from director Clay Stafford
My son attended Inge Smith’s preschool
and I had known Inge in passing for several years. She
was a delightful, well-educated lady who certainly loved
children, but that was the extent of my knowledge of
her. By happenstance, I heard that Inge was a Jewish
Holocaust survivor. A few days later, someone mentioned
that Inge's life had been threatened several times in
Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. On the next
Monday morning after I dropped off my son at her
preschool, I felt compelled to ask her about these
things and this documentary was born.
I assembled a small crew of three and,
as we got into the life of Inge Meyring Smith, we were
amazed on a personal level how one person can so
drastically influence her world and also how such an
impact can be relatively unknown in our age of excessive
information. Her life truly has made a difference,
but little is known of her.
Rather than bring in a narrator, I
decided to tell Inge’s story through her and those who
had shared her life. Phillip Lacy, our cinematographer,
and I shot (along with sound mixer Ken Landers) over 35 hours of footage of Inge and of many
who had grown older with her. This is their story in their own words.
We shot Inge in standard HD in
her home and shot everyone else in 24P in our studio
to create a distinctive “feel” between Inge’s
chronological forward-moving memories and the
counter-point of the other commentaries looking at
Inge’s life in reverse, from now to back then. I nearly trashed the swimming sequence - a shame because swimming is an integral part of Inge’s life – but finally decided to divide the sequence into progressive parts and space it throughout the film allowing Inge to metaphorically swim through her life, propelled through the thick water only by her own volition.
Ken Landers was our composer, as well as our location sound recordist. I had never worked with Ken prior to this and it was the perfect project. Because the story of Inge’s life spans the 1930’s to present and covers two continents, we decided to compose different period music for each “chapter” of Inge’s life. The result bridges German baroque, New York jazz, Louisiana bayou, Nashville country, and instrumental modern.
We shot this project over an 8-month period using a bare-bones crew of three. In her life, Inge has been able to accomplish much with only her crew of one. Because of her and the courageous choices that she made with her life, the world is a better place for little ones such as my son. When one day my son should ask that basic question, "What is the meaning of life?" I think I may recommend that he watch this film. Inge has much to teach us all. I know at least one filmmaker who has certainly been inspired by simply getting to know her.
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