Real Story: Lois Stephenson

Lois Stephenson

CSM Alum, Digital Media Production

Former CSM student Lois Stephenson, a woman with light hair, playing an acoustic guitar and singing into a microphone

I came at this backwards. I had a family and finished what I thought was my formal education, had a career, and retired before I found filmmaking. If CSM hadn't had the classes, I would never have been able to experience it.

I like to think I'm just a creative person looking for an outlet. I learned to play guitar in my 50s and violin and piano in my 60s. I wrote some fun one-act plays for local festivals, and I was in a movie that we went up to New York to view. Mostly, I'm a mom and grandmother. I play music and make movies as the spirit moves me.

I didn't start college until 10 years past high school, so I was married and had two grammar school age children at home with me. My decision to attend college was met with questions: Why was I trying to go to school? [Like, was high school really that great?] Wasn't I happy as a homemaker? [Not really.] If I needed to get out of the house, suggested an in-law, why didn't I just clean houses or babysit? [Really?!]

These questions angered me. I wanted to go to school because I needed to see what the world had to offer. The most important things I learned were that I can research; I can think; I can communicate; I can decide. One thing that was very gratifying right off the bat was that my little girls and I would sit around the kitchen table every afternoon  to do our homework together. They got great habits early on.

I wasn't sure if I was up to any education past high school, so I started small. My first classes led to an Associate of Arts from Riverside Community College. Because of some strong teachers and mentors there, I tried for a bachelor's in English. I got my BA when I was 41 and my master's the next year. I began teaching part time at CSM soon thereafter.

I knew about CSM because I had taught here, but after I retired from business, I thought it would be fun to try movie making, and I didn't have a clue about getting started. Classes at CSM are affordable if you're over 65, so I signed up.

I really did not know what to expect from a film class. It was held in a small computer lab, but the class was small enough that each of us had our own computer, and we were encouraged by Professor Areke to collaborate and learn as much as possible from each other during every class. We learned the moviemaking hardware and software, as well as how to find sound effects online. We critiqued a documentary, had writing assignments, and we made movies—all within the first few weeks of the class.

The equipment in that class is amazing, state of the art, and expensive. I loved setting up and filming people and the environment inside, outside, and even underwater. I never took underwater footage with the school's equipment, but GoPro, telephone, and even my handheld (soccer mom) movie camera footage could be inserted seamlessly to the “big” camera clips. It was magical.

I haven't been on campus since before the pandemic hit us in March of 2020, but that hasn't stopped me making progress.  I sing in a little band, so during the pandemic, we recorded ourselves separately, and I made music videos using still photos and our sound tracks. There was definitely a learning curve, but it kept me busy. I made a film to be entered in an Australian film festival, and I have laid the foundation for a sizzle reel for a local group, Southern Maryland Traditional Music and Dance, that discusses the continuing history of live traditional American music in Southern Maryland. Being involved with these folks and these projects is very rewarding.

The advice given to me by one of my English professors when I thought I was too old to try for a master's degree sums up why to go to or return to college:  You're going to get old, anyway. Why not get an education while you're at it? 

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Last updated: 6-29-22

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