Alice Elliott, best known for her Academy Award-nominated documentary “The Collector of Bedford Street,” made an appearance in Scott Laboratory Monday night to talk about her work and give career advice to a small group of students.
Elliott has finished two documentaries, “The Collector of Bedford Street” and “Body and Soul: Diana & Kathy.”
Her first piece, a 34-minute documentary short, focuses on her neighbor Larry, who lives with an intellectual disability and struggles with anxiety problems. Larry becomes “The Collector of Bedford Street” when he begins collecting funds for an AIDS walk in New York City.
Elliott said the most important thing to have when making a documentary is access and that her access to Larry was key to her success with “The Collector of Bedford Street.”
“So if you have an idea for a documentary, or when you watch a documentary, you think, ‘Why this filmmaker and why this story?'” Elliott said.
Raquel Pina, a recent doctoral graduate in Latin American cultural studies, went to the event because she hopes to begin working in Argentina’s film industries.
“She has a different technique and way of doing things, so it was definitely very useful,” Pina said.
Another audience member, Dave McCray, a graduate student in industrial and systems engineering, said he attended the speech because he is enrolled in a German film studies class and his professor recommended it.
“I thought it was interesting that for her, film is a way of showing life and initiating change. I guess I hadn’t really thought of it that way,” McCray said.
Elliott showed the audience clips from both of her documentaries and summarized the struggles she had with each and the parts that remain special to her. She described how the characters of her second film had gone on to win a Human Rights Award and that all of her subjects are “their own self-advocates.”
Her subjects are not their only advocates, however. Through her films and other efforts, such as selling buttons, Elliott has become an advocate for the disabled. She emphasized that film allows for others to see these people more intimately and to better understand them.
“I really think films are a great tool for showing other lives and for making social change,” Elliott said.