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About the Film

How the Idea Became the Documentary

Eight college students, still waiting for the caffeine to kick in, take their seats in a small conference room in Scoville Hall. Everyone is eager and ready to start making a documentary, but nobody has the slightest clue what to actually make a documentary about. This is where Melody Gilbert steps in as the educator. She assigns the class to think of subjects, prepare pitches, and get accustomed to using their ‘used-car salesman’ ego. Ideas are passed back and forth, egos are bruised, and at the end of the day, not a single idea has been validated. Continuing onward and still, as a group, unpersuaded by a single pitched idea, the students have begun sputtering along, fueled by the expiring fumes of their creativity. Luckily, and not a class period too soon, inspiration and rejuvenation, in a package accompanied by fame, films, and festivities presents itself one Friday morning early in the Fall Term. With cameras and mics in hand, we gladly prepared for a not-so-traditional Field Trip...

Eight students, two professors, and one intern packed their bags and headed out to NYC to attend the Independent Feature Project (IFP), the largest showcase for independent filmmakers in the US. They witnessed first hand what it takes to succeed in the world of documentary film-making. Directors, producers, PR-reps, and big-name executives were all there, so we decided to have to some fun. We listened to them, we interviewed them, we made friends with them, and we even got to shake their hands. They shared their experiences, their passions, and of most value to us, their industry and time tested words of advice - among the crowd of like-minded amateur filmmakers and similarly aspiring volunteers like ourselves, these words were candid and sincere - both encouraging and cautionary. Armed with more knowledge than the class expected to gather, they headed back to the town of content, Northfield, MN.

Eight new pitches were created. Everything you could imagine was covered: immigration issues, medical issues, and even small-town issues. All were great ideas but they needed something that would not take two years to make. (After all, they are college students, they live their lives by the term, not year.) Finally one student pitched an idea: ‘How about not using a computer?’ Bingo, we had a documentary.

Eight students registered to take the class, but how many would volunteer to be part of the experiment? After a brief discussion, three students agreed to volunteer themselves for the project. They planned out schedules, divided film crews, and got their cameras ready. Let the documentary begin.

Eight cameras would be ideal, but they only had access to four. Whatever they needed, they only had half. Carleton’s schedule made it nearly impossible to coordinate shoots, but somehow they pulled through. They talked about cheating. They talked about proxies.  They even talked about talking about cheating.

Eight students = five weeks of chaos all captured on video.