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Conservation of Matter: The Fall and Rise of Boston's Elevated Subway

Conservation of Matter traces the fate of 100,000 tons of steel from the Boston Elevated Subway, which was erected in 1898, demolished in 1987, then shipped eight thousand miles away to be melted and re-formed into steel bars. Those products then cross the ocean again, where they are ultimately re-fabricated into a remarkable new structure in a surprising location. Workers, historians preachers, politicians, artists, riders , architects, astrophysicists and street people on two continents address the significance of the process as it unfolds.

Direction, Editing:
Tim Wright
Principal Photography: Karen Ellzey, Michael Underwood
Music: Jusef Sharif
Winner: Best Editing, 1996 New England Film/Video Festival
Winner:
Audience Choice and Judge's Grand Prize, 1997 U.S. Super 8mm Film/Video Festival
30 minutes, color. Available for purchase on VHS from www.buyindies.com
.

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Shooting the Strangler's Wife: The Making of an Exploitation Film

Shooting the Strangler's Wife comes out of a documentary class I taught at Cityscape Motion Picture Education. The object of the class was to document the making of a 35mm film co-produced by Cityscape and Roger Corman, the so-called "king of the B movies." The piece was shot by the documentary students with help from Stephen McCarthy, a professional documentary cinematographer. I edited the film and it premiered at Doyle’s Café in Jamaica Plain in October of 2003. In addition, 15 minutes of documentary footage are currently on a DVD of Strangler's Wife being distributed internationally by Roger Corman. Work on the documentary is ongoing.


Produced by: Tim Wright with Kris Britt, Molly Froelich, Catherine M. O'Neill, Stacy Sheehan and Rod Williams.
Direction, Editing: Tim Wright
Principal Photography: Kris Britt, Molly Froelich, Catherine M. O'Neill, Stacy Sheehan, Rod Williams.
Additional photography by: Stephen McCarthy, Tim Wright.

Still frames and a video excerpt (video excerpt coming soon)


Sarah Huling, who plays the strangler's wife Mae, on location at Doyle's Café in Jamaica Plain. Behind her, Producer Laura Wilson of Cityscape Motion Picture Education.
Patrick Ruth, Director of photography, with apprentices Paul Clancy and John Szpak.
Liz Cromwell just before her audition for the role of Mae, the strangler's wife. Ashley Richardson in background.
Ben Sullivan, Assistant Camera apprentice, hold the slate in a video output from the camera
Nyvia Frabetti (Elena) at her audition.

 

Plastic: Credit Cards and the Culture of Debt (work-in-progress)

Co-Producers: Julie Criniére,  Jasmin Sung,  Tim Wright
Director: Tim Wright
Preliminary Funding: Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities

Synopsis

As we enter a new millennium, what it means to be an American is bound up with patterns of consumption which have palpably restructured family life and values. While consumption in capitalist societies has been growing in importance since the eighteenth century, it has undergone a huge transformation in the late twentieth century. From a very early age, Americans are bombarded with moral messages which come not from local and traditional sources like family, church and school, but which come through our television sets from distant corporate sources which tell us the good life can be purchased. A prime engine of this extraordinary expansion of consumption has been the credit card. Children’s toys now ccool shoppin barbieome packaged with name brand credit cards. A cash register for children "three and up" is opened with a Citibank VisaCard. A "Cool Shoppin’ Barbie" doll comes with a MasterCard affixed to her hand and a cash register that barks "credit approved" when opened.

There is considerable evidence that the credit-card fueled culture of consumption is transforming our ideas of citizenship. The old idea of citizenship was linked to the notion of sacrifice for the common good. But in a consumerist society, have the ideas of sacrifice and "common good" changed or even lost their meaning? In some ways, credit cards liberate. They give us the ability to accomplish projects for which we could never get funds from traditional institutions. They allow us to become our own bankers. But credit cards are Janus-faced. By separating the act of acquisition from payment, and by mystifying pay-back terms, they encourage magical thinking. And immediate gratification can have its own pathos: in the absence of collective goals, and with new possessions continually generating new demands, is personal fulfillment more elusive than ever? Have we become a nation obsessed with buying things we don’t need with money many of us don’t have? One result is that Americans have the lowest level of savings in the industrialized world, and the highest level of personal debt. In recent years, that level has risen precipitously. The average unsecured debt load for American families has grown from some $2,500 in 1976 to over $12,000 in 1996 (NY Times, 8/11/96). Furthermore, our ability to pay off credit card debt is deteriorating. In the midst of the longest period of sustained prosperity in our history, Americans are declaring personal bankruptcy in unprecedented numbers: over one million in 1996, 14,092 in Massachusetts alone, which represents a 19% rise over 1995 (Boston Globe 10/17/97, NYT 8/11/96). What will happen when the economic bubble bursts, as it must?

Plastic, a one-hour documentary, will investigate the culture of consumption in America through the window of the credit card. It will obliquely illuminate the ways in which credit, and debt shape our social and psychological landscape and transform our relationships with our jobs, families, personal possessions, and leisure time. By turns biting and funny, the program will explore the impact of credit and debt through the voices and images of children playing with toy credit cards and credit card carrying Barbie dolls, the credit card manufacturing and distribution process, credit card users in action, and artists and fashion designers who work with credit card motifs, among others. Scholars, lawyers, consumer activists, bankers, workers and people on the street of all ages and social positions will offer their perspectives along the way.

Tax deductible contributions to the project may be made to its fiscal sponsor, the Center for Independent Documentary. Contact Blinktank for details.

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