I arrived in Oswego, NY the night before the screening, and stayed at a beautiful B&B in town called Serendipity Bed and Breakfast. This was my favorite hotel stay on the entire trip. I had some work to do along the tour, and took a photo of an amusing photo (at least to me) of mixing old and new.
The next day, I was invited to go meet, have lunch with and speak to some of Assistant Professor of the Cinema and Screen Studies Jacob Dodd’s students at the State University of New York at Oswego.
It’s these little intimate moments that I have had along the tour to connect with small numbers of students and audiences that have made this tour so completely worth it to me. At lunch, I got to speak with Jacob and his film students Kadijah, Amanda, and Matt about the films they are currently making and want to make. I was thoroughly impressed at not only their technical acumen at a State University on the edge of the beautiful finger lakes, but also at their ability to look at the scope of their own short lives and see a visible truth about their lives and their families that they would like to try and bring to life through filmmaking. I shared with them my belief that filmmaking is teamwork, and that I find the Robert Rodriguez model of Uno Cineasta (One Filmmaker: this is my coined term too, not Robert’s in case you’re trying to look it up.) to be false in truth and nature to the true act of filmmaking. I sincerely believe that it is through collaborative effort in filmmaking, that great art is made.
I suggested to the two freshmen film students (Kadijah and Amanda) that they consider documentary filmmaking, for several reasons:
1) It’s cheaper
2) It’s much easier, because you can shoot with a smaller crew or just record audio if you are your only crew at times
3) It will teach you more about human nature and what it is that makes us people, than any fiction film you write while you are in your early, mid, or late 20s. Then when you hit your creative high which I think happens in your 30s, 40s, and 50s, the characters you create will be so much more real, because they’ll be based on the people you know, the things you’ve heard and felt, and the realities of life.
I will always feel lucky to have started out in documentary filmmaking. Spike Lee is now making documentary films. Same with Martin Scorcese. There is something you will learn about life from documentary filmmaking which is why I think even major narrative filmmakers are taking up this medium of storytelling.
I also strongly encouraged the students to make documentaries and films about their own families. Jacob and I talked about how we notice that film students get caught up in making films or telling stories about drug dealers or other such over-sensationalized stories that really have no barely or grounding in their own lives, and how hard that is to pull off. I ‘ve been heavily influenced lately by novelist Anna Quindlen, whom I believe is one of the greatest novelists of our generation. She believes this: “I can’t think of anything to write about except families. They are a metaphor for every other part of society.” This is where I think all storytelling should begin and hopefully where it ends.
Before the screening, I ate dinner with Jacob and his incredible wife who is 8 months pregnant. (Their kid is going to be the luckiest kid ever! Both Jacob and Kristy love traveling by train and they love visiting national parks.)
I was really happy to have dinner with them, because they are both teachers. (Jacob an Assistant Professor at a University and Kristy an elementary school teacher.) I’ve been wanting to talk about a documentary called Waiting for Superman, that has gotten a lot of attention since it was made. The documentary is compelling because how it was shot and constructed and brings up some interesting points (In the past, I was an instructor in video production and video editing at a Community College for three years.), but I still cannot shake the feeling that this documentary is completely biased and is turning teachers in scapegoats. We discussed the role that parents should play in their child’s education, and we all agreed that parents should play a STRONG role in their child’s education, and that it is not the role of the teacher to raise that child and bend over backwards for that child to succeed. Children need to be raised to be responsible for their own education, and it is the role of the parent to define and determine this sense of responsibility in the child, not the teacher.
After dinner and our lively conversation, we headed over to the Art Deco Screening was at awesome Oswego Theater which is styled in true Art Deco style.
After the screening, I talked to the audience which was mainly made up of students about the film, filmmaking, and trying to convey how important it is, if you want to be a filmmaker, to just go out and do it.
I asked them, “What’s your start date?” And I discussed with them how sometimes making a film seems so daunting and so impossible, that you keep pushing your “start date” further and further back into the future, so you don’t have to stress out again it, but that it’s better to just set a “start date,” and start that day NO MATTER WHAT. Whether you have the time or ability or money. Just start. Write a one page treatment of your film or documentary, do some research, anything. Just make it formal and stick to it. Setting a “start date” has become my strategy for my next two documentaries, because I realized after awhile that I kept not working on the documentaries and pushing it off because it just seemed to large to start them, and I didn’t have the money yet. I finally read a book by infamous indie producer, Christine Vachon called Shooting to Kill, which is a production diary of several films she has produced. She OFTEN if not ALWAYS sets a principal photography (a “start date” in film parlance) date whether she has the money or not, and adjusts as needed once she reaches that date. Her experiences made me realize that if I ever want to finish another film, I must set a “start date” and stick to it. I hope everyone in the audience that night that wants to make films went home and set a start date.
After the Q&A, I sold Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. posters in the lobby. (At this point, I only had about 20 left, because the majority of them had been bought in Wilmington, the first screening on the stop.) After watching the documentary, it’s common that people just want to touch and feel the posters.
A male student even bought “I knew god was a woman but I didn’t know she was black. ” Which made me break out in a huge smile, because he is a man buying this poster. I haven’t yet had the experience of a man buying this poster. He said he was going to hang it in his hallway.
At breakfast, the next morning, I discovered that there are two nuclear power plants in town, but that Oswegonians have the highest electricity bills in the area! I agree with B&B proprietor, Chris, that anyone living within ten miles of the plant should get free electricity.
Then after Chris left for the morning, Dale and I discovered our mutual passion for breastfeeding. I, as someone who has only witnessed others breastfeeding, and Dale, as someone who did breastfeed and came from what she called a “culture of breastfeeding.” Dale wrote a paper so long ago about the culture of breastfeeding and has promised to share it with me when she uncovers it.
And I leave you with one of my favorite moments in Oswego. When I went up the stairs to my room at the B&B, there was a giant panda in a rocking chair outside of my door. Just because.
Special thanks to: Dale and Chris at the Serendipity Bed and Breakfast, Jacob Dodd at the State University of New York at Oswego and his three students (Kadijah, Amanda, and Matt), Oswego Theater, and all of the students and people of Oswego who came to the screening!
Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker