Senior takes on “Unaffirmative Action” in her capstone


Photo by Kate Nuelle

Briahn Hawkins is a senior double majoring in communication and theatre at Trinity. She has participated in mainstage productions for the Department of Theatre, including the devised piece “Between Worlds” and is the current station manager for TigerTV. Last semester, Hawkins created a documentary called “Unaffirmative Action: The Black Experience at Trinity University” (which has over a thousand views on Youtube) for her communication capstone project.

When did you start getting interested in film as opposed to the theatre?

I do more along the lines of broadcasting and television. I didn’t really get into it until I got to Trinity and started doing TigerTV. At that point, I was just getting into journalism, and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to really pursue it. And then I just really fell in love with it. I was behind the cameras in the control room, and I think I was just working on audio at the time. I was just going into TigerTV and just exploring, seeing what would happen.

Is there a work in film that really inspires you?

So, I just did a mini-documentary for a capstone project last semester, and I wanted to get an idea of what an observational documentary will look like … [So] I watched this one documentary, “Hale County: This Morning, This Evening,” and from what I can remember, it was one person following two people for five years, and they were just getting simple shots of them around their neighborhood, family time and when they were out playing sports. [A film] like that gave me a good idea as to what I wanted to do for my project.

Why did you choose a documentary style for your capstone project?

Honestly, my capstone was the result of a snowball effect of ideas. I had a completely different idea in mind before I started [it], but I knew it wasn’t feasible. “Unaffirmative Action” came up kind of randomly, and I listed it as my last option because I was scared to approach a project like that. My capstone professor (Zhaoxi Liu) and other students in the class motivated me to pursue it. In regard to it being a documentary, I didn’t have a lot of filming experience for someone who’s heavily involved in TigerTV, so I thought it’d be an interesting challenge to take on.

What was the premise for the documentary?

My initial first purpose was to restart the conversation between administration and Trinity’s Black Student community in order to improve the students’ lives on campus. But, I decided to focus more on my second objective, which was to present Trinity from Black students’ point of view for prospective Black students to find on YouTube. I’ve said this plenty of times, but I want it to be clear that I’m not out to ruin Trinity’s reputation. However, I believe that a lot of us students were under the impression that Trinity would be more diverse and inclusive than it actually is, and I want Black prospective students to be more informed before they decide to attend Trinity.

Was there anything unexpected about the process?

I was probably too ambitious about this project for my own good. There were so many people that I wanted to hear from, and I expected to somehow cram everyone’s stories into a 10-minute video. While I had really high expectations, I think that set me up to still have a great outcome in the end.

How do you feel about how the project turned out?

Overall, I think it turned out really well. Everyone’s been incredibly supportive and there’s been faculty and staff that have reached out asking how they can help better the situation for Black students. While I couldn’t squeeze in every answer into the final video, I think that the parts that were added helped show a common experience for Black Trinity students. This is my last semester at Trinity, I want to focus more on students that’ll be here after I graduate. I don’t think it’s possible to solve every issue that Black students have, but I hope that “Unaffirmative Action” will be a fresh start to fixing some of those problems.

After ending her time at Trinity, Briahn plans to start off working for a news show in San Antonio. Ultimately, she wants to work as a producer for a pop culture lifestyle entertainment show and prove that pop culture is an important part of broadcast television.