Unfortunately for most Vassar students, the dreaded sophomore slump is something that seems inescapable and may take on many forms. Filmmaker Anna Blum ’17 is no stranger to this phenomenon. Her current film project, “Good, You,” seeks to address the concerns that she and many sophomores feel after returning to campus for their second year at Vassar.
After finding happiness and making strong connections with others, Blum returned to campus after her freshman summer excited to pick up from where she left off. But, to Blum’s own dismay, many of those whom she formed connections with in previous semesters began to turn away from friendship and, instead, became very surface-level to her. Instead of feeling disheartened Blum sees her challenges and channels them through creative expression in her new film. “What inspired me to do this specific project is coming into my sophomore year at Vassar, I had left my freshman year at Vassar feeling very satisfied with how I stood academically and socially, and I was very ready to come back for my sophomore year. Then I came back, and it was a whole different experience,” Blum said. “People who I thought were really close with me started becoming very stand-offish, and it was bizarre and uncomfortable. I was just confused as to how people I considered to be my good friends suddenly felt as if they didn’t understand me at all.”
Many artists share Blum’s feelings of disconnect with their environment. Harnessing this, she seeks to pump raw-emotion and sincerity back into her community: She said, “Whenever I’m trying to make an art piece, it is very dependent upon my state of being. At this time I’m just feeling very misunderstood by my environment. That’s what inspired my project. I wanted to open myself up to others and have others open themselves up to me. That’s sort of what friendship ought to be, and that’s just not how I feel like it has been here recently. That was the initial thing.”
For “Good, You,” Blum has filmed friends, classmates and anyone who is willing to be vulnerable in front of the camera. Her process was simple: she read off a situation she devised—situations that are synonymous with everyday life here at Vassar like spotting a crush in the Retreat—and filmed her subject as they reacted to said situation.
“Good, you” is the compilation of these raw emotional responses. “I feel like Vassar is an emotional roller coaster, and people aren’t as open about it as they ought to be. It makes going through it so much easier if you can go up to someone and go, ‘Hey, I’m not doing so hot right now. I really could talk to you about this,’ instead of saying, ‘I’m doing good, how are you?’ It’s just false. We’re all feeling it, and it would be a lot healthier in my opinion if we all said something about it, so I wanted to use this project as a way to start the conversation of answering the question that should be so simple, ‘How are you feeling today?’” said Blum.
This current project is not Blum’s first project in her film career at Vassar. Last year, Blum was approached by Isabel Marvel ’17 about putting together a video of a bunch of students dancing at The Mug in order to show that no matter what you’re wearing, how you’re dancing or whom you’re dancing with, you are not asking to be sexually assaulted. The film became known as ‘Project Not Asking For It,’ and is a part of a larger series of videos raising awareness about sexual assault. “I was inspired to make the video by Wesleyan’s “Project Not Asking For It” video, made by a friend of mine from high school. The anti sexual assault project has blown up and colleges all over the country are making videos addressing the issue of victim blaming,” Marvel said. “Anna Blum helped realize Vassar’s video in all its perfection with her nifty filming and editing skills. It would be a dream come true to do another collaboration with her soon.”
While in her current project Blum seeks to make her subjects vulnerable on film, Blum sought to make her subjects extremely comfortable and at ease in front of the camera in ‘Project Not Asking for It.’ “I worked with Anna in the ‘Project Not Asking For It’ video and it was an absolute pleasure. Anna was very clear in communicating her vision for the video and how my actions were translating on camera. She made me feel totally at ease and comfortable in front of the camera and was generally energetic and fun to work with,” said Paul Younger ’17 who participated in ‘Project Not Asking for It.’
As a filmmaker at Vassar, Blum has made use of the resources provided to her. She currently serves on the executive board of the Vassar Filmmakers as Events Coordinator and makes great use of Vassar’s film department. “Just having that creative community is really useful. Some people may feel stilted, but if you look for it, it’s very open to you. I’m excited about what that means for the future and am very grateful for this community of film students and film lovers that I’ve encountered at Vassar,” Blum said. “Being in this small, supportive community where you sort-of have to work with your surroundings as opposed to having unlimited options afforded to you, you have to become creative because of the space that you’re in. You have to create what Vassar means to you through film, and that has been totally, totally interesting artistically and I feel like it’s inspired some of my better artistic thoughts.”
In addition to her involvement with the Vassar Filmmakers, her film production class has been pivotal to her art form. “[Prof. Shane Slattery-Quintanilla] is really wonderful and inspirational. Before we finish one project the assigns another which is both crazy overwhelming and crazy inspiring. I’m really lucky to have gotten into his class because it’s keeping me on my toes and giving me a place to put my creative thoughts,” Blum said. “I definitely want to continue doing production at Vassar and just be in this film community—I’ve made a bunch of friends who are interested in film, and that’s really how you get inspired because they all approach me as well as each other about doing projects.” Hopefully, Blum will saturate the larger Vassar community with the openness and accessibility she found in Vassar’s film community with “Good, You.”