"Off days" in the Summer Documentary Program

Without formal class requirement, one may think “off days” at the MISC’s Summer Documentary Program entail prances around parks and frolicking in rivers. This idea, for the most part, was not my experience on my first off day. I had an interview at 1:30 with Clay Rivers, the Cultural Arts and Education Advocate at Native American Youth and Family Center in Northeast Portland, and I dedicated nearly the entire morning to preparing for this interview. As the first bit of reporting for my audio documentary project, the interview was a new, exhilarating, and sweat-inducing experience that allowed me to continue to flex my fledgling journalistic muscles. Overall, I think the interview went well. Even the silent collection of ambient noise at the beginning was low-key as Ms. River tended to something on her iPhone. Since it was one of my first interviews, there were inevitable hiccups. My audio levels were a bit low, and during a segment with a student, I was not recording at all during part of the interview. Overall, the interview taught me to do all that I needed to collect great audio, even if it means sticking my microphone right in the interviewee’s mouth. Also, Ms. River was so cool, and I am ten times more excited about NAYA’s slam poetry program having interviewed its director. It feels great meeting people who are undeniably cooler than I am.

With my phone dead at NAYA, I maneuvered my way from Columbia Boulevard downtown to complete Rose’s scavenger hunt. City Hall looked important but not gaudy or menacing: it has an inviting feel that every public building should have. From here, I headed back to Northeast to the Hollywood Theatre for a double feature screening of Don't Look Back and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars with a talk by the director of the films, D.A. Pennebaker, in between the two screenings. I didn’t know anything about D.A. Pennebaker before Rose mentioned the event last week, but after seeing both films and hearing him talk, I will intensively barrel through his filmography, because this man is amazing. He’s ninety, teetering a bit and somewhat forgetful, but he’s still sharp, and the directness of Don't Look Back seemed so fresh in relation to most of the documentaries I have seen in my life. Here’s a video of him moseying onto the stage of the Hollywood.

Pennebaker’s talk also gave me hope as an aspiring filmmaker. He said he had a homemade camera and one other person recording sound. That’s it. No lights or flair. He recorded Dylan and edited forty hours of footage into a feature. Throughout the talk Pennebaker kept explaining how elusive a distribution deal was because the film looked so ratty, but it eventually became a huge success. Growing up, I’ve been taught to put so much emphasis on production value and saving to buy great equipment, but Pennebaker broke this state of mind for me. Overall, a film like Don't Look Back relies on the ambivalence of its protagonist, and according to Pennebaker, Bob Dylan couldn’t give a shit if he was being recorded or not. Here’s an excerpt of the Q & A with D.A. Pennebaker.