Documenting body imagine, beer and pot

A models before and after picture is shown from a student documentary on body image. Beers are displayed on a custom made sample flight, made from former Burton snowboarders, given as a gift to Switchback.
Photo taken from student documentaries

Legalization of marijuana, Vermont breweries and body image are all topics Castleton students recently decided to make documentaries about. After countless hours of planning, writing, filming and editing, the three documentaries are finished and ready to be presented.

Body image was a topic that senior Devin Clark wanted to tackle for her documentary. When she asked Communication department Chair Bob Gershon about the idea, he suggested she take on this challenge as her senior project.

“This is a pretty personal topic,” explained Clark. “So it was a little tricky getting people to be comfortable enough to talk about it.”

Clark interviewed college officials, professors, psychologists and college students asking them if body image in the media affected girls in a positive or negative way. The responses were all similar.

“Everyone agreed that the way women are portrayed in the media causes negative effects. No one actually looks like the girls in magazines,” Clark said.  

Creating a documentary is no easy feat, especially when you’re doing all the work on your own. Clark did the editing, filming, and producing by herself.

“It has been super stressful. I’ve never loved something so much, but hated it at the same time,” laughed Clark. “It was crazy having this much responsibility.”

One challenge Clark faced was getting people to be comfortable in front of her camera.

“It’s very awkward for some people to have a camera pointing directly in their face, so I tried to make them as comfortable as I could,” Clark said.

This experience has been challenging, but rewarding for Clark, who’s documentary titled “Skinny” was presented on April 27.

Another group of students began their Vermont Brewery project in a Documentary Workshop class in the fall. While brainstorming possible topics, they decided maple syrup was an overdone idea and decided to look into Vermont beer culture.

“Beer has become a pretty big industry in Vermont,” said senior Nicole Irwin, who was a big part of the project. “We’re fortunate enough to be close to so many breweries that we were able to get a lot of footage.”

The leader of the project, Christopher Williams, explained that their documentary was focused on brewers who only distribute within Vermont. They chose to interview and focus on Fiddlehead, Switchback and The Alchemist.

“We got to sit down and meet people I’ve been wanting to meet and just talk about beer. It was awesome,” Williams said.

After roughly 400 hours of work, “Brewers First” is ready to be presented. But that didn’t happen without some difficulties.

“Creating a narrative for this was hard,” Irwin said. “You can never quite create a narrative until filming is done and you’re in the editing process.”

Luckily, the owners of the three breweries were more than happy to tell their stories.

“The Alchemist, who makes Heddy Topper, closed their doors last year,” said Williams. “They don’t have a phone number or an email address and they’re not open to the public.”

After some persistence, Williams, Irwin and the rest of the team were able to sit down with the creator of The Alchemist.

“They were very nice and very welcoming,” said Williams. “They were giving us their very valuable time and we wanted to be respectful, and part of that was finishing this project.”

The documentary was about a quarter finished when the semester ended, but team members decided to work on their own time to finish what they had already put so much work into

“We spent so much time on this, it’s a shame to leave it undone,” Williams said.

Irwin and Williams were intrigued by the stories of how the breweries started and how they run now. After visiting the three breweries, they notices a similar drive all the brewers shared.

“They all had very interesting stories,” said Irwin. “Even though Switchback and Fiddlehead are always competing for tap space, they both said if one of them needed a bag of grain or if something breaks, they’d be willing to help each other out.”

Williams and Irwin were assisted by Steven Andolfo, Jimmy Britt and Spencer Dandurand during the process.

“We had a small team, but it was a good team,” said Williams. “Jimmy was underage, so he was our designated driver. He helped out a lot.”

The final product has a running time of half an hour and will be presented in Herrick Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

Seniors Jake Covell, Devin Clark, Vincent Guerrea and Aaron Wallis created the third documentary about the legalization of marijuana. The group talked to police chiefs and officers and the general public and asked them about their opinions and predictions about pot.

“It was really cool to be able to make a documentary on a subject like marijuana,” said Covell. “Bob Gershon really let us do what we wanted and helped us a lot..

One of the first steps was going to Montpelier to talk to the representatives who are fighting for legalization.

“They were very willing to talk to us and pretty easy going,” said Clark.

The group split up and attended public forums in Rutland and Burlington and learned that the audience was split about 50/50 on their position on legalization.

“There were a lot of hard-hitting stories told at the forums supporting both sides,” said Clark who went on to re-tell the stories of a glaucoma patient and that of a woman who’s son was killed by a driver under the influence.

Covell was surprised by the amount of support there was for the legalization of marijuana. After talking with many people, they learned that despite that support, it probably won’t happen for a few years.

“The government has so many other things that have priority over this, we learned that the topic has kinda been put on the back burner,” explained Clark.

Creating a documentary turned out to be a bigger task than the team thought, but they enjoyed the process.

“It was really fun figuring out how to make an actual documentary,” said Covell. “But we ran into some problems with scheduling. We were all really busy so it was definitely difficult to find time to film and edit this project.”

The final product, titled “VT Trees,” will also premier in Herrick Auditorium on  April 29.


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