For Immediate Release
Seattle Filmmakers to Shine a Positive Light on Government Services
March 14, 2012 (Seattle, WA). The Flying Ninja Story Collective (www.flyingninjastorycollective.com) has announced the inception of a documentary project entitled, “We *heart* Government.” In a time when fiscal constraints necessitate leaner budgets and across-the-board reductions in state and federal programs, the project seeks to highlight often overlooked services provided by the government. Currently in pre-production, “We *heart* Government” consists of three short documentaries, each one focusing on a different federal agency. Two stereotypically reviled agencies, the United States Postal Service and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have already been selected as subjects. To determine the third subject, the filmmakers have chosen to investigate where the interests of the general public lie. They’re asking those who pledge at least $1 in support of the project through its Kickstarter campaign (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/777038469/we-heart-government) to vote for their favorite agencies; whichever agency gets the most votes will become the subject of the third film. The finished documentaries will seek to showcase the vital role of each of the selected agencies in the lives of Americans.
“We want to highlight that this is not a political project,” says Dina Guttmann, one of the filmmakers. (The other three are Amanda Vail, Cassandra Soden, and Jenna Abts.) Guttmann goes on to say, “While planning this project, we realized that each of us have a personal story about how some service of the government affected us: I was able to become an exchange student to Germany; Cassy takes her father to the VA; Amanda’s childhood home was bought with a government loan; Jenna, who grew up in a tornado prone area, learned about weather from a young age thanks to NOAA. These connections we feel to our government are universal.” So far, the project has generated buzz and conversation on its Kickstarter project page, eliciting insightful commentary on why various federal agencies are held in high regard.
The idea for the project was hatched when Soden began to bring her father to the VA hospital on a regular basis. She realized that while she was thrilled at the excellent service her father received, she was simultaneously dismayed by the negative press about the agency. Each artist felt similarly about one or another government agency, and so the project began to move forward.
The Flying Ninja Story Collective is a group of four independent artists (a graphic designer, a film editor, a writer, and a film producer/director) who work together to create multimedia projects.
For more information on the project, please contact Amanda Vail (amandamvail at gmail.com) or Dina Guttmann (dina at dovetailfilms.com).
I used to look down my nose at short films. It was clear to me that short films were what amateurs made; true filmmakers made 90-minute films and occasionally condescended to work on 60-minute films (but only if PBS asked them to).
And then Cassy and I were invited to join a group of filmmakers entering a speed-filmmaking competition, the International Documentary Challenge. We had five days, from start to finish, to make a documentary short based on an assigned theme. We were a team of some ten members. Cassy was producer, I was editor, and our director was Ellen Frick, a finder of amazing stories. Ellen knew about a mother/son team of ocularists, makers of artificial eyes, and with the assigned theme of hope and fear, we were off and running. It was a long five days, but in the end we finished six hours early and I didn’t even have to spend a night in the editing room. The best part: the film we created made it to the finals. And this was when my epiphany came.
Before the epiphany, a little more background. The finals were held at Hot Docs, a film festival in Toronto, Canada. We found a cheap bed & breakfast, scrounged up frequent flier miles and headed up. The awards ceremony began with a screening of all of the finalist films back-to-back. Each piece was between five and seven minutes long. They were wonderful. Here were stories that didn’t need 90-minutes to tell, but were none-the-less vibrant and full of truth. Every seven minutes, a new world was projected on that screen: portraits of bits of humanity. If the current bit of humanity wasn’t of interest, all you had to do was wait seven minutes and another, completely unique point-of-view would begin.
A Healing Art, the film we made, won the POV award and was aired on PBS in 2010. For five days of work, that was quite a nice feather that we could all put in our caps. But for me, it also hammered home the knowledge that a great story has little to do with the length in which it is told, but in it’s poignancy. Lori Petchers, a director I’ve had the joy to work with on two different short documentary projects, has often reminded me that all stories have to be told in their own time.
Cassy still remembers that night at Hot Docs as the only time I’ve been able to stay awake long enough to close down a bar. Since then, I’ve worked on a number of short films and when I occasionally wax-poetic about the thrill of editing long-format documentaries, Cassy rolls her eyes and pities me. Although it’s true that I’ll always love working on the long documentaries, I have well and truly learned the great possibilities of the short film.
Over the summer, Amanda, Jenna, & Dina had the chance to run around the Skagit Valley Highland Games and do a bit of filming. Okay, a lot of filming. We even roped in Celtic Arts Foundation board member Jill Hilde. We all got to play around with the cameras; Dina taught Amanda, Jenna, and Jill some basic filming techniques, and then we were off and running. It was a long day full of sun, bagpipes, Highland sports, and sheep herding.
The purpose of the filming was to document all of the great events and people at the Highland Games for future CAF use, but we couldn’t resist putting together a little reel to show off some of the day’s more exciting shots. And without further ado, here it is!