For most college students, adding more work to their plate sounds like a nightmare.
They spend long nights and early mornings focusing on their studies. But for University of Portland sophomore Ryan Hunter, directing his first documentary seemed like a fun challenge.
The movie, "Electrified — The Current State of Electric Vehicles," brings together electric vehicle owners and industry professionals to break down misconceptions about the specialized cars. It's now being promoted by nonprofits like Plug In America and Forth.
"The whole point of this movie was to explain some of the common things that people should know when getting an electric car and tell them some important things to consider before getting one," said Hunter. "My main goal is to lead people to buy an electric car based on some of the stuff they learn from this film."
Hunter started making the film last July. He became interested in the topic because he was thinking about buying an electric vehicle. He started looking into some the high-tech features, such as Tesla's autopilot hardware.
Tesla is an American company that specializes in electric vehicle manufacturing and battery energy storage.
From that beginning, Hunter decided to put his self-taught filmmaking skills to good use.
"It started off with just interviewing a couple of people that I know own electric cars," Hunter said. "But as I started interviewing people and talking to more people, I was able to get connections to (Forth) in Portland. … And that kind of shifted the idea of a film from just owners' impressions to also having these expert opinions dragging the narrative of the film."
Zach Henkin, Forth's deputy director, was happy to help Hunter once he learned about the film. The Portland-based nonprofit consults with cities, utilities and automakers to promote electric vehicles and shared transportation.
"We're seeing this as another way that we can continue to get the word out for folks that are curious or interested and want to know what's going with all these cars that don't need gas," Henkin explained.
Forth is promoting the film through social media and newsletters. The nonprofit is considering hosting a screening of the movie to get the word out.
One of the biggest challenges is letting people know the benefits of electric vehicles, said Henkin.
"These cars are just simply better cars," he said. "You can get tax credits from the (federal government), and you can get cash from the state. They're also inexpensive and you don't have to pay gas."
Henkin appreciates Hunter taking the time to research and inform others through a documentary. At the time of the interview, Henkin didn't know Hunter's age, and he was surprised to discover that the young director had an interest in the topic.
"It's really telling about what we're seeing with younger generations," Henkin added. "They're latching on to topics that are important (and) might not be getting the amount of attention that they could be."
He concluded, "It makes me wonder how maybe older generations, myself included, are approaching similar things and maybe missing stuff."
Henkin hopes Hunter can leverage the documentary to bigger and better things. As for Hunter, he has other dreams.
"Computer science is kind of more of a thing I'd like to make a career out of," said Hunter. "But filmmaking is definitely something I like to do in my free time."
Hunter remembers making short videos at 13 and having an overall interest in the craft.
"I took a filmmaking class in high school, but (it) was very basic, so it wasn't a lot that contributed to my knowledge," recalled Hunter, who graduated from Southridge High School in Beaverton two years ago. "Everything I know has been self-taught."
Hunter doesn't know if he'll continue making films in the future, but he is already thinking about a possible sequel to his first documentary.
"People said that they'd love to see a follow-up to this where I look to see where electric cars are in a couple of years, because there are more changes that are coming," Hunter said.
He expects the price of electric vehicles to continue going down. A market once dominated by Tesla and other luxury brands is now increasingly populated with somewhat less expensive models, like the Nissan Leaf and the Fiat 500e. As more and cheaper electric cars are introduced, Hunter said, that growing market will make owning an electric vehicle "more accessible to much more people than it currently is now."
Despite having no intentions for his film to "make it big," Hunter is glad his movie is helping others make informed decisions.
"If just one person gets an electric vehicle based on this movie, I would say that's a win," Hunter said. "Any change that I can help make with the environment is good."
As for what Hunter learned from the film, he's planning on getting a Tesla Model 3 — the automaker's most popular (and affordable) car — in a couple of months.
"Electrified -- The Current State of Electric Vehicles" is available to watch on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.
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