Date of Submission

Spring 2013

Academic Program

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peggy Ahwesh

Abstract/Artist's Statement

I must admit that there is no literal thematic connection between the two documentary shorts that compose my senior project. My decision to present them both was driven by something else, something more vague. They both focus on the same specific demographic, one that I myself belong to. They are both concerned with more or less universal topics; that is to say, most people on a college campus have either experienced or heard about both of the subjects of each film. But above all, what ties these two documentary shorts together, what allows them to exist in a single senior project, is the idea that everyone is a storyteller. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. Everyone has a story to tell, and if you give them the chance, they can turn a simple memory into a compelling narrative. This is something that I’ve come to learn throughout my experience making documentaries. It is for that reason that I’ve clung so tightly to the talking head format that both films adopt. I’ve only ever needed subjects’ words and stories to communicate through the medium of documentary film.

“Adderall or Nothing”

The title is equal parts tongue-in-cheek and perfectly emblematic of what lies at the heart of this documentary short. Adderall, here acting as the stand-in for all amphetamine-based pharmaceutical psychostimulants, is a choice. That’s not to say that everyone who takes Adderall is in charge of that decision; sometimes it is made for them, often at an early age, usually by a parent or as urged by a teacher. What I mean by that statement, that Adderall is a choice, is that you either take Adderall or you don’t—you either subscribe yourself to it’s long list of pros and cons and incorporate it into your life, or you don’t take it.

Adderall is a powerful drug, similar in chemical composition to methamphetamine. It is a mind-altering substance that affects a user’s cognition, behavior and mood. Its side-effects can persist beyond its duration of action. Basically, Adderall alters, to varying degrees, a person’s daily life.

At an institution such as Bard College, it would hardly be controversial to make the claim that Adderall is a sketchy form of treatment. Few among us, I’d like to think, are of the opinion that Adderall is the appropriate solution for, say, a six year old who is having trouble concentrating and staying in his seat. There is something so sinister, dystopian even, about the idea of using mind-altering chemicals to maintain order in the classroom and ensure that students complete their work. The focus of this documentary, however, is not so much on the involuntary use of Adderall, as it is on the voluntary. All of the subjects in this film are students at Bard College. They live away from home, away from their parents, and they use Adderall on their own accord. What I am interested in is why, if the wide array of side-effects are universal and persistent, do so many college students subject themselves to Adderall?

The film is composed exclusively of talking head interviews. I had no intention of making an informational documentary about Adderall, and thus there is no narration or background explanation. I believe that the most compelling evidence for any argument about the validity of these drugs is to be found in personal accounts.

“That’s My Password”

“That’s My Password” is an examination of personal passwords through a series of personal vignettes. This documentary short deals with the inherent conflict between memorization and secrecy—that a password is committed to memory, recalled and used on a regular basis, and yet is perpetually concealed from other people. Furthermore, the persistent typing-in of a password quickly becomes a mechanical act, and the password is thus reduced to a series of key strokes. This documentary aims to recover the meaning of the password.

We are accustomed to keeping our personal information concealed, in order to protect ourselves against fraud, identity theft and any number of other possible violations; or else simply to maintain peace of mind. However, there is an untold story behind every password, and that is what I hoped to bring out with this project.

For the sake of reinforcing the project as an attempt to break down a certain private/public barrier, each participant is filmed inside of his/her own bedroom or living space.

Participants discuss the origin of their passwords, where they came from and what they mean. Memories attach themselves to things; and passwords, however arbitrary they may seem, are no exception. Due to the commendable willingness of the subjects to reveal and discuss their passwords, this project is able to recover and uncover the story behind the key strokes.

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