Archived News | Return to News Center

February 9, 2009

ULM documentary film about Louisiana’s “Brain Drain” nears completion

ULM student and faculty filmmakers are nearing completion of a documentary involving the complex subject of a student contemplating leaving Louisiana following college graduation.

The documentary, scheduled for release in May, is funded by a University of Louisiana System Learn and Serve Grant awarded to faculty members Joe McGahan and John W. Sutherlin, co-directors of ULM's Social Science Research Laboratory.

Sutherlin, writer and director of the film, said student involvement played a major role in the project's success. “Whether it was in developing the initial story-line, composing original music, playing the talent or operating the camera, students have been essential to the project. In fact, without students, we could never have gotten this project off the story board and into production.”

The documentary features Brady Middleton, a senior education major from Mangham. It explores Middleton’s decision-making process, as he contemplates staying in north Louisiana close to friends and family, or accepting a higher-wage job in another state.

Sutherlin, political science professor, said Middleton’s story reflects a dilemma facing many graduates.

“Brady was perfect because he was actually going through a crisis,” said Sutherlin. “He was trying to make up his mind about what do after graduation. We did not have to take creative liberties with his story. He just told it and we filmed it.”

Middleton was filmed over the course of several months and participated in hours of conversations in front of a camera. Many times, his interviews revealed just how tough the process was on him, Middleton said.

“It took me a few weeks to get used to the idea of talking in such a candid way in front of the camera. But after awhile you get used to it. There were some times when I forgot that the camera was there. It was like I was just having a conversation with Dr. Sutherlin. Also, I learned how to conduct multi-media research, which is something I will be able to include in my own classroom one day.”

This film has struck a chord with students involved in the project.

Baton Rouge native Kamaria Wheeler, the assistant director and camera operator for the film, is a senior mass communications major. She said, “The best part of being on this project was confronting a current issue that I personally struggle with, while also being a resource to my fellow students, who are confronting the same issue. Knowing our skills and knowledge that we obtain is needed in the area creates a dilemma, which I feel is important as we take our knowledge into the real world.”

McGahan, psychology professor and producer of the film, said the story highlights the migratory effect of Louisiana’s young people on the state and challenges professors, government officials and company leaders to come up with solutions.

“The so-called brain-drain effect is crippling our ability to attract businesses and improve our economy, which only worsens conditions … it’s a vicious cycle. Hopefully this film will draw even more attention to this issue,” said McGahan.

The SSRL can be reached at 318-342-3135, or by visiting the Web site at

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.