When students in Sterling’s Eco-Docs: Intro to Down and Dirty Environmental Filmmaking class sat down to decide on the topic of their original documentary, the answer quickly became clear.  Paul Sweeney, a local hero of the Sterling kitchen, came right to mind for the centerpiece of a short film about things that impact our close-knit community.  Student Denee Jones spoke about the process a bit:

I’m grateful for our class’ decision to run with the Paul idea for a documentary topic.  I wanted to spend our time on an idea that felt positive and would make people smile.  There were a few great idea suggestions brought to the table in our early planning stages.  What separated this idea from the others was its lighthearted, celebratory tone.  That’s what I was excited for, and I think that’s exactly what we ended up with.

The Eco-Docs class on their first day, learning how to use the new equipment.

After evaluating several well-received and acclaimed documentaries to understand just what made them so successful, the students got to work creating a film of their very own.  For many of them, making a documentary was unfamiliar territory — even just getting their hands on video equipment was something new.  Even still, in one short week, students shot, edited, and screened an original documentary;  they worked tirelessly to perfect their film to have it ready to present to the community as the Eco-Docs course came to a close, pulling several late nights in the computer lab.  It was important to get it just right, as they were representing one of Sterling’s longest and most beloved community members.  Denee mentioned,

“The most meaningful part of the entire Eco-Docs class experience was the light we were allowed to shine on Paul.  With the opportunity to interview him in both personal and professional settings, I began to see why he is such an important part of our community.  I felt a unique sense of trust and honor as we were welcomed into his home and shown the wall of clocks lining his living room.  He was incredibly transparent with details of his life journey through college, the work force and his time at Sterling.  I truly feel like I would have never gotten to know Paul in the same way I know him now if I hadn’t had this filming opportunity.”

Paul get the sweets just right at the Commencement party in May ’17

On the night of the reveal students and staff gathered in the dining hall, anxiously awaiting the film, Paul’s cookies in hand.  When it began, familiar faces spoke of our favorite baker and friend, and Paul himself graced the screen, giving us a deeper glimpse in the mysterious man behind the cheesecake.  We learned that Paul is a baker, an engineer, and a weaver.  He let us into his home, and he told us how making people happy is what makes him happy.  The evening brought lots of laughter, and even some tears, and everyone seemed to walk away a bit lighter and a bit reverent.
 See the Eco-Docs class’ documentary, “Swooning for Sweeney” for yourself, and send Paul some love.


Filed Under: Academics Community Environmental Humanities Uncategorized

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