Tag Archives: movies

A Day on the Hill

Representative government, a staple of our democracy, is something we often learn about in school…and yet seldom engage in beyond voting.  But for the last several years, through my interactions with the National Writing Project, I have had the opportunity to push myself to delve more deeply into the governing process as I visit the congressional representatives of our region to advocate for our organization by heading to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  This means making appointments with our congress people, meeting with them to talk about the work we do locally, and often making a request that they sign onto a Dear Colleague letter or support a particular piece of legislation coming up for a vote.

And for the last few years, my friend and San Diego Area Writing Project colleague, Abby Robles, has been coming with me, setting up appointments, and helping to build relationships with the representatives and their staffs.

There’s something larger than life about this city.  Monuments loom large, bringing the history of our country into focus.  The streets teem with people…and when you are on Capitol Hill, most are in dark suits rushing here and there.  Armed sentries stand at attention and the entryway to all governmental buildings require passage through metal detectors.

Like hives, the houses of representatives buzz with groups of people in conversation.  Tiny elevators carry people from floor to floor of massive marble hallways, old fashioned clocks beep and wink indicating voting in progress.  Impossibly young interns man the phones, handle queries, and usher people in and out for appointments.  Each office is decorated with artifacts of “home,” the place the congressperson represents.

Last year Abby decided to make a movie about her trip to DC to show her students.  So we talked through her plan, scoped out potential shots, and considered how we could use our time in at the Capitol to tell a story.  With Abby as the star, I was pressed into service as cinematographer, filming pieces of our visit that she would stitch together into the movie.  It was great fun…and the movie was quite a hit!

And so this morning, Abby was eager to make a new movie for her students and we began talking as we walked to the Capitol for our meeting.  A conversation we have had before is about the word capitol with an “o” and how it is different from the word capital with an “a.”  This led us to the discussion of the multiple meanings of words…and what ultimately became the inspiration for the story Abby would create for her students.

I was studying carefully today, taking in Abby’s process as we thought about the different movie scenes and planned the shots.  I have tiptoed into some movie making…but have only used photos…no video at this point.  (Here is a movie I made a year ago) We had lots of fun with word play as we considered the many possibilities for words that had meaning in this place where our government lives. And as we shot each scene, we were thinking about what would come next…knowing that we would ask our representative, Scott Peters, to play a role in the video.  And what a great sport he was, not only agreeing to play along, but also adding his own twist to the plot, creating complexity and authenticity.

Making the movie kept our day lively, as each place we went became fodder for our thinking about multiple meaning words.  And by including the congressman in the movie, our conversation with him became more genuine.  We laughed, shared stories about our work and his, and engaged his staff in our video vision.  The making made us curious…about words, about this place, about angles and light and sound.  And it felt good to find a suitable end piece…and a crazy coda with Abby dancing on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Abby pieced the movie together…some during our lunch in the House of Representatives cafeteria…and the rest in the hotel bar as people came together to share the results of their day on the hill.  And here it is!  A lovely movie that reflects Abby’s thinking and her hard work…and I can’t wait to share it with my students too!

I think I’m ready to try a movie of my own.  I don’t think I will be starring in it…I don’t see myself as quite the actress that Abby is.  But I’m ready to try my hand at thinking through scenes, planning shots, and creating a story through the process.  Wish me luck!

Murphy’s Law

You’ve heard it before:

If something can go wrong, it will

It’s Murphy’s Law.  And as an optimist, that isn’t my attitude about most things.  Today is Veteran’s Day, a holiday from work, and so my husband and I set off for the movie theater to watch Interstellar.  We are not frequent movie watchers–it takes uninterrupted, focused time to watch a movie.  But we do enjoy movies when we make time for them.  I knew going in today that this movie was a long one (three hours long), so I settled in, hoping it would be good enough to keep my attention.  Right from the start I liked the young character…Murphy.  A ten year old girl whose brother teased her about being named for Murphy’s Law.  Her father (Matthew McConaughey) assures her that Murphy’s Law is a good thing:

anything that can happen, will happen

And so I was enjoying the movie, it was building to a critical juncture at about two hours in…when the fire alarm in the movie theater went off!  The movie stopped, the lights came up, and the loudspeakers asked everyone to exit the building.  My first thought was, oh no…I really want to see how the movie ends!  People poured out the exits, wondering how they would see the ending of the movie.  Most people seemed to think it was likely a false alarm, no one seemed particularly worried about fire.

As we walked back around to the front of the theater, we could smell smoke.  Lots of people were milling around, not sure what to do about the incomplete movie.  Asking some theater employees, we found out that the Icee machine had gone up in smoke…and we could smell the resulting burn.

We looked up and saw two police car race up the driveway with sirens sounding and lights flashing.  Not long after, fire trucks began to arrive.

fire engine

It was clear that there was no active fire, so the firefighters went through procedures to clear the smoke and ensure the theater was safe.


It was clear that it would take a while for this to happen, so after being reassured that our ticket stubs would be honored to see the movie at a later date, we headed off to enjoy the rest of our day off…without knowing how the movie ends!

at the theater

It was definitely a Murphy’s Law kind of moment.  And when I ran into a couple of my students who had also evacuated from their movie, I found myself thinking about how the fire drills we have at school actually served them well in this situation.  They knew about evacuating, they were calm and matter of fact about seeing the fire engines and firefighters…they put their drill experience to use.

Don’t tell me what happens in Interstellar, I’ll be heading back to the theater later this week to see it…even though I’ll have to start from the beginning again!  This three-hour movie is turning into a five hour event for me…it better be worth it.  Murphy’s Law at work!