Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Education Begins: Suwanee



My education begins

I know so little about the southeastern U.S., when I was preparing to leave for 10 days on the Southern Circuit  I wondered what I might learn. For example, although I’ve changed planes many times in Atlanta, I’ve never left the airport, never set foot on Georgia soil.

My education began at dinner in Suwanee, my first Southern Circuit stop, before TRUST screened.  Hearing that my next stop would be Madison, Georgia, Toni Shrewsbury, Special Project Coordinator for the City of Suwanee, pointed out that in the Civil War during his March to the Sea, Union General William Sherman burned Suwanee to the ground, but spared Madison because its architecture was too pretty to burn.

TRUST screened at the Movie Tavern, a brand new 8 screen multiplex that was once a Publix grocery store.   This is Suwanee’s first year of hosting the Southern Circuit and working with the Movie Tavern, they did a couple things to attract audiences – one that was quite successful was offering a season pass to the whole series.  Reaching out to groups connected in one way or another to a documentary’s themes didn’t work nearly as well as reaching out to people who wanted to see independent films. 
After a break for brownies and fresh fruit, the discussion with the audience was lively, in part because the moderator Cherie Heringer, who has an arts background, was curious about the filmmaking and about the Albany Park Theater Project (APTP), the subject of TRUST, and set the tone with some very good questions.  Someone in the audience wanted to know how we managed to keep our subjects, the teenage APTP members of APTP so relaxed in front of the camera.  I told them David Feiner, APTP’s founder and director kept the ensemble members engaged with what they were doing and Dan Gold, the TRUST Director of Photography, is so good at quietly being in the right place at the right time with the camera, the APTP-ians just didn’t pay that much attention to me and my crew.
APTP member Marlín & filmmaker Nancy Kelly

I also told them about how APTP auditioned me and Kenji when we approached them about making a documentary about them and their process.  This was March, 2004.  Kenji and I came to Chicago, showed one of our films (Downside UP www.downsideupthemovie.org) to the company and then sat in the APTP circle with the company members and David and Laura, and answered their questions.  One of the questions was “Will you film us when we make mistakes?”  I stood up, made believe I was looking through a video camera and asked her to make a mistake.  She fell off her chair.  I leaned in as if I was getting a close up.  I said, “See, if you make a mistake, we’ll keep filming.”  Everyone laughed.  The next day, David and Laura told us the company had decided to invite us in to make a film about them.

Of course, none of us knew that we’d spend the next six years trying to find the story of TRUST, none of us knew that Laura, who had ovarian cancer, would die in 2007. We stopped filming in fall 2006 because Laura was so sick and we didn’t resume filming until 2008 – it took that long for David and the company to grieve and rebuild the company.  Our first shoot, in May 2008, Marlín, who became the center of TRUST, attended her first APTP event, a recruiting workshop at her high school.  

Nancy, Cherie and Toni
It was a lot of fun to screen TRUST at the Movie Tavern and to meet the people interested in independent film who came out on a Monday night to see it.