Get to Know Andrew Bateman
Andrew Bateman is an Instructor in the Department of Film & Television at CU Denver.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Nov 17, 2021
Born and (mostly) raised in Denver, Professor Andrew Bateman attended what was then Metropolitan State College of Denver for his undergraduate degree in Political Science. A school-funded project to film a documentary about the protests at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle gave Bateman the filmmaking bug. Bateman’s professional and academic pursuits have taken him many places, including Santa Cruz and Oakland, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in American Studies at the University of New Mexico; and Philadelphia, where he earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Film and Media Arts from Temple University. Bateman worked for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, where he was able to put together small advocacy videos for the Center. In New Mexico, Bateman also had the opportunity to work in the emerging Hollywood film industry, which he quickly realized did not interest him as much as his work in documentary film. In 2016, the College of Arts & Media welcomed Bateman to the faculty of the Film & Television department. While he says there is a lot to appreciate about CAM, working with his colleagues and students brings him much joy.
1. What has been your favorite film project you’ve worked on to date? What about that project are you proud of or have been transformed by?
Although each project has a place in my heart, the project that most transformed me was a small advocacy piece I made about workers compensation for farmworkers for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. At the time, farmworkers were not allowed by New Mexico state law to file workers compensation claims, despite farm work being the most hazardous job in the United States. During this project I had the good fortune to meet Carols Merentes, who is the director of the Centro de Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos in El Paso, Texas. Carlos, along with being extremely insightful into the often-brutal conditions that farmworkers face, introduced me to people and landscapes that I would otherwise would have never met or seen. The video was used often in the NM Center’s advocacy work and eventually led to the New Mexico Supreme Court to include farmworkers under workers compensation coverage. I remember thinking, that I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time: Essentially be able to hang out with interesting people and learn about their lives, plus shoot and edit a video that would be used to advocate for social justice, and get paid at the same time? This experience solidified that I wanted to pursue filmmaking as a career.
2. What have your students taught you over the years and how has teaching helped you grow as a professional?
I think with anything one does with life it is a constant act of learning. That is in part why I enjoy teaching as much as I do. I long ago let go of the idea that I know everything, if I ever held that idea in the first place. I find teachers everywhere. Sometimes it is from a colleague and sometimes it is from a student. From my students, I have learned how to be a better filmmaker, and a better teacher.
Since I started teaching at CU Denver, I have gone through a bit of a transformation from documentary filmmaker into being more interested in fiction filmmaking. This comes as a direct response to my students who are, for the most part, producing fiction films. Though I had worked on plenty of fiction films in graduate school, I wanted to re-immerse myself in the fiction filmmaking process as a writer/director. This is from where my two current fiction projects emerged. “Loose Change,” which is on the verge of completion, has my former and current students’ fingerprints all over it. Everyone on that crew, except for my colleagues Jessica McGaugh and Nathan Thompson, were current or former students.
3. What is something you know now as a seasoned filmmaker that you wish you had known when you were a student?
I think what would have helped me early on is to truly internalize that film is collaborative. That any successful film is the product of many people, and that a filmmaker does not exist in a vacuum of independent creativity. If you can reach out and be honest of where you need help and support, the potential to have a good film, a good life, goes up tremendously. This, and it is ok to steal from masters in the art form. You don’t have to call it “stealing”, rather you can call it an homage.
4. What can film do that other mediums cannot?
The danger in film, to paraphrase Walter Murch, is that there is a closed circle between sound and image, unlike painting or music. So, the challenge in film is to try and pry open that circle to leave room for the viewer’s imagination. That being said, film takes on the language of the dreamworld more than any other medium, so the great news is that the world is wide open as far as storytelling. I really appreciate films that are not afraid to be films. To embrace the pure cinematics of film, to borrow a Hitchcock phrase. This applies to both fiction and documentary.
5. How do you personally get into a creative state of mind? Are there any rituals you perform or patterns you try to follow when you create?
For me, being creative is a state of being, and not necessarily a state of mind. I have sort of been blessed, and at times cursed, with seeing things a bit different. So, what inspires creativity in me is to expose myself to the world, to the people that inhabit it, and to allow myself to be conscious of my surroundings, including the history of the particular place in which I take breath. Another way to say this is to be curious. Curiosity can lead one down some crazy rabbit holes but in general they are worth it.