los Angeles as actors, the two wanted to get their hands on the camera and editing process to start making their own movies. Since starting their work behind the camera, Knoblock has cultivated an extensive resume as Director of Photography and White has done a lot of work in editing for network television.
White, an assistant professor, was hired as a full-time faculty member in Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism in 2018, in the midst of wrapping up the duo’s 2018 film “In the Orchard,” which tells the tale of two different people’s stories of grief and trauma and how they find hope within each other. Knoblock continued to work as a Director of Photography before joining his wife at Kent State, as lecturer, the next year. That was the same year White received a grant to work on the short film “Turning Blue.”
“Turning Blue” documents the relationship between a mother and a daughter leading up to the mother’s death and is based the death of White’s mother. Since its premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2021, it has been an official selection in eight festivals across the nation and one in the United Kingdom. It won Best Short Film at the New York Indie Shorts Awards. Most recently, the couple recently made a trip to California for the Sonoma International Film Festival with “Turning Blue.”
“It’s been an incredible artistic journey for us and a very painful and difficult one at times,” White said. “But an important story to tell because one of the things that Chris and I have learned on the film festival circuit is that we are not alone in this story, and many people have gone through this and have seen their loved ones out of the world.”
White and Knoblock found it helpful to their grief process to create this short film, as they portrayed the loss of this important figure in their lives in an artistic way.
“It’s that universal thing that everybody goes through that nobody really wants to talk about,” Knoblock said. “Dana, what she did, was she took this pain and she turned it into art.”
At Kent State, White is also the founder and advisor for the Female Filmmakers Initiative (FFI). In a male-dominated industry, she says it’s important to encourage young women to find their voice.
“One of the things that happened to me when I first got here, was I saw the potential of so many of the wonderful, young female film artists here, and I felt they needed a community,” she said. “Part of what FFI is all about is creating a female-film culture here at Kent State, which I think is really, really important.”
With their knowledge and years of experience in the industry, White and Knoblock can provide Digital Media Production majors with insight and lessons they otherwise wouldn’t get until entering the industry themselves. They continuously encourage students to explore new avenues of creativity through a perspective of shared understanding of the struggle of beginning a career in the film industry.
“We both come here from the private sector, and we come here as independent filmmakers,” Knoblock said.
“We bring in a wealth of experience. … For me, when I was teaching safety class, I could tell them from personal experience, instances where producers and other people are putting our lives at risk — and what do you do in those situations? How do you respond in those situations, and how do you say no in situations?”
White and Knoblock are in pre-production for their next film “Involuntary,” which they plan to start shooting at the end of June.
“I think that for us, it’s all about taking risks,” White said. “Chris and I are risk-takers in our artistic work — that’s how we get better. We understand that it’s really important for students to have a voice, because that’s why we started making films, so that we could have a voice, and that we had something that we wanted to say.”