Assistant Professor Bobby Lewis is making a documentary over the recent deaths of his sister, mother and father. Lewis plans on the documentary being about both the accident itself and what his life has become afterward.
Originally a musician, Lewis moved from Seattle to Los Angeles after graduate school to pursue a career in documentary films. He then moved to Missouri with his wife and son in December 2017.
Lewis became an assistant professor in the Media, Journalism and Film department in August 2018.
Lewis said the move was motivated by his family. At his father’s funeral, Lewis saw a lot of support for his father’s legacy as an educator. He said he was also just tired of the LA lifestyle. Even though he lived near famous actors, Lewis realized that fame doesn’t matter in the long run.
“Generations of people who came to the funeral said their lives were changed by all the time and energy my dad put into their lives,” Lewis said.
Lewis wanted to move into education to follow his father’s footsteps. He said in LA he would be questioned about his camera work and enjoyed talking about it and showing how to operate it.
Lewis admitted that even though the people he was teaching made more money than him, he was fine with showing them the ropes for free.
Being a professor at MSU, he was able to obtain a grant from fellow faculty to help finance his documentary. He also plans on creating the soundtrack for the documentary.
“I had been mulling over the idea of creating a film, and also writing music about all of this. The beautiful thing about being at MSU, the faculty give me a lot of creative autonomy so I can create projects,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the key part of the documentary is featuring footage from his mother’s phone prior to her death.
Lewis’s mother had recently traveled to Hawaii to see her daughter, who was organizing a marathon there. After they returned to the mainland, they, alongside Lewis’s father, died in a car accident.
“The whole trip was documented on the phone, so I thought, ‘I’m gonna go back to Hawaii and take their phone that still worked and use it as a map to go to these places she would have wanted me to see,’” Lewis said.
Alongside the phone documents, Lewis has worked with his uncle to find old family films of his parents to include in the documentary. He’s even collected things that his parents had never seen, such as footage of his mother as a baby.
Lewis said the accident taught him not to take life for granted and to live to the best of his ability. It also made him realize that fame is not all it appears to be.
“You have to figure out, do you go through life hateful and bummed out and resentful,” Lewis said. “Or do you say no, that’s not what they represented. In that, there’s a lot of beauty.”