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Faculty Spotlight - Carol Dysinger

Carol Dysinger in Afghanistan

Carol Dysinger, Associate Professor, Editing

For reasons I cannot quite explain, in the summer of 2005 I got on a plane with a camera that Sandi Sissel loaned me and went to Kabul. It was fairly peaceful then, although an Italian woman had just been kidnapped, and I had to learn how to be in a place that was not inherently friendly. I had been in Vietnam the summer before, and had met a few Vietnamese soldiers who had been trained by Americans during that war, and when I heard that the same thing was going on in Afghanistan I was drawn to examine it. The who what when and how was a mystery, but I went anyway.

I discovered a whole new skill. It seems that I am very good at something that the journalists I met  called being a "penetration artist". I call it winkling. I managed to winkle may way onto a Blackhawk helicopter and went down to Khost, where I started to find my way to the story I wanted to tell.

Nearly four years and six trips later, and a whole lot of winkling, I am finishing up a documentary called 'Camp Victory, Afghanistan'. I raised the money from a private investor, and finally from several funders, including the Sundance Documentary Fund and ITVS.

I travelled all over the country, both embedded with the military and as a civilian. I learned from the Afghans how we are perceived, and what they want for their country. The film is verité (you might say observational...) and this year was a fun year to teach the documentary editing class. First years, you know I felt your pain. As I was giving you advice, I was giving it to myself. The great thing about filmmaking is there is always more to learn. Always.

It was dangerous, and fun, and physically tough. These shoots challenged me in ways I could never have imagined. The Afghan soldiers called me Professor, or Sir. The American soldiers called me Ma'am, and sometimes referred to me as "The Dinghy" because I was always just kind of latching myself onto missions. I learned how to hitch a ride on a helicopter, never walk out the door without everything on my body that I needed for a few days of shooting and comfort, and how to film in a head scarf, or a helmet.

I had terrific support from the University, from John, the Deans, and Anthony Artiss at the Production Office, with a good load of advice from Charles and Sandi. Ron even loaned me his charger.

The story is about two men, General Siyar of the Afghan National Army and Col. Shute of the New Jersey National Gaurd, who became profound friends. In Afghanistan, nothing is what it seems, nor is it otherwise, and the film reflects that. Or will, when we finish editing.

It is being cut by Mary Manhardt, and will be finished this summer. It will be on PBS (as per the ITVS grant), and when school starts up in September next year, we will have a screening. I will be the one in back in a burqa.