Not everyone knows what they want to do with their lives when they’re only a young teenager. This was not the case for Keene State College film lecturer Ted White. Before college, he knew that he wanted to become a filmmaker because of what it encompassed.
“You could either choose [to be a musician, an actor or a writer], or if you became a filmmaker, you could do all those things, and so that really appealed to me cause it was like all the arts are wrapped up into one,” White said.
White, originally from California, worked at the Film Arts Foundation (FAF) in San Francisco. FAF was a place where independent filmmakers had access to equipment, education programs and other resources. While working there, White said that he met many documentarians, or individuals who create documentaries.
White had never been interested in creating documentaries, calling them “boring.” However, his mindset changed when he noticed the creativity creating a documentary involved.
“I think kind of as I grew up a little bit, I felt like, ‘Oh, issues are really important. It’s fun to make up my own stories about who people might be and what things they’re dealing with, feelings they’re dealing with and activites they’re trying to struggle through. Maybe real life is actually pretty worth me learning more about.’”
Eventually, White decided to create his first documentary, which was ultimately a test run. The five minute film was based off of a “demonstration” by bicyclists, who were speaking out against fossil fuel use.
Since, according to White, climate change was not a popular topic back in 1990, the ideas presented by the “rowdy,” “creative and action-oriented” bicyclists were appealing to him. He filmed part of the demonstration while on his own bicycle.
“Wow, this is actually pretty exciting…,” he said. “I just felt like the more I learned about these people, the project branched out.”
After his “test run” was created, he decided to produce another documentary also focused on bicycling. For this documentary, which he titled “Return of the Scorcher,” he traveled across America and the globe. He visited various places such as China and Denmark, calling it a “massive adventure.”
The film compares the bicycling cultures of America to the bicycling cultures of Europe and China.
The end product was broadcasted and screened. White also sold copies of the documentary.
“Suddenly, I was like, ‘Wow, documentaries are the thing. That’s my deal now.’ Initially, I had no interest, and then once I dived in, it hit me big time,” he said.
His next documentary was called “We Are Traffic!” According to White’s website, “We Are Traffic!” tracks this leaderless, grassroots movement from its beginnings in San Francisco in 1992 to its spread across the globe. With a radical direct-action approach, the participants of Critical Mass are celebrating the bicycle and, in turn, taking on perhaps the century’s most sacred cow: the automobile.”
In his documentary, he referenced the movement as a “critical mass.” White said after that, participants in the movement began calling it a critical mass.
“As a filmmaker, you want to impact the world someway, right? You want…somehow, there to be something people take away from your film that actually changes the way they think or how they might act, and so that was really thrilling that one of my films actually reached out into regular culture and touched it,” White said.
White’s bicycling films have not only been shown in America, but also worldwide. They have also been translated into many languages.
White is currently working on a documentary called, “My Beautiful Nightmare,” which is focused on his life as a dad to a daughter with Down Syndrome.
To learn more about the documentary, please visit kscequinox.com for a multimedia piece on the subject.
Alexandria Saurman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org