Other Roads: Williamsville's Dianne Becker, Documentarian, Journalist

Oct 12, 2007

Teaching Dianne to count in the Yali language, Papua, IndonesiaEver wonder what valedictorians do once they’re let loose on an unsuspecting world? I’ve always liked to think that they bring the energy and focus of their youth to adult life in such a way that innocent bystanders might be inclined to catch the fire and be invigorated by it. Documentary filmmaker and journalist Dianne Becker—yes, the valedictorian of her graduating class at Greenville High School in 1977—has kept the momentum going full force. And yes, she has managed to shape life and career in a way that invigorates, and empowers, many around the globe.

After having taken a degree at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the one-time KFVS reporter began rising through the ranks in newsrooms from Missouri to Rhode Island. “People told me, ‘You’re too nice to be in journalism’. I thought, “Nobody can tell me I can’t do this’. But there really is a sort of ‘weeding-out’ process involved,” Becker says, asserting that in the end, ‘the stubborn probably do make the best journalists”. That Becker has achieved what she has in the communications field, and continues to make her professional mark largely on her own terms, suggests she’s not exactly a pushover.

Becker honed her skills over the years in the areas of news producing, management, and on-air reporting. In 1999, she took a year’s leave of absence from KMOV-TV in St. Louis. Determined that her sabbatical should be “a year to give back”, she met with her church mission committee, bought a video camera, then flew off to Guatemala to assist an aunt who was researching a book there.

The unique, rewarding experiences of this travel-intensive year sealed Becker’s fate: It became clear that her own mission field was located well outside the newsroom. She would not be going back.

Among her other activities that year, Becker “helped in building a house for a family in Dianne Becker and Friend, GuatemalaGuatemala, and did office work for a ministry in Guatemala City”. Eventually she “went with the church to Ukraine for children’s camp” in the south-central city of Zaporozhye. “Coming from a journalism background, in a lot of places, I got video of these experiences. I found that a lot of people wanted a tape showing what they were doing. They were wanting to tell their stories.”

Regarding the mindset that has led to a year-long odyssey becoming a surprising new path in life, Becker refers to Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”. Becker explains that in time she “learned to surrender to just saying ‘yes’ to people and embarking on whatever adventure lay ahead.” The adventures that ensued represented “more than I could ever dare to hope, always more than I expected. I would finish a project and then someone would invite me to Thailand or Sri Lanka…” To date, Becker’s work has taken her to 17 countries.

Much of Becker’s overseas footage has been broadcast as individual episodes of the Faith TV/Sky Angel satellite series MISSION: God at Work, Faith in Action. Becker herself co-hosted this series in 2003 with mission worker and author Steve Saint. She would go on to work with Saint on a 2006 feature film, the difficult subject matter of which has shaped Saint’s life from his earliest days.

Dianne Becker, producer William Ewing, and director Jim Hanon on the set of End of the SpearSteve Saint’s father Nate was attacked and killed, along with four other Americans, in the Ecuadorian rainforest during the 1956 mission effort examined in the film End of the Spear. Dianne Becker assisted producer William Ewing on this challenging project, which treated themes of cross-cultural misunderstanding, personal transformation, forgiveness, and reconciliation of the rarest kind.

Becker had come to End of the Spear having worked in 2003 on the Ewing-directed holiday story, Christmas Child—a movie that’s still “shown every year on Lifetime,” according to Becker. Both movies are available on DVD from several outlets, as are Becker’s documentaries and MISSION television series.

One upcoming project teams Becker with Saint once again. Missions Dilemma is to be “a series of programs with Steve Saint’s experiences in mission from a multi-cultural perspective,” says Becker. “What Saint is calling on North Americans to do is understand the receivers’ point of view…Sometimes what works in the short-term doesn’t work in the long-term.” Becker has also completed her documentary series, Journey into the Amazon, about relatives of the five slain missionaries of the Saint party, and their developing relationship with surviving attackers and their tribe.

For all her willingness to relinquish the stranglehold some impose on their own career paths, Dianne Becker—who has won numerous awards, including a Mid-America Regional Emmy—did not blindly stumble onto her current course. She sought to integrate her personal and professional strengths with her sense of purpose, of vocation. On this foundation, she is building a life of meaning. Becker notes that at the beginning of her career, “I always had things planned out, and they didn’t always go that way…Then I stopped planning, and things got really interesting. I never stop learning; I am always amazed. It is more than I could have dared hope for”.

DVDs of Dianne Becker’s documentaries and television series may be obtained through her website.

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