Festival director explores filmmaking

By Chloe Lister

“We’re talking about hipsters,” exclaimed one of countless interviewees in the first line of aspiring filmmaker Jacqueline Sir’s ’11 documentary.

Apparently Sir isn’t the only one interested in this topic, seeing as her seven and a half minute documentary, was posted on the website Hipster Runoff, a popular blog that describes itself as “culturally relevant.” Through this, Sir’s film has garnered over 8,500 views.

“I never thought my hipster documentary would go viral, I just thought that I would put it up for the people who were in it and for my friends and family,” Sir said.

Her documentary was viewed so many times that it was named the most “popular/controversial” post for the week it was put up, ranking it ahead of an entry about a man who tried to commit suicide at a Phish concert and a photo of a man who broke his leg trying to jump a fence to get into a music festival, among others.

“I think what got people talking the most was the subject matter and what I was talking about through the film got more attention than the film itself,” Sir said. “Yeah, a couple people said the structure was horrible or that it was a horrible video, but people are entitled to their own opinions. I’ve gotten so much great feedback as well though, so I just take it all in.”

“I’ve always wanted to make a documentary, but I never knew how to go about it,” Sir said. Sir wanted her documentary to explore the concept of who people consider to be “hipsters,” and ultimately define what a hipster is. Sir made her documentary while attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Summer Film Workshop, which is where she will be attending in the fall.

Sir has known that she wanted to be a filmmaker since a very young age, but she’s still figuring out what exactly drew her to the craft.

“I guess it was just the whole idea of creating a story: manipulating reality into something I’m able to create something else out of,” she said. “Taking something that’s real and making art out of it.”

Although her interest stretches far back towards the beginning of her life, Sir formally began her foray into the art of filmmaking little over a year ago during a summer program at the University of Southern California. There she created four short films. Then last year Sir made her foray into the Harvard-Westlake film department by taking the Video Art I course.

“I made an experimental art piece where I just played around with visuals, editing, sound – it was really interesting, I explored the visual aspect of filmmaking rather than the narrative aspect,” she said. At the end of last year, Visual Arts Department Head Cheri Gaulke selected Sir to direct the 2011 Harvard-Westlake Film Festival with Nick Lieberman ’11.

Sir also worked on an additional short film independently this summer.

“Basically [my film is] about a boy who gets a message that his father’s dead and then it sort of takes him along this journey of flashbacks where he recalls all the abusive things his father had done to him, and that’s where we really got to play with the experimental aspects because I didn’t want it just to be about a dad who abuses his son… it’s more of an emotional narrative than just ‘girl does this, girl has conflict, conflict gets resolved. It’s more about what the character is going through,” Sir said.

Throughout her career thus far as a filmmaker, Sir names the documentary she made over the summer as her proudest achievement.

“I just had an amazing time making it, amazing experiences meeting new people, and the outcome was 100 times better than I ever expected,” Sir said.