March 5, 2009
English Alumna Finds Success in Filmmaking
For Andrea Palpant Dilley, '00, Whitworth helped set the foundation for a rewarding career at Spokane-based North by Northwest productions, where she directs and produces nonfiction documentaries.
"Even though I came into my production job without training in the technical aspects of the position (of which there are many), I was well prepared in more fundamental areas, such as being able to think creatively, generate stories, [and] communicate ideas," Dilley says. "My superiors at the company recognized the value of a liberal arts education and the broad skill set that comes with it."
Dilley, whose childhood was split between Spokane and Kenya, graduated with a double major in Spanish and English literature and writing. She has received the 2000 Alumni Ideals Award, the 2008 Recent Alumna Award, and the 2000 President's Cup – Whitworth's highest academic honor for graduating seniors. She is also the producer of a new short film, A Portrait of Leonard Oakland, which premiered during the inaugural Leonard A. Oakland Film Festival in February. Whitworth hosted the festival in honor of the long-serving English professor, who pioneered the study of film at the university and recently moved into semi-retirement.
"Andrea Palpant Dilley was one of our most interesting and exciting students of her generation in the English department," Oakland says. "She brings an organized personality to the work of filmmaking, accepting the drudgery of fund-raising along with the delights of storytelling and eliciting personal revelations on camera from people who didn't know what they had in them, or how important it was to tell their story. Her understanding of the editing process, with all its moral decisions that compromise the literal truth with the needs of narrative, show that she is indeed a person of mind and heart."
Dilley says one of her most fascinating projects so far was In Time of War, a 2006 broadcast-length documentary that chronicled the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. Many of the people she interviewed were Whitworth alumni. For some of those alums, Whitworth was the ticket out of internment camps.
"It was a stunning experience for me, crafting a narrative from a series of very private, difficult stories about the war, about discrimination, and about endurance in the face of suffering," she says.
Dilley currently has several projects in the works at North by Northwest, including a documentary in development called Race Work that details the history of civil rights in the Southwest.
Dilley cautions students who are interested in the filmmaking business to let go of any romanticized notions they might have about the industry.
"Not everyone is cut out for it, especially those who think producing a film or a video is as entertaining as watching a film or video," she says. "If you want to make it in this industry, you have to be tenacious and committed."
Dilley says Whitworth prepared her for her career by teaching her key skills such as critical thinking, creative reading and writing, written and interpersonal communication, leadership, and problem solving. But she also credits the university for instilling something even more fundamental within her.
"I appreciate the general ethos of the school, which strikes a good balance between conviction and open inquiry, between healthy doubt (asking hard questions) and healthy faith (coming to some livable conclusions about the cosmos), or, as Bill Robinson would say, between grace and truth, she says. "I love that Whitworth on the one hand has a strong commitment to the Christian tradition and on the other hand doesn't dogmatically require students to sign a faith statement. This dynamic creates a very healthy spiritual atmosphere."
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or firstname.lastname@example.org.