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With Little 500 just days away, Bloomington and the IU campus are gearing up for this annual rite of spring.
So is a film crew, which has been tracking four teams all spring for a documentary that the filmmakers claim will cover Little 500 in a way that has never been seen before.
“Even people at the race will not understand the story the way that we’re going to present it,” said Peter Stevenson, BA’12 (political science).
He, Tom Miller, BAJ’12, and senior Ryan Black are working on a feature-length film, One Day in April, a documentary that explores the famed bike race. They plan to release the film next spring just before Little 500.
Armed with a fleet of high definition cameras, dozens of microphones and an army of production assistants, they are working on giving viewers an intimate look into both the magic of race day and the path the riders will have taken to get there.
“I would say that if our movie is boiled down to one point, it’s the journey,” Stevenson said.
Miller and Stevenson said they have approached the Little 500 from the individual riders’ vantage points to tell their stories.
“I think it would be really easy to go out there and get a bunch of wreck video, some cool shots of people riding on the roads, and close-up shots of people wearing badass sunglasses,” Stevenson said. “But that’s not really a story. That’s a Sports Center commercial.”
Instead, the filmmakers said their cinematic approach will give the audience a bottom-up, insider’s perspective into the Little 500 experience.
“The story we want it tell is a story people can relate to,” Stevenson said. “And what we have found is a really common Midwestern story, the idea of working as hard as you can and to become an athletic champion.”
In order to parse out this narrative for the documentary, the filmmakers have been following the journeys of four teams with storied histories at the race: the Cutters and Delta Tau Delta in the men’s division, and Delta Gamma and Teter in the women’s division. Miller and Stevenson said they want to craft a story that speaks to the whole experience, one that represents all 33 teams that will take to the track at Bill Armstrong Stadium this weekend.
“We are hoping that by telling the stories of the teams that we’re focusing on, we can do justice to the story that all of them live in a way,” Miller says.
The toughest obstacle still ahead for the film team is, of course, race day. On that day, Miller and Stevenson will find themselves conducting a virtual symphony of more than two dozen production assistants and 18 standard- and high-speed cameras trained on everyone from riders whizzing around the quarter-mile cinder track to the teams’ coaches operating in the pit.
All those cameras will help them reveal dimensions of the race that no one has really seen before, the filmmakers say.
“What we feel like we need to capture in order to get race day right is the little moments that change the course of the race,” Stevenson said.
“That means you’ve gotta have the moment when the coach is like, ‘All right Lisa, you’re in,’” Miller said. “You’ve got to have…all of these tiny sort of ’micro moments’ that add up to the story of the race.”
Tackling a project of this size has been a learning experience for Miller and Stevenson, one that forces them to think not only about how to tell the creative story they envision, but also the business end of filmmaking.
“I think for both of us, this is by far the most logistically complex project we’ve ever done,” Stevenson said.
Though a political science major, he was active in student media at IU, serving as photo and managing editor at the Indiana Daily Student. He and Miller often collaborated at the IDS or in other media projects.
Miller and Stevenson said they have found that coordinating with everyone from camera gear suppliers, their two-dozen assistants, the members of the highlighted race teams, and IU officials and legal staff is an art in itself. To help manage the workload, they have delegated tasks. While Stevenson concentrates mainly on writing and other storytelling aspects of the project, Miller is in charge of nearly everything going into telling the visual side of the story.
“Tom knows a lot about running a live production with multiple cameras going,” Stevenson said. “He is in his element when we have 25 people to assign different jobs.”
“There’s nothing I love more than just barking at people to go do things,” Miller said, laughing.
But the two say their progress would not be possible without the help of their colleagues, especially Black and IU alumna Kirsten Powell. Black, a telecommunications senior, is the other co-creator of the film project. He collaborated with Miller on their 2012 short film All We’ve Built, which debuted at the Cannes International Film Festival last summer.
“Ryan is very much like my right-hand person. At this point, it is like having my brain in another person’s body,” Miller said. “I can just tell him to go do something, and I know he’ll execute it how I would do it.”
Powell, a telecommunications alumna, was brought onto the project as a consultant and producer earlier this month. A former Little Five rider for Delta Gamma, she has the insider’s knowledge. Neither Stevenson nor Miller have participated in the race.
“She’s our Charles Barkley,” Miller said. “She doesn’t have the technical background in terms of the filmmaking part. But what she does have is an incredibly deep understanding of the race and the psychology of the riders.”
Current journalism students also are integral to the team. Chet Strange, Mark Felix, Steph Langan and Anna Teter are among those capturing images and footage that will contribute to the wealth of material the crew hopes to accumulate.
Miller and Stevenson said creating the documentary came at a good time in their careers. Miller had finished months of work for the Barack Obama campaign and the presidential inauguration, and Stevenson had been working as a freelance political reporter for The New York Times.
“Tom was sleeping on my basement floor at one point in December, taping some meetings in D.C.,” Stevenson said. “I think I turned to Tom and said, ‘Look, I always thought it would be really badass to do a Little Five documentary. Isn’t it a shame that we never did.’ And his answer was, ‘Well, why don’t we?’”
As freelancers, neither had trouble dropping everything and coming back to Bloomington to begin organizing the project. To raise money, they crowdsourced through indiegogo.com, an online funding platform, to solicit support, and they used Facebook to alert friends and followers to the campaign. To raise the stakes, they offered perks based on giving levels, such as screen credits for top donors.
“I’ve been living out of my suitcase since February,” Stevenson said. “It’s tough, but it’s a lot of fun. And it’s a good excuse for me to live in Bloomington for another spring.”
After editing throughout next autumn and winter, the film team plans to show preview screenings of One Day in April in Bloomington in the run-up to next year’s Little 500. Soon after, they said they hope to hit the festival circuit and hope to get the documentary shown at South by Southwest festival in Austin and possibly the Sundance Film Festival.
Neither put much hope in financial success stemming from the film.
“We’re not in this for money. We’re not in this for fame. We want people to see the story that we’re trying to tell,” Stevenson said. “As a creative person, that is the best kind of reward you can get: People being interested in your work.”
A decade of war scenes on TV news does not depict the toll on soldiers as they are under fire or when they return home, says filmmaker Danfung Dennis. His award-winning documentary, Hell and Back Again, aims to do just that, examining the life of one marine’s re-entry to family life after three tours of duty and a serious injury.
Dennis spoke to students and faculty Tuesday afternoon at the IU Cinema as the cinema’s Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecturer. Later that evening, the cinema showed the documentary as the final screening in the Photojournalists at War series, which was sponsored by the IU Cinema and the School of Journalism.
Dennis began covering Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, and his work has been featured in Time, The New York Times, Le Figaro and other publications as well in Frontline’s “Obama’s War” program.
Those years of experience provided the footing for the project that became Hell and Back Again, which follows Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris of Echo Company in the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines in Helmand Province in 2009. The film juxtaposes the soldier’s experiences in combat on the warfront with the difficulties he suffers while attempting to adjust back to civilian life in North Carolina following a debilitating injury.
“I was embedded with Echo Company 2/8, and we were dropped deep behind enemy lines,” Dennis told the audience under the soft light in the dim cinema. “And within a few hours, we were surrounded and attacked on all sides. The fighting was extremely heavy.”
Armed with a Canon 5D Mark II outfitted with shotgun microphones and mounted onto a customized Glidecam connected to his bullet proof vest, Dennis was embedded in Helmand Province with Harris and his comrades. He began capturing what would be nearly 100 hours of steady cinematic tracking shots of soldiers under fire.
Dennis said his goal was to capture Operation Enduring Freedom and the burgeoning militant insurgency in Afghanistan, using Echo Company’s experiences.
“By the end of the first day, one marine had been killed, a dozen had collapsed from heat exhaustion, and nearly all of us had run out of water,” Dennis said. “And that’s when I first met Sgt. Nathan Harris.”
Harris handed Dennis his own water bottle that day. On his third combat tour, Harris had a passion for being nothing else but a “grunt” fighting on the front lines in the 8th Marines infantry, Dennis said.
“He was an exceptional leader — and really fearless. So I followed him as he pushed into this platoon,” Dennis told the audience. “And it became a story about one man going to war and coming home from it.”
Shortly before embarking on one of the final missions of his tour, Harris was wounded by enemy fire. His injuries added to the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life for him and his wife, Ashley.
That’s the story Dennis wanted to tell, and he had unrestricted access to the personal lives of Harris and his wife after the soldier’s return to North Carolina. The couple became accustomed to Dennis and his camera, always in the background of their lives, as they dealt with the physical and psychological challenges, and the strain on their marriage.
In the film, Dennis wove footage of Harris and his platoon on the warfront, unloading heavy machine gun clips into enemy positions and ducking away from IED blasts, with scenes of the soldier and of his wife relaxing at home, shopping at Walmart and going to medical appointments.
“The goal was to bridge the reality of the conflict with American consciousness back home,” Dennis explained. For many citizens, their country’s wars are far removed from their day-to-day lives, and the film, Dennis said, could show the sacrifices and hardships of soldiers and their families at war and at home.
Hell and Back Again premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where it earned the World Cinema Jury Award and the World Cinema Cinematography Award. The film was nominated earlier this year for a 2012 Academy Award for best feature documentary.
Dennis also talked about his next project, a technological innovation that futher melds photography with computers and gives viewers a panoramic, three dimensional and immersive experience. His company, Condition One, is working on this technique.
Before the lecture, associate professor Jim Kelly introduced Dennis and moderated a short panel discussion that included professors Claude Cookman and Steve Raymer. Lecturer Dennis Elliott also helped organize Dennis’ appearance.
The other two films that were part of the series, War Photographer about photographer James Nachtwey, and James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments, were shown earlier this spring.
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“This one’s delicious,” John says pulling a glass of red wine from his lips. “Do you want to try it?” he adds passing the glass.
It’s a very sweet, almost tart, batch of Soft Red, Oliver Winery’s number-one-selling product, and it’s about to be bottled.
John Metzcar’s job is one of few in which he’s permitted to drink at work—it’s actually a necessity.
The 32-year-old chemical engineer is an assistant wine maker at Oliver Winery in Bloomington, Ind., where he oversees a wide array of chemical and mechanical processes involved in the production of the company’s dozens of wines.
His job takes him from the Oliver wine cellar festooned with stacks of oaken barrels from which he pulls samples of aging wines, to the company laboratory, where analyzes samples for consistency, purity and taste.
But today is Thursday, and that means the winery manufacturing crew is manning the bottling line. Metzcar stops in to do some quality assurance checks on the operation.
Hooked up to a large filtration device, a long hose ushers wine from one of a dozen 8,200-gallon storage tanks looming over Metzcar in the dark, frosty fermentation facility. The sweet wine pushes through the filtration stage and into the clamorous bottling facility where it is shortly after quickly squirted into a parade of sanitized bottles that come whizzing down the bottling line.
While employees load the automated line with empty boxes and work on the corking and labeling stages of the process, Metzcar leans toward the line of filled bottles scooting by on a conveyor belt and grabs a couple to make sure the dates printed on the labels are correct. Then off they go further down the line where they’re boxed, sealed and stacked on pallets to be stored in one of the company’s large, chilly warehouses.
The process needed to transform a formative mix of crushed grapes and yeast into a final product is a delicate and calculated one, says Metzcar.
“It’s a matter of being diligent about how you treat the wine, making sure that you’re maintaining proper standards, both in terms of cleanliness and in terms of chemistry of the wine,” he says in Oliver’s long tube of a wine cellar just outside the tasting room.
“Is the wine fermenting and progressing the way it should be? Is it a sound fermentation?” Metzcar says. These are the basic questions that guide his relationship with the batches of libation chilling in the prodigious stainless steel tanks and oaken barrels peppering the production facilities across the property.
“We’re always trying to get the wine batches to mix correctly so that it is balanced,” he adds under bright fluorescent lights in the company’s laboratory. Here, he and his colleague Melanie Strong ply their knowledge of chemical engineering to run a battery of quantitative analyses to check the acidity, volatile acuity and microbial stability of wine samples.
“It’s to make sure it [the wine] won’t get funky,” he says. Indeed, much of Metzcar’s job boils down to sampling batches at regular intervals and checking them in the lab to make sure that they are on track to meet company standards.
Metzcar has immersed himself in the science of alcohol production since graduating from Purdue in 2004 with a major in chemical engineering. He worked stints at Brown County Winery and Upland Brewery before joining Oliver in the summer of 2005. So he’s got a solid grasp the chemistry needed to engineer top-notch wines.
“We’ve never had a batch turn out badly since I’ve been here,” he says proudly.
Depending on the type of wine, it takes between two and 18 months to ferment, distill, mix, age and bottle the product. Soft red wines and many of the company’s whites run on shorter aging schedules, while most of Oliver’s dry reds need more time to reach maturity.
The batches of wine Metzcar nurtures every week go into around 45 different makes that Oliver sells throughout Indiana and across the country. The company makes everything from dry whites like chardonnay and sweeter moscatos to heavy reds like shiraz and dessert port wines.
“We make a lot of wines that sell at really significant volumes. So in terms of popularity, we have several,” Metzcar says in the wine cellar. “And then there’s the Creekbend stuff. That’s really unique and interesting too.”
Due to the limitations of Indiana’s seasonal climate, most of the wines that Metzcar helps produce are made from grapes imported from other states. But Oliver does produce limited homegrown varieties from grapes cultivated at the company’s Creekbend Vineyard, a 50-acre plot of limestone soil located in northwest Monroe County near Bean Blossom.
It’s difficult for him to highlight his favorite Oliver wine. He leans against a barrel of carot noir and pauses for several moments “Oh, III—that’s my favorite, maybe my favorite right now,” Metzcar says laughing. A blend of barrel fermented vignoles and vidal franc, Creekbend III is a sweet white wine carrying flavors of apple and pear that the company produces in limited quantities from grapes harvested from Creekbend Vineyard.
With only 137 cases produced in its most recent batch, the production of Creekbend III falls far short of the Soft Red still being squirted into bottles and packaged into pallets in the bottling facility. He’ll spend the rest of his day checking production on the bottling line, sampling wines from stainless steel tanks and oak barrels and running analyses in the lab.
Asked to explain up his personal experiences working behind the scenes at the winery, Metzcar sums it up succinctly enough: “Awesome.”
Monroe County’s Head Start program is making cuts to its staff and to the number of spaces available to children starting immediately.
The South Central Community Action Program must cut 5.1 percent of its Head Start budget, which amounts to more than $150,000 in cuts, because of funding constraints stemming from the federal sequestration.
The SCCAP Board of Directors and Head Start Parent Council voted Monday night to cut 12 Head Start slots for children ages three to five and 25 home-based slots for children up to age three. Fifteen employees will also be let go.
Other cuts include the closure of the Head Start classroom at Lakeview Elementary and the suspension of Head Start transportation services at the end of this school year. Attendance for 2013 summer classes will also be slashed by 67 percent, keeping over 70 children at home during the summer months.
SCCAP Executive Director Todd Lare says parents will be forced to seek alternative sources of child care, and for more time each year.
“We’re also ending the school year early by a month,” he says. “So parents that were intending to have child care taken care of for another month are not going to have that.”
Tiffany Bengtson is one of the luckier parents. Her daughter Emma will be old enough to go to kindergarten. But she knows several parents whose children will be affected. For them, the future is less certain.
“As far as knowing what they’re going to do,” Bengtson says. “I don’t know. And its…I don’t even know if they know at this point since the cuts just came. But hopefully they’ll be able to find something. I hope.”
While the Head Start budget rollbacks in Marion County have been decided, they still have to be approved by the Head Start Regional Office in Chicago before going into effect.
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