Saturday, October 11, 2014

Media Rants: Interview With Sam Mayfield

From the October 2014 edition of The SCENE

Interview With Sam Mayfield

On Tuesday, October 14th at 6 p.m. in Reeve Union 307 on the UW Oshkosh campus, the student Communication Club is sponsoring a screening of independent filmmaker Sam Mayfield’s Wisconsin Rising. Sam will be there to introduce the film and engage in conversation afterwards. Admission is free and open to the public. You are invited!

Wisconsin Rising is a 55-minute feature documentary about the popular uprising against Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. Here’s what Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman said about the film: “This slice of life, a moment in movement history, captures the struggles of the American Middle Class confronting the corrupting power of money over democracy. Don’t miss it.”

Sam Mayfield resides in Burlington, Vermont. Her video reports have been filed with Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV, and other Progressive media outlets. Her video footage has been aired on PBS and MSNBC. To get some background about her and Wisconsin Rising, I asked her to respond to some email questions:

Media Rants: Why did you decide to make Wisconsin Rising?

Sam Mayfield: I was sent to Wisconsin to cover the uprising and report for a media outlet based in Minneapolis. When I got there and saw for myself the power of the people gathering I knew that American history was unfolding in front of me. I knew that I wanted to keep covering the story. I was sent out there for four days but ultimately stayed for seven months.

I made the movie because I wanted to share the incredible story of what was happening. I did not want the movement to go undocumented and I knew that the commercial American media was getting the story wrong much of the time when they bothered to talk about it at all.

Media Rants: What kinds of challenges did you face while filming on location in Wisconsin?

Sam Mayfield: I come from a community media background so when I got to Madison the first thing I did was connect with the local community radio station. Community media people stick together and support each other. The good people at WORT Radio in Madison gave me a desk to work from, an ethernet cable and a cup of coffee. I was set up and well connected the minute I landed in Madison. So, I can't really say that getting to know the locals was a challenge.

When I made the decision to move to Madison to continue shooting the film I rented an office space near the capitol. A major challenge during the many months I spent on the ground there was in knowing which story to cover for the film.

Wisconsin was a lot like a circus in 2011. Many wild events happening all at once, knowing which part of the story to cover was always a hard decision to make.

Media Rants: What surprised you most during your time living in Madison during the height of the protest activity?

Sam Mayfield:  I was surprised by the openness and kindness people demonstrated toward each other.
Media Rants: What kind of response has Wisconsin Rising received so far?

Sam Mayfield: The film has been doing great. The most common reaction to the film is "I can't believe he still won in the recall election" and from there the conversation continues about how struggle takes time and how no movement has ever triumphed after one election (failed or won).

Media Rants: What do you see as the broader significance of the Wisconsin protests and recall movement? Are we on the brink of seeing the "USA Rising?"

Sam Mayfield: I think what we saw in Wisconsin in 2011 is proof that people are aware that the political system is not put in place to always serve their best interests. People relied on each other for information and for decision making. They did not wait to be told what to do by leaders or politicians and they did not wait to hear the latest report on the nightly news. They were the news and they were the leaders of the movement.

Media Rants: In 2014, how important is independent journalism and film making?

Sam Mayfield: In this country, our media system is owned by corporations and the "news" we are fed represents the values and interests of those companies. With this system in place we cannot expect to hear alternative viewpoints expressed and we cannot expect that these corporations will be challenged or held accountable by the same media outlets they own.

Media corporations are good at doing what they do, making money and serving their own interests. We should not expect the extreme corporate media to change what they are doing or to serve us. We need to make our own media and create our own news outlets. We need to support community radio stations, community television stations, independent newspapers and magazines. Essentially, we need to create the media we want to see in the world. A media that reflects the values of a community is a revolutionary act at this hour in American politics, when so many outlets serve up ideas of who they think we should be and what they think we should buy. A media that is representative of the values of a community is essential for our democracy.