By KRISTEN GREEN ’14
Town residents, students and College staff packed into Collins Cinema the evening of Oct. 24, eager to view a new student-produced documentary. The film, “The Town of Wellesley’s Recycling & Disposal Facility: A Documentary,” was produced by DawnMarie Barnett, a senior Davis Scholar, who spent more than 500 hours researching, conducting interviews, filming and editing footage to complete the project.
The film received an overwhelmingly positive reception from screening attendees, as Wellesley residents have long considered their Recycling and Disposal Facility (RDF) an essential part of town life.
“For most of the people who came, this is their baby,” Barnett said. “Most of [the residents] would tell me stories about when their friends would come into town, and [the RDF] is what they would talk about.”
In the documentary, Barnett seamlessly weaves together RDF employee interviews with testimony from town residents, blending this commentary with stunning shots of Wellesley’s natural beauty. Her film explains how the RDF works to make Wellesley a more sustainable community.
Not only does Wellesley’s RDF allow residents to recycle everything from old televisions to yard waste, but it also turns a significant profit by selling its products in both foreign and domestic markets. The money that the RDF makes through selling recycled products is returned to the town of Wellesley’s general fund.
Before the screening of the film, RDF Superintendent Gordon Martin spoke about the impact of the RDF in Wellesley, crediting the town residents’ involvement in the recycling program with much of the facility’s success. Barnett’s film, which features footage and interviews of a diverse array of town residents, reflects the community aspect of the RDF.
In one part of the film, two young sisters complete each other’s sentences as they share their enthusiasm for their Saturday morning recycling trip. For Barnett, meeting and talking to people was one of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the documentary-making experience.
“I thought this would be a one-time-a-week dreaded trip, and in the two years it took me to film there was nobody who dreaded it,” she said. “They would say, ‘I love coming here. I’ve been coming here for 30 years.’”
Barnett began making the documentary in August 2011, after a friend told her about Wellesley’s RDF and suggested she make a documentary about Wellesley’s recycling program.
“I wasn’t really even interested in recycling,” she explained. “But as I started filming and meeting the employees at the Recycling and Disposal Facility I couldn’t believe their passion.”
Barnett learned more about the facility and the funds it generates through Martin. She also spent many hours poring over archives of The Wellesley Townsman, the local newspaper, to independently research the RDF’s 40-year history.
Barnett wrapped up production of the film in September after spending the summer working with U.S. Army Public Affairs in Heidelberg, Germany.
“I helped to make commercials that aired around Europe for the military troops, and so they had to be very specific time frames,” Barnett said, explaining that her work in public affairs gave her the editing experience necessary to complete her documentary project.
“Just like any book, the edits make a difference,” she said. “Just rearranging things or deleting things can make your product more powerful.”
The feedback and assistance Barnett received from College staff was also instrumental to the editing process. Barnett also gained essential experience through her work-study under Jarlath W. Waldron, director of media and technology at Wellesley.
Barnett plans to pursue her love of filmmaking in the future, but she wasn’t always committed to a career in documentary-making.
Before coming to Wellesley, Barnett worked in marketing and advertising in Oahu, Hawaii.
“I returned from the Island of Oahu in 2008 because I lost my job because I couldn’t speak,” she explained. “I didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
Barnett eventually discovered that the problem was spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that makes the speaker’s voice sound strangled due to spasms that cause the vocal chords to slam together and stiffen. After losing her job, Barnett decided to apply to Wellesley, and now Botox in her vocal chords allows her to speak more easily.
Today, Barnett recognizes that the challenges of losing her job and voice led her to finally pursue her interest in filmmaking.
“I’m not happy that it happened, but I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have done this film and get to do my art,” she said.
Looking into the future, Barnett expand her filmmaking career. She has written a screenplay about a female Air Force pilot that she hopes to one day make into a film, and she believes that the directing experience she gained through making the documentary could be a stepping stone into more filmmaking and videography opportunities. However, the documentary experience has also instilled in Barnett a passion for sustainability. She plans to distribute her film to PBS, schools and municipalities throughout the nation who might be able to learn from the model of Wellesley’s RDF.
Barnett is in the process of building a website for the documentary. The site, RecyclingDocumentary.com, should be functional by Nov. 15. In the meantime, those interested in buying a DVD of the documentary for $10 should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristen Green is a senior studying political science and Spanish. Follow her on Twitter @greengreen_kris.