On Tour: Mercyhurst University

19 Feb

I started my OSIP tour with Cafeteria Man in Erie, PA. I had traveled all over the state of Pennsylvania in my career but never to its fourth largest city.  Everything about Erie seems user friendly and accommodating. Upon arrival, I went directly to the WQLN public radio station where I was interviewed by host Tom for a series they do on film. His questions were smart and the half hour time frame was long enough to have a real conversation. I make a point of not repeating myself in these things and in all Q and A sessions about my film which can be very challenging, but I think people should be given a fresh presence “in the moment” when they interact with a speaker. And it is more meaningful for all.

There were two screenings at the incredibly well maintained theatre on the Mercyhurst campus (looked after by a top notch projectionist/engineer named Randy.) The afternoon one was attended by about 30 smart middle agers, some of whom were in the school nutrition movement. They seemed to love the film and its message of aspiration and I was flattered by their insights and appreciations. As I said to them directly, anyone these days who goes to the trouble to physically attend a public screening of a documentary deserve our respect and gratitude.

The evening screening was better attended and sprinkled with some younger viewers and a few students (who I commended for being there on a Friday night during exam week with snow flurries outside!). Another lively discussion about the content of the film and a bit of interest in the whole idea of documentaries as tools of social change, the latter being one of my favorite topics. People like me who make docs in general do not pursue fame or profit, neither of which are likely to occur anyway. So we do it for other reasons; passion, commitment, catharsis, desire to make a difference, creative challenge, etc.  These audiences “got it” and after the film began a conversation, largely amongst themselves, about their own school food issues in the Erie communities. This is the goal of film’s like Cafeteria Man: to inspire viewers to join a conversation about positive change and motivate them to some form of active participation in their own lives.

I wish to send a huge shout out to the amazing Christine Olivier, arts event coordinator for Mercyhurst and host to my visit. It can be a little freaky sometimes to meet a 25 year old who operates in the world with such poise and professionalism. In a few years I’m guessing she will executive produce films or be the creative director at a place like Lincoln Center. Christine, like the town of Erie itself, ROCKS!

Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Richard Chisolm

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