Finding the pieces and fitting them together

Progress update

It’s been over a month since the retreat and I feel like our team has made some really solid progress. Given that most all of us had busy holiday schedules we were still able to maintain a level of productivity which has put us in a good place looking towards the end of January.

I have been able to make contact with several possible contributors over email or through in-person pre-interviews. However, these haven’t always led to a formal recorded interview. The person might not have had the knowledge we were looking for or wasn’t as closely connected to the topic as we thought. Often there were contacts that fit perfectly into our original idea of what we were striving to create, but as we continued to find the story we saw that the path took us in another direction. A lot of times reaching out to people was not part of the process of developing experts and characters for our story, but rather working away at the intimidating list of possible contacts we had.  Something I realize is that as we talk to people and the further we dive into our topic the more refined and clear our focus becomes.


In mid-December, I accompanied Gretta to get our first real footage. It was an interview with Shawna Shapiro, a professor of linguistics at Middlebury college. I knew hardly anything about her, I was there to help Gretta with the tech aspect, the rest was up to her and Shawna. It was only a few minutes in when I realized how much Shawna had to teach me. I was so privileged to get the chance to hear her speak.  She had so much to say and needed very little prompting. It was clear that she had very broad yet in-depth knowledge of what is going on in schools in regards to immigrant and ELL students. After leaving her office that evening I felt much more prepared to tackle the rest of this project. I gained a better understanding of how life differs from ELL students to regular students and I have a much better sense of the system in place that supports them.

I have also watched the interview Clara conducted with Anja Pfeffer which I think will be a powerful and relevant addition to the story.  At this point, I can witness the process of shaping and molding our project and refining our message.


What to do moving forward

What’s most important for me to focus on at this time is being prepared to help other students film their interviews. We plan to go to Burlington and Winooski on January 23rd to retrieve a large amount of our interview footage. Once we collect this footage we will revisit the process of chiseling and refining. After the 23rd we should have the majority of our footage so we will need to work fast so that we will be able to see where we have gaps or holes and take action to fill them.

We are slowly moving away from research and finding characters and towards refining the aesthetic and building the visual interest of our documentary.  Something I want to make a priority for myself is b-roll.  Since I don’t have anyone specific who I plan to meet with during the Winooski day I want to consider what additional shots could add to our video. I am thinking of collecting b-roll of classrooms, hallways (both full and empty), UVM and Middlebury College campuses, and downtown Winooski and Burlington. One of my goals is to add to this list and make the ideas more specific before the 23rd. I think we’re on a good track.



Kati Tolgyesi

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