December Retreat: The Veal Deal

Each teams progression was evident in the faces of the “What’s the Story” students on a snowy Saturday morning, ranging from bright confidence, to furrowing of a worried brow. But, nothing took away from our exuberant smiles that seemed to grasp at every corner of the wooden room. As our teams gathered, to begin planning, and preparing for the following work, determination seemed to settle in our jaws, along with a flare of passion in our eyes.

The week for our group, “The Relationship Between the Veal and Dairy Industries”, began with a reflection of the previous’ month’s productivity. The discussion immediately revealed our lack of diligence when using Google Hangout, an app that allows you to have online conversation face to face. This flaw in communication, lead to a disconnect, in which very little progress was achieved, and a few of our weekly goals flew under the radar. Deriving from this discussion, we decided that in order to maintain steady gain of knowledge, or continual productivity, we should meet weekly on Google Hangout, to provide an update on our individual progress, and come to conclusions about our work for the following week.

For almost every “What’s the Story” group, conducting interviews was the next step towards completion of the projects.  Prof. Mittell, a film professor at Middlebury College, explained the basic synthetics to a informational, and successful interview. His insight, and explanation shed light onto a skill that many of us were inexperienced in, and gave us the tools, and confidence to attempt an interview. His question of portrayal of characters in your documentary, and his prompting of considering how ethically you represent your antagonist, raised some questions about how we want to represent various people that have relationships to the dairy and veal industries. Answers, along with even more confusion, followed in a Ted Talk that explained how to be honest, and truthful in our work, along with the importance of avoiding self righteousness. We decided that fully understanding our topic, the various sides, and the multiple opinions, will allow for an openness of mind that will lead to having a truthful, and well argued opinion.

In preparation for the next February retreat, our goal is to have completed multiple, well framed, insightful and informational interviews, that began to shape our story.  In the following few weeks, I am going to be contacting the organizations and individuals that hold an interesting relationship to our topic. Along with this initial contact, we plan on formalizing the format, and purpose of our documentary, and the characters that shape the story. Following these primary few weeks, we are going to prepare for the interview, and gain confidence in asking questions that purposefully locate, and derive an interviewee’s story. In conclusion, in these next two months, our planned product is multiple, high quality, and informational interviews and B-roll.

The original diverse range of emotion, and progression that entered the Dining Hall at the Common Grounds center, seems to be leaving with a few of the most powerful qualities in young people, passion, compassion and determination.

Lena Ashooh

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