Junior creates documentary on drug use with anonymous student interviews

Junior communication major Madeline Baker gained a lot of attention when she posted in Overheard at Trinity, a popular Trinity Facebook group, saying that she was looking for people who might want to be interviewed about their personal drug use for a documentary.

Baker is currently taking Visual Communication: Documentary Film, and is in the process of making a documentary about drug use on Trinity’s campus in order to raise discussion about the positive and/ or negative effects drugs can have on students.

“This is really an endeavor to start a discussion about these stigmatized realities,” Baker said. “I’m not pushing an agenda. I don’t want to specificallyw say that “˜drugs are bad’ or “˜drugs are good.’ I just want to present the information as it is and tell the story how it is rather than putting an opinion behind it.”

Baker’s initial problem was finding students who were willing to participate in her documentary.

“Since it’s such a stigmatized issue, a lot of people don’t want to come forward and have their testimonies recorded and shown to other people,” Baker said. “That’s a very difficult thing to ask for people to do, so I posted on Overheard at Trinity in order to forego that issue of having to directly talk to people and say, “˜Hey, I know you do drugs, would you be interested in being in my film?’ I figured if I posted it somewhere that’s almost anonymous, people could come to me anonymously and not be weirded out by that.”

Baker guaranteed to maintain the anonymity of those who volunteered to be interviewed by altering their voices and not showing their faces. She ended up securing 10 interviewees and began filming and interviewing them last week.

“I’m focusing more on the personal aspects of everything””so like how using drugs is affecting them and their social and academic lives, whether or not it’s affecting their emotional states, if they’re using it for medical reasons and things like that,” Baker said. “I’m just trying to sift through the different types of stories that I know are out there.”

Baker is also hoping to film a few interviewees doing drugs in front of the camera.

“I want to get those types of shots to show that this is actually what’s happening rather than just talking about it,” Baker said. “I want to show visuals of the things that actually do go down here.”

Christopher Lucas, visiting professor of communication, is teaching the visual communication documentary class this semester. The class focuses on the basics of documentary and production skills.

“My approach to teaching the class is really to ask the students to use their own experiences, interests and concerns to generate a topic to make a short film about,” Lucas said. “My take on documentary is that it’s the principled creative treatment of actuality, so it’s really the filmmaker telling their story out of a world that they’re very clearly and very consciously filtering through their own perspective.”

Lucas approved Baker’s topic after the two of them met with other faculty members and discussed it.

“Maddie’s topic is pretty interesting,” Lucas said. “Her treatment of it is pretty expressive and it seems like she’s going to be a little more lyrical and poetic in her way of approaching the subject.”

There are 15 students in the documentary film class. They are all working on making documentaries that will be viewed by the class at the end of the semester.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what all of these students come up with,” Lucas said. “There are so many amazing stories out there, and I think they get more interesting when we see them through the lens of a particular perspective.”