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GSU Opened Doors for Aspiring Filmmaker

Mercedes Kane, a 2009 alumna of Governors State University with a Master Fine Arts in Independent Film and Digital Imaging.  Kane is a producer, creative director, writer and documentary film director. Her latest project is the docu-series,“For Their Own Good” which looks to expose the hidden horrors of Kentucky’s boys’ camps.

Her third feature length documentary—the award-winning “Breakfast at Ina’s”— premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival before being acquired by American Public Television. It has screened at 50+ film festivals and educational screenings nationwide, garnering a number of high honors, including audience awards and Best Documentary Feature.

 “Governors State provides an education to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. It opens the door of opportunity for so many diverse, talented students. I hope it’s around for 150 more years because I think it’s exactly what the world needs right now,’’ Kane said.

Why did you choose GSU?

The MFA program at GSU was new and unique, especially in the south suburbs where I lived at the time. There was nothing like it near me that provided the same value and convenience. The classes were small. There was an opportunity to really get to know your professors. It was very hands-on and inclusive of learning. All those things made me choose Governors State.

What did you get from GSU that you couldn’t have gotten anywhere else?

What I really appreciate about GSU is that I learned a little bit about a lot of things. I was able to focus in on the areas that interested me most and learn more about them. That’s a huge advantage in the film program; they teach you every aspect of it. You walk out of there knowing how to do almost every job on a film set.

What’s next for you professionally?

I’m currently working on the docu-series, “For Their Own Good” which looks to uncover over 30 years of abuse and injustice to juveniles in a system of boys camps in Kentucky. I also have a producing partner in L.A. and we have several shows we're trying to get off the ground.  I usually work in the unscripted realm, sharing real people’s stories, so there is a timeliness to that. I’m always keeping my eyes out for new and important stories and trying to get them out into the world.

How did your GSU degree help you advance your career?

In 2008, I worked on GSU Professor Dan Nearing's film “Chicago Heights” and was able to be on the set as a first assistant director and producer. That real-world experience was huge and something I might not have gotten at a bigger school. Being a part of that production allowed me to learn from my professors’ many years of experience and knowledge.

What are you most proud of when you look back at your GSU experience?

I made my first film, “Hearts of Hope,” while at GSU on very little budget and very little crew. It went inside the world of congenital heart defects and the work of a world-renowned surgeon. We were even allowed to film an actual surgery. I’m proud I completed that. Looking back, it was pretty ambitious for a student project!

What advice would you share with current GSU students?

Take advantage of everything that GSU has to offer, from getting an internship and real world experience to becoming involved in the school and being a part of an organization. Participate in different things to find out what you’re passionate about. It’s a great time in your life to explore new things. Try to experience as much as possible. You may find something that ignites a passion in you that you never knew you had.