Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Behind the Screen:
I'm Not Looking for Coins, I'm Looking for Change.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2014 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Contact us to learn how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience.

Filmmaker A-Nam Nguyen (left) explains below the background to I'm Not Looking for Coins, I'm Looking for Change, the film on homelessness that she made with fellow Rutgers student Dominique Turner.

I was taking the class “Race Gender Nation” as part of my capstone requirement for the Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) program at Rutgers University. That class helped me to understand the concept of “othering,” where people would remove themselves from people who are different based upon their personal or societal criteria. This act serves as a form of oppression to the people being othered. I also was involved in a campus Christian group that would visit New York City to help the homeless people there. I realized that we did not recognize the needs of the homeless people in New Brunswick, NJ. I started to ask why student organizations always thought of providing services for places outside of their own community, when the local residents also needed a lot of help. That troubled me, and I set out to create a social action project on homelessness in New Brunswick as part of the IWL program.  
An opportunity to study filmmaking via a filmmaking learning community provided me with technical skills such as learning Final Cut Pro and operating a camera. I became acquainted with Dominique Turner when we were moved to another campus after Hurricane Sandy. Dominique told me that, due to our experience of relocation, she could relate to the idea of being homeless and feeling helpless in such situations. Her ability to see that homelessness could affect anyone led her to join me in my project to create a film about homelessness. 

Much groundwork had to be done before we could begin filming. I would go to the local soup kitchen at dinner time, where I would sit with strangers, talk to them about my project, and explain my interest for helping homeless people gain a voice in the community. Most people were more than willing to share their experiences, but nearly all of them did not want to be filmed. They had no objection to having their voices recorded on audio, but being on camera meant that they would be identified as homeless—not something they found acceptable. I often wondered if I would ever find the subject for my film. 


Dominique Turner films Jill Tice feeding cats for
I'm Not Looking for Coins, I'm Looking for Change
I also needed to do research on homelessness as well as connect with local professionals who worked with homeless individuals and experts on homelessness. I spoke with campus faculty and staff, personnel at a county nonprofit devoted to ending homelessness, staff at local shelters, and a pastor who had written a book on the subject. One of these individuals suggested establishing a speakers’ bureau on campus. As part of my social action project, I helped organize a panel in 2012 on homelessness, which was attended by 100 people. Jill Tice was one of two homeless persons on the panel. I asked her if she would consider becoming the subject of my documentary, and she said that she would be more than happy to help me.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Military social work: Combat Fatigue Irritability (1945).

May is National Mental Health Month and Military Appreciation Month. In 1945, Gene Kelly directed and starred in Combat Fatigue Irritability, which told the story of a sailor experiencing PTSD. Psychoanalyst Kerry Kelly Novick, the daughter of Gene Kelly, discusses the film on the National Library of Medicine's Circulating Now Web page.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Behind the Screen: The Suicide Disease.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2014 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Contact us to learn how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience. 

Filmmakers Katie Mattie, Vincent Moore, and Will Neal explain below the story behind their film The Suicide Disease, which portrays the effects of Trigeminal Neuralgia on the life of Notre Dame alumnus Frances Shavers.

From left: George Horn, husband of film subject Frances Shavers;
filmmakers Katie Mattie and Vincent Moore;
Shavers (with service dog Hannah); and filmmaker Will Neal
Vincent: As a former graduate and employee of Notre Dame, Frances Shavers has long-time ties with the university and was acquainted with Ted Mandell, a documentary filmmaking professor at Notre Dame. In mid-2013, Frances approached Ted in hopes of assembling a team that would help to document her story as she underwent treatment for Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). When Ted asked us to be a part of the project, we jumped at the opportunity. The production process was a learning process in itself; not only was this the first time we had made a true documentary but also it was the first time that we had heard of the disease.

Will: In the beginning, we knew as much about TN as a Wikipedia page could offer.

Vincent: We had to do a good amount of research on the disease. Because of the uniqueness of Frances’s condition, it was difficult to find relevant information through conventional sources, so a lot of our research was in the form of one-on-one interviews with Frances and her doctors. 

Will: First, we wanted to build a friendship with Frances and George to establish trust and let them know that, above all things, we wanted to respect their privacy. Frances helped us through every step of the process, especially in helping us understand the nature of her disease. We knew simply showing Frances’s attacks weren’t enough for the audience to understand TN. We also understood that we didn’t need to explain every medical detail as well, so the challenge was finding a balance in order to keep the facts simple, yet informative. Thanks to Frances’s confessional video (displayed throughout the documentary), we were able to elevate the audience’s comprehension of TN as well as form an emotional connection.


Thursday, May 1, 2014