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Harriet and Marty from the student-produced documentary "Here We Are." Photo by Samae Chlebowski

Time capsules in film

Digital Media students at Southern Oregon University are creating half-hour documentaries on regional life, lore, trails, the burgeoning wine and cannabis industries, locally shot movies and even scary tales of ghosts and Bigfoot — and they’re getting an on-air boost for their resumes from Southern Oregon Public Television.

SOPTV is airing the students’ documentaries in a series called “The Jeffersonian,” referring to the mythical state of Jefferson that encompasses Southern Oregon and Northern California. The newest will be “Here We Are,” detailing the lives and impending deaths of a Talent couple who are sustained by their love for their art and each other. Produced by Nicole Gullixson and Samae Chlebowski, it’s a “cinema verite” production, with no narration — just the subjects doing all the talk.

“It’s taught me real-life skills, helped me adjust to new technology, built my confidence and showed me I want a life as a video editor,” says Gullixson, video editor.

Videographer and production partner Samae Chlebowski, a graduate in pre-digital photography, says she returned to SOU to immerse herself in the digital world.

“I was interested in taking media to a challenging new level and it was a big, positive challenge for me. I had to make a lot of mistakes and be flexible to wrap my head around it,” she says.

Gullixson and Chlebowski’s documentary will premier at 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, on SOPTV, with a public viewing party at 7 p.m. at the Meese Auditorium in SOU’s Art Building. It joins five earlier shows by Digital Media students, which are viewable under the title The Jeffersonian, at www.soptv.org/Jeffersonian. They are:

n “A State of Mystery” — Includes stories on Bigfoot, Lemurian legends of Mount Shasta, the haunting of Plunkett Center at SOU.

n “A Budding New Industry” — Chronicles marijuana’s shift from a shady, criminal activity to a legitimate, booming medical, business and recreational industry and explores its medical and psychoactive properties.

n “Take 3” — Focuses on the boom in regionally-shot movies, indie filmmakers and film festivals and the future of filmmaking.

n “On the Trail” — Presents the region’s vast system of trails into wild country and how many go back to the days of the American Indians and pioneers.

n “Jeffersonian Harvest” — Looks into the region’s internationally recognized wine industry, the debate over the use of GMOs and other aspects of the local food movement.

The degree program and completed shows give students job-ready experience and a solid resume, says SOPTV President-CEO Mark Stanislawski, and they create an entertaining and enduring historical record.

He and former SOU President Mary Cullinan cooked up the show’s format in 2013, basing it on broad themes. Teacher Chris Lucas says it covers “a lot of learning edges” such as video-audio editing, shooting, research and trust-building with subjects in the community.

The students produce one new documentary a year, says Stanslawski, adding, “It’s quite a good series. To the future, it will be, ‘what were we like.’ They are time capsules.”

Gullixson and Chlebowski say they developed close relationships with each other and the couple in the film, which added to the depth and quality of the show. They have entered it in a film festival in Idaho as well as the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

Chlebowski, a former art teacher, says she feels she has successfully made the jump to the new digital world, instead of “just sitting at home, living in my head” and trying to learn it alone. Gullixson graduates this spring and looks forward to working in the industry.

Their show fell under the heading of “living on the edge” and will be followed by a similarly themed documentary, “Remembrance,” which follows a pair of veterans finding ways to a normal life, in spite of barriers created by their wartime injuries.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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