Park Scholars Meet Award-Winning Filmmakers
By: Zachary Tomanelli
Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin came to Ithaca College for a two-day symposium on documentary production on Sept. 15 and 16.
The event included a public screening of their Academy Award-nominated film,
“Trouble the Water”, a discussion of the challenges of documentary filmmaking, and an invitation-only lunch session attended by a number of Park Scholars.
Junior scholar Karla Berberich attended all three sessions and said Deal and Lessin’s visit was educational.
“They were very helpful,” Berberich said. “They had a unique perspective because they are on the more successful end of documentary work, and on the more famous end.”
She was alluding not only to their work on “Trouble the Water”, a film about a family struggling through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but also to their work on Michael Moore’s award-winning films “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11”.
Berberich, who is considering a career in documentary filmmaking and is currently enrolled in a documentary workshop class, said she benefited from the producers’ advice, especially Deal.
“He gave us a lot of practical advice, things we could actually use,” Berberich said. “He made it very applicable to the student.”
Berberich said she was very impressed by “Trouble the Water”, which was screened to a standing-room-only crowd at Emerson Suites on the first night of the visit.
“I thought it was awesome,” she said. “I thought it was a unique approach to Katrina, and probably one of the most successful approaches to it because it really put you in New Orleans.”
And while she enjoyed the screening, Berberich said the intimate setting of the lunch gave her a chance to connect with the filmmakers on a more personal level.
“The lunch was the best because you could ask direct questions, and it was much more of a focused discussion for people genuinely interested in journalism and documentary work.”
She said the most useful insight Lessin and Deal shared was the idea of “cheating” in documentary production.
“Documentary work is not solely non-fiction,” she said. “There is still a craft to it. They talked about crafting a story and using their footage to work in their favor.”
As to the effect of the visit on her career aspirations, Berberich was ambivalent.
“I think anytime you meet with someone in the field it has two effects,” she said. “You think about how wonderful it would be if you could be where they are and be as good at it as they are, but they also reinforce that it is not easy, in anyway, and that you really have to want it.”