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Student Blog: Screening your film at Film Festivals

November 1, 2016

The Presence Project: Film Synopsis

The Presence Project documents a remarkable story about a young artist and a person living with Alzheimer’s disease. Since 2015, Meghan Murray, a recent graduate of the studio art program at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, has partnered with Beacon Pointe Memory Care, a senior living community for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in Clifton Park, New York. Meghan takes time and care to get to know each of the residents and hear their stories. After forming a special bond, she paints beautifully rendered and realistic portraits of them. Through the power of images, Meghan captures their personalities in a fleeting moment in time and honors them for who they were and who they are now. The film hopes to bring awareness about the fragility of memory and to close the gap between older and younger generations. No matter how old you are or how sharp your memory is, everyone has a story to tell.

Lisa Fierstein '16
Lisa Fierstein '16 at the Legacy Film Festival

Attending the Legacy Film Festival in San Francisco

The day before the festival, I attended a filmmaking workshop at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. I shadowed second-year journalism students and learned more about the filmmaking process on a technical level. I networked with professors, administrators, filmmakers and rising professionals. I plan to apply to journalism school within the next two years after I have gained more work experience. The MDOCS courses I took at Skidmore have prepared me and given me the confidence to pursue documentary media at the graduate level.

My film opened the sixth annual Legacy Film Festival on Friday, September 16. The first night of the festival was called “The Art of Living.” Each of the films illustrated an

Tania Ku and Lisa Fierstein '16
Lisa with filmmaker Tania Ku

intersection between art and aging. Although there wasn’t a red carpet with paparazzi, I was greeted by festival organizers and board members who were delighted that I made the cross-country trip to present my short film. One of the festival organizers told me that regardless of the length of my film, this was an important step in my career. I believe that my presence at the festival was a great way to build my brand—it put a face to the film and showed my ambition to be a part of a greater filmmaking community.

Lisa Fierstein '16 and Sheila Malkind
Lisa during her Q&A with festival founder Sheila Malkind

After the festival, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with festival founder Sheila Malkind and other festival organizers to continue the conversation about documentary. The festival was a great space to network with people in the filmmaking community. I talked with independent filmmaker Tania Ku. We discussed the challenges of filmmaking, and she offered me suggestions on how to improve my sound quality for the future. I also spoke with filmmaker Mo Morris and the subject of her film, Edythe Boone, a legendary mural artist. With Mo, I discussed best practices for creating a storyboard and how to make changes when things don’t turn out as planned. I walked away with valuable insights about the filmmaking process and now have a community of people that I can look to for advice and support.

—Lisa Fierstein '16

Lisa's film, The Presence Project, received second place at the 15 Minutes Max Festival in Albany and was recently accepted to WNET's Reel 13 Short Film Contest.

She is currently located in Washington, D.C., interning as a production assistant at Meridian Hill Pictures, a documentary film production company, and working at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in their marketing department. She made the film as a project in Vickie Riley's "Video Storytelling" class (spring 2016).