The 7th annual Oxford Film Festival is getting closer every day. Before we kick off another fun-packed festival, we thought we wouldtake five with filmmakers and get to know them just a little better.
"Dinner on the Grounds: A Soul Reviving Feast," a film by Sarah Freeland Simonson, Melanie Young and Miles Laseter, will screen on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 11:15 a.m.
OFF: In 10 words, describe your movie and why someone should see it.
Celebrate a Southern tradition that is in danger of disappearing.
OFF: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?
Sarah Simonson: The film was part of a collection of documentaries that were made by Southern Studies graduates and undergraduates. I was still an undergraduate, but I was able to work with graduate students Melanie Young and Miles Laseter who brought their own experiences to the table and brought a broader view to the film. It was important to be able to not only work as a group, but really come together with a singular vision as to what direction the project should take. On a personal level, the best part of making the film was learning about aspects of Mississippi and its culture and history that are not explicitly a part of my own background. The exploration of cemetaries and churchyards as public, social spaces also really played a major role in informing my ultimate decision of focusing on architecture and historic preservation in New Orleans.
Melanie Young: Be prepared! Having never worked on a film before, we learned very quickly to make sure we had all of the necessary equipment and supplies, as well as a plan, before venturing out into the field. Andy Harper and Joe York of Ole Miss Media and Documentary Projects instilled confidence in us and were invaluable in providing us with everything we needed to make this project a success. The best part? That all of our hard work paid off; we made our first-ever film one we can be proud of, one that was deemed worthy of being accepted into a film festival.
OFF: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?
Sarah: None of us had any prior experience with film making. I am not sure any of us had even turned a video camera on before! It was truly a learning experience from beginning to end. I am now a graduate student at the Tulane School of Architecture working on my Master of Architecture and my Master of Preservation Studies. I want to continue utilizing film not only as an integral part of documentary work as it relates to preservation, but also as a part of my work as a designer.
Melanie: I'd never picked up a video camera with the express purpose of making and editing a film before this one; my only experience was shooting some home movies and studying documentary photography under David Wharton at Ole Miss. My passion for music and interest in audio engineering has led to my current position as co-producer and engineer for the Highway 61 radio show, hosted by Scott Barretta and broadcast on Mississippi Public Radio Saturday nights at 10. Besides that, I also serve as the circulation manager for Living Blues magazine.
OFF: What’s your dream distribution plan for the film?
Our ultimate dream goal as a students was to be screened at the Oxford Film Festival. I am not sure if this particular film has a future beyond that, but regardless it will always be not only one of my most memorable college experiences, but also an experience that will be with me as I pursue further work in design and documentary work.
OFF: What’s the future hold in store for your film and for you?
Sarah: I intend to integrate film into my work as I pursue my thesis, but that is still in such early planning stages that I am not sure where it will lead. Regardless, I know film and I are not through with each other yet.
Melanie: Like Sarah, I've no idea what may lay in the future for this particular film, but I enjoyed working on it so much that I plan to incorporate a film into my master's thesis work for Ole Miss. I've also done some videography for Media and Documentary Projects. Hopefully this won't be the last time you hear from me!