Documenting Vibrancy

By Makena Schoene
Blog & Social Media Coordinator, The Drake Community Press

As a digital media production and music major at Drake University, Anna is no stranger to the arts. Capturing the life and diversity of a multicultural world through the lens of her video camera, Anna brings her audience into the overlooked communities of Des Moines right outside their door. By channeling unique vibrancy into a tangible material for the Drake Community Press project, A Spectrum of Faith, Anna has become an irreplaceable element in communicating a message to the masses. Now, it’s time the world met our talented documentarian, Anna Steenson.

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa
Deserted Island Necessity:  A sailboat

MS: What is your favorite genre of film and why?

AS: It is hard to narrow this down to a favorite. I enjoy films for different reasons. On an artistic level, I am drawn to independent films, especially personal stories and documentaries. On a commercial level, I am a pretty hard core action movie fan. But sometimes I watch a film purely for the cinematography expression, editing sequencing, and overall aesthetic and actually ignore the plot. That was probably a geeky thing to say.

MS: What first got you interested in filmmaking?

AS: Filmmaking was a hobby of mine growing up and I enjoyed filming and editing short stories with my friends. I actually shot my first film on 8mm tape with a camcorder when I was eight years old. But it wasn’t until high school that I realized I actually wanted to pursue film more seriously. Since then, I have been creating short films, documentaries, animation, and music videos for various contests, festivals, clients, and my own personal enjoyment.

MS: How did you get involved with The Drake Community Press (DCP)?

AS: I was approached to create the documentary in the fall of 2015. I was captivated by the project’s mission and I was excited to embark on another documentary adventure.

MS: What has been your favorite part of working with DCP?

AS: This project is almost entirely creative – It was one of the reasons I was drawn towards this project in the first place. Working with DCP has given me the chance to expand my skill set and experience industry-standard skill training. The work is diverse and each day is different. I had to teach myself new skills along the way which was challenging, but also enjoyable. I met so many beautiful people in each community and had the opportunity to experience awe-inspiring events through the scope of this project.

MS: How has filming for DCP changed your perspective on life or religion?

AS: I have a passion for telling people’s stories through documentaries, and this project is exciting on each level: the religion aspect, the book publishing aspect, and the outreach involved. I had really no idea the direction the project would take when I agreed to film the documentary, but I wouldn’t trade any of it.

I can’t help but feel depressed when I read the news headlines about intolerance or hatred across religious lines. I truly believe if opposing sides take the time to recognize the humanity in each other, then the fear will fade away. The Indian saying “Namaste” literally translates to “I bow to the divine in you”, meaning that they greet the best in each individual they come across. With this type of mentality, in regards to any walk of faith, I think it is possible to create a bridge of understanding that will lead towards universal peace. It becomes hard to objectify someone as the “other” when you have seen a glimpse of their colorful and similar life to your own. This book project and my video work for the project aim to do exactly that, to show the humanity in Des Moines’ neighbors and to step back in awe by witnessing the vibrancy of multiculturalism that a fly-over state has to offer.

MS: What faith, religion or belief system do you adhere to? How has working on this project opened your eyes to other cultures?

AS: I am a Christian. I set a lot of what I believe on the concept of unconditional love. For me, this involves anyone of any faith or walk of life. Participating in each of these communities has been the best thing I’ve done while studying at Drake. Witnessing each of the communities’ hospitality and their genuine love towards each other and Des Moines has been reaffirming. The stories and video work I have captured have been amazing to witness and take part of. I’m very excited for the full documentary to be released so these stories can impact others as much as they have impacted me.

MS: What are your dreams for the future? How can you take what you learned with DCP and apply it to your potential careers?

AS: The more I study in college, the more I realize that I honestly have no clear picture of what I would like to do with my life. I have diverse interests and skill levels and I know if I settle for only one of my passions, I will not be truly satisfied. However, my overarching goal has remained the same: to advocate for the unheard by telling their stories. I could see myself in a variety of careers. Documentarian, video editor, animator, graphic designer, or even musician. Working with DCP has allowed me to utilize my passion for storytelling which will be applicable in any avenue I turn to.


Anna’s film will be ready for public viewing soon. Until then, keep up with her on social media!
Twitter: @anna_steenson
Instagram: @anna_steenson