NHS teacher serves dual role as documentary filmmaker

Aaron Wright Gray
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN – Judith Blake haphazardly discovered her passion for film. It started with a membership in a food co-op. She wanted to publicize the benefits of being a member and thought that video might be a good medium.

To gain the skills needed to produce the video, she took classes at Norman Cable, where she learned movie-making basics and discovered her knack for producing films. She continued her education by taking classes at Rose State College.

“So, then, I started producing all over the place,” Blake said.

She began with the community access channel, but soon extended her passion into Norman, filming “The River Crossing 1889-1989,” her first documentary, narrated by James Garner, in honor of the Norman Centennial.

Following this documentary, Blake made several more before deciding she wanted to share her love of film with others through teaching. She got her certificate and began teaching speech, drama and yearbook at Alcott Middle School in 1997.

In 2002, she reached her goal of teaching television production at Norman High School. Blake serves as adviser to the student program “Tiger Den,” as well.

But teaching didn’t hold Blake back from producing her own work. As part of a Hitachi teacher exchange program, Blake created the film “A Mosaic of Japan,” which won a Marshall Gregory Award from the Oklahoma Education Association.

In the summer of 2009, she received a $5,000 grant from Fund for Teachers to travel to Cape Town, South Africa, to film a documentary focusing on four different schools in the city.

Blake said the question she wanted the film to answer was, “What do our high school kids look like compared to Cape Town, South Africa?”

The work is titled “Ubuntu, Sharing Voices from Cape Town, South Africa.” It is currently in the final stages of completion.

Parts of this documentary will be shown at the Cinematic Artists of Norman meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday at Norman High School Fine Arts Building.

During, “An Evening with Judith Blake,” Blake will address the group of local filmmakers and film affiliates about her film career. The first CAN meeting for the public is free.

When it comes to maintaining a balance between teaching and producing her own work, Blake said they go hand-in-hand.

“I think it makes me a better teacher,” Blake said, noting that producing her own work puts her in the shoes of the students. She faces trials, such as learning new equipment, experimenting with various styles and having film plans suddenly change.

Experience, Blake said, translates into the classroom.

“You have to stay a step ahead. And the best way to learn anything is to do it,” she said.