Last fall, following the mass shooting in which 10 people were killed at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, Field of Vision co-founders AJ Schnack and Laura Poitras had a conversation about how they could make an artistic and cinematic film about the tragedy.
“I had this idea of not just talking about Oregon, but the fact that it seemed in the way that we responded to these events that they were constantly echoes of each other and that we were having these conversations on social media that were cyclical,” Schnack told IndieWire in a recent interview.
In the hope of capturing the cyclical nature of these events, Schnack sent 18 local cinematographers to visit 25 different sites of mass shootings to capture what life was like at those sites now. What he quickly realized was that so many of them had simply gone back to regular life. “Hair salons, restaurants and movie theaters that are serving customers without real acknowledgement that something tragic had occurred there, and I think just seeing that all come together, it worked in a way that we didn’t even quite expect,” said Schnack.
One of the things that makes Schnack’s short, “Speaking is Difficult,” so effective is his decision to juxtapose those images of everyday life and the 911 calls from the tragic events that took place there. The effect is chilling and captures just how cyclical and ordinary these events had become in this country.
Schnack says the making of the film has changed he how reacts to recent mass shootings, like the one that happened in Orlando last weekend.
“Yeah, I mean the biggest thing for me is that I’m not numb to it anymore,” said Schnack. “I think that it’s easy to turn off and think ‘oh, it happened again’ or to just be upset for a couple days on social media.”
Schnack has already begun the process of updating “Speaking is Difficult” to include recent mass shootings. It’s a living history he will continue until these massacres stop being an accepted part of American life.
Watch “Speaking is Difficult” below: