NATHANIEL GOODMAN was just seven years old when he wandered into his parents’ room and started fiddling with his dad’s camera. Nathaniel had always been fascinated by his dad’s family videos and saw first-hand how they helped preserve memories, and even feelings. He also felt determined to use his love of filmmaking for communal awareness, to “pan out” from his personal experience of film and see how his lens could include a greater whole.
In 2014, Nathaniel started his initiative Filmmaking For Good, producing promotional videos and testimonials for non-profits. His work has helped non-profits grow exponentially, and he feels inspired by documenting other people’s humanitarian efforts. It’s a gift that Nathaniel’s art and his dedication to tikkun olam have merged so seamlessly.
He is one of the 2017 recipients of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards for his creative, generous work.
We talked with Nate just before he started his first semester at Brown University.
Talking with Nathaniel Goodman:
What was the first movie you saw and loved?
I think it really started with seeing a movie being made. That started when I was really young. I watched my father put together a lot of films for our family. And seeing a story come to life, seeing emotions being portrayed, in an unusual medium, that was really inspiring to me. There was also a tragedy in my family and what helped me get through that was making films and capturing memories.
Who was the first person who handed you your own camera and how did you use it?
I think I actually found my dad’s camera somewhere when I was seven and I was making some films. They were pretty terrible. But then I worked from there. I got involved in making some surfing and skateboarding videos. Following my development as a cinematographer, I floated into the realm of storytelling — where my films could actually impact people’s lives. And I saw as I matured that I could use filmmaking as a way to repair the world.
What is your favorite documentary?
There are a couple documentaries that I love.
One really good documentary that I watched is Food, Inc. I thought that was really well told. Another documentary that I just watched is Icarus. It just came out and it’s on the Russian doping scandal. Going into an individual story in order to talk about something bigger, that really attracts me.
Another documentary that I really love is one that came out a few years ago called Rock in the Red Zone. It’s about this Israeli community called Sderot, near Gaza. It basically highlights the life of the filmmaker herself as she’s learning about this community that was being bombed pretty regularly…I think the filmmaker plays an important role in this story.
What is the hardest thing to capture on film?
I think it’s hard to show the impact of people’s actions through their words. Having a non-profit or a CEO talk about what they’re doing is a lot harder than showing what they’re doing visually. It’s much easier to film the organizations working, and filming the actual projects, while the director is telling the story.
How did you get the idea for Filmmaking For Good?
I had always been interested in film and photography. At the same time, I had been told that people had a role in making the world a better place. I was educated with the values of tikkun olam and tzedakah. I hadn’t really thought of a way to merge these ideas though, until late middle school or early high school. And then I saw that certain organizations were lacking resources to make a better impact in the community – to make a difference. So I thought of no better way than helping these organizations through filmmaking.
What is the editing process like for you?
Editing is actually really fun. I usually put the clips into Adobe Premier Pro and it takes a couple of weeks or more to make a documentary. I work on and off – usually on the weekends.
And then I have a bunch of friends who are involved with Envision Cinema Conservatory, which is a cohort that meets at my high school, (Canyon Crest Academy) after school and works on films. So I show it to them and to my instructors. Other times I just show my parents and ask them what they think. When I send it to a client, it’s usually just a first draft. I take their notes into account, and then there are a more drafts.
What’s next for the FFG campaign?
This summer I’ve taken a little bit of hiatus with non-profits. But I just finished a film for an organization I’ve been working with called JITLI. It’s a youth leadership program, where they take ten American Jews and pair them with ten Israeli Jews and twenty Israeli Arab Muslims so they can exchange ideas, get a more global perspective and learn about each other’s cultures. And last year I was a participant and filmed the whole thing. This year I was a counselor for that program.
How about you? After high school, any plans?
I’m going to Brown University in the fall. I’m thinking about studying Economics and Cognitive Science. I might double concentrate. For now, I’m taking a lot of introductory courses right now, so I can figure out where I want to focus.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
I’d love to go across the country for lunch.
Anything else you’d like to say about getting this honor from the Diller Foundation?
I just have the deepest gratitude for this award. It’s really, really an honor. And I’m honored to be a part of a very talented group of individuals and teen leaders. I think it’s not only an honor but a validation of the importance of our work and what young people can do in the community. I definitely plan on staying in touch with everyone. I’m very, very grateful to be a part of this community.
This post is sponsored by the Helen Diller Family Foundation. To learn more about the foundation’s $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, visit www.dillerteenawards.org.