In mid-August, I left my temporary shotgun home in the Upper Ninth Ward after making videos and collecting footage on Downtown New Orleans. Since my last blog post, I attended several of NOVAC’s film workshops and networking events. One of my learning goals this summer was to meet independent documentary filmmakers. One of the people I met was Lily Keber, the director of Bayou Maharajah, at her workshop she co-taught with one of my supervisors, Biliana Grozanda (see photo below). Since they are both documentarians, they offered an Interview Techniques for Documentary workshop. The workshop was part of a larger course, the Documentary Production Project, that brings a group of indie filmmakers together to craft a documentary on a subject of their choice. I left this workshop knowing how to ask my future subjects questions to lead to a good story and I also learned how to prepare for an interview—research your subject, plan to meet them in a space conducive to dialogue, etc. After taking this workshop, I felt comfortable interviewing subjects for my first video but I still felt I needed to work on my production and editing skills, which was another one of my learning goals this summer. I was assigned to a Virtuous Video assignment. For those that forgot, NOVAC’s Virtuous Video Program brings filmmakers and non-profit organizations together to produce videos to spread awareness about their cause. For my Virtuous Video assignment, I worked with Core Element Hands On STEM Camp, a summer camp for children and teachers in Jefferson and New Orleans Parish that focuses on increasing interest in science. I worked with an independent filmmaker and assisted him with sound. That project was a huge learning lesson; I messed up the sound on numerous occasions and I kept entering the frame. However, I now know how to act on set and how to properly operate sound equipment. I was also allowed to make the first rough cut of the video and that certainly aided my editing skills.
Since I received more experience, I started collecting footage for a short documentary that I am in the process of editing. I interviewed Eve Abrams, a writer that created her own audio-documentary called Along the St. Claude, for her experience with gentrification in the Bywater, Lower Ninth Ward, area. Then after I collected some footage of her, I interviewed a student at Clark Preparatory High School, a student from Tulane University, a native of New Orleans, and an artist that may be considered a gentrifier. Usually when people discuss gentrification, things become black and white: a group of people, usually young white people with money, comes into a space that is predominantly black and low-income. However, based on the interviews I conducted over the summer, I realized that the gentrification process crossed into different racial, class, and age groups. Plus, New Orleans is a port city, so different people have always entered New Orleans. Although New Orleans was segregated until the 1960s, I think New Orleanians were used to people from different backgrounds entering their city. Personally, I think people notice the different class groups entering different neighborhoods first, then I think the intersection between race and class becomes more apparent, especially since poverty is sometimes matched with the black experience in America.
I decided to take all of my footage and split it into multiple parts around a theme. My first video is a pair of people that were at Shotgun Cinema’s first film festival, True Orleans. True Orleans is a film festival dedicated to celebrating innovative non-fiction/documentary films made by New Orleans’ filmmakers. Aside from screenings, they also offered free panel discussions centered around non-fiction storytelling. When I was not filming the attendees for my project, I managed to sneak into a couple of the panel discussions. At True New Orleans, I asked a couple of people at the theater if they could describe gentrification in New Orleans in one word or what word would they associate with gentrification in New Orleans. I broke up their responses into two videos. You guys can watch the first one here!
Overall, I think I meet all of my learning goals: I met some cool independent filmmakers and even a stop motion animator; I learned how to conduct interviews, which could help me with my sociology interviews and with my future documentary projects; I learned how to use some applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud; and I learned how to use basic video and audio equipment. Plus, I was in the same room as Ava Devarnay, so I definitely had the best summer ever. Thank for reading my summer blog!
Karen Seymour ’17
Social Justice WOW Fellow