Student Summer Documentary Experiences
Maddie King: Personal Documentary Film
September 5, 2017
Maddie King, '18, took on a film project about a personal topic alive with stories of the past and self-exploration...
This summer, with the help and support of MDOCS, I embarked on the production of a documentary on a subject that is very personal to me. Two years ago, my grandmother moved to a retirement home and left the house my mother grew up in to be packed up and emptied. The challenge this project posed for me was that of capturing this emptiness in a compelling way on film. Nothingness in of itself isn’t very interesting, unless it is framed as the absence of something else.
I learned a while ago that the more your story includes what you know in some form or another, the better it will be. That being said, when making a documentary about my family as plainly as I have, part of me worries that I gamble too steeply on my life’s artistic value. Can my sentimentality really make a film worth the time of day?
A year ago, when the idea for my film first gripped me, I followed my mother from room to empty room with my camera. She was able to resurrect some of the past in remembering in exact detail where objects in the house had always been. Through her, I tried to capture the paradox of an empty house that one cannot help but remember as full. To juxtapose past and present, I had to think beyond the simple boundaries of filming the house as it is now, and used archival materials (photos, home movies, documents etc…) to help reveal how it was then. Creative montaging allowed me to recreate some of my memories in the present moment, and hopefully will deliver more visually dynamic representations of my little history.
I am not a born videographer, but thankfully this was not my very first filmmaking experience. I underwent many of the same small pleasures and annoyances I had experienced the first time around: I worried about capturing sound, and eliminating noise with the equipment at my disposition; I delighted in my subjects’ contributions, their testimonies, the way their faces lit up the screen with joy, pain and loneliness; I even griped at the clouds for covering the sun—the only available source of natural light. Reality can sometimes be cumbersome to the inexperienced filmmaker.
Though my time in France was plenty challenging, even heartbreaking at times, I suspect editing will prove to be even harder. So far, curiosity has propelled me to amass the footage. Now it is time to find the story I am trying to tell with it.
-Written by Maddie King, '18