by Mary Katzke
As a filmmaker, my practice is based on cause-driven projects that give a voice to people and subjects that otherwise wouldn’t have a voice.
As a single mother, my goal is to provide the best footing I can for my son as he grows into the wonderful young man he promises to be.
In January 2010, our family suffered the tragic loss of my young nephew. This was a shock to our family and deeply impacted to us. It forced me to realize that I have but a small window of influence on my 10 year-old son. I decided to take a huge leap toward a long held dream of taking him out of school, learning to home school, selling our home, and hitting the road- with a goal of “heading East until we made it back to Alaska.”
We were successful, and it was a tremendous experience. I am certain this will be one of the top highlights of our lives when all is said and done in the end. We hope to help other families see how they, too, can take a “family gap year” and that it is worth facing down the perceived risks. When we got back, people were far less interested in seeing photos of where we went than they were in hearing about HOW we did it. We learned a lot and we are ready to share our experience in an engaging film.
My son will narrate the story and I will be shaping it around some themes of cultural diversity, school curriculum and lunch differences, his POV vs. mine while observing different cultures, and how growing up on the road impacted us (he lost 9 teeth and grew 6 inches!).
We will include details on practical aspects from insurance to communication, and more fun details like how to be a student in a school for a day in a foreign country, but the focus and energy of the piece will be the shared experiences of mother and son on the world trail.
We believe we have lived a dream and want to give courage to others to take the same leap, or at the very least, experience it vicariously through our film.
The impact of this trip is felt every single day. Truly not a day goes by without some reference, be it food we’ve tried, friends we’ve made, photos that are hanging on our walls, or geography quizes aced at school. Most importantly, what I see in my son is a “global citizen” who sees the world as his oyster, no fear whatsoever in travel or meeting new people.
Read more about the film “Fifth Grade Around the World,” a the mother and son journey.
About the author:
Mary Katzke, founder of Affinityfilms, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Radio Television and Film, as well as New York University’s Graduate Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in Writing and Directing Film and Television. She has currently produced over 30 documentaries and feature films.