Wesleyan Students Win Documentary Awards

The poster for “From 3 to 3.”

During their first year at Wesleyan, Xingyan JC Guo, Scout Raimondo, and Jared Yao enrolled in a film course with Professor Sadia Q. Shepard: FILM 104, An Introduction to Collaborative Documentary Filmmaking. This past year, the short documentary they ended up creating together received an impressive slate of accolades, including winning Best College Film at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, and Best Film at the New York Science and Nature Film Festival.

According to Professor Shepard’s syllabus, the course aims to provide students with the tools they need to, “put into practice the complex ethical, practical and craft-based decisions crucial to documentary film practice.” Furthermore, she writes, “I hope that students retain an awareness of documentary filmmaking as a form of community engagement [and] learn how documentary filmmaking can be used to highlight aspects, areas, and elements of our cultures and communities that typically receive less attention from dominant media sources.” Aptly, the course was supported by the Sustainability and Environmental Justice Pedagogical Initiative and a Service Learning Grant from the Albritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

The course helped the trio of talented students to grow the skillset and sow the seeds for their joint project, From 3 to 3, which is an intimate and poignant inside look into the life of Middletown sanitation worker Devon Dublois. Per the students’ synopsis:

“Every day at 3AM, Devon Deblois starts his rounds as a city sanitation worker in Middletown, Connecticut. While sustaining the community in this irreplaceable but invisible position, Devin is also looking for a place ‘to not be totally ignored.’ From 3 To 3 is an 8-minute documentary that depicts a heartfelt portrait of the life of a city sanitary worker from 3 AM to 3 PM It allows audiences to glimpse the unseen labor and challenges of workers who support our daily urban lives, grasp their contribution to the community within the environment, and reflects on the consumer’s responsibility in the recycling chain.”

The stunning documentary is produced, directed, and edited entirely by the current sophomores. At the end of last semester, the film was featured at the Wesleyan Arts & Humanities Symposium. We reached out to these innovative student artists to learn more about how this project came into fruition.

Jared Yao: “It was an amazing experience working with J.C. and Scout to produce this documentary. Film has always been a hobby for me, and this is the first time I got to be professional in all aspects. Everyone in the team collaborated and played to their strengths, which finally lead us to a documentary that we are all satisfied with and proud of.”

Xingyan JC Guo: “Making From 3 To 3 with Scout and Jared is a warm cornerstone for me as an international student beginning my first year in the United States. Nurturing genuine friendships with my co-directors and the residents in Middletown anchors me in this new home and motivates me to hold our community accountable. I hope that From 3 To 3 serves as a documentation of people’s efforts behind our consumption and littering, as well as a starting point for discussions about our collective being within our environment.”

Scout Raimondo: “I would say that it was the best possible introduction to life at Wesleyan. J.C. and Jared became my first real friends here. Their friendship and encouragement throughout the entire process of making this film helped to pull me out of my shell after moving across the country to a place I’d never even visited. As someone who had never filmed anything before, it was such an amazing experience to work with two incredible, supportive filmmakers with brains that overflowed with vision and creativity. Throughout everything (the failures, the arguments, and all the little triumphs along the way) they lent me their knowledge, honesty, and kindness, and I cannot possibly express my gratitude for them adequately. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”

“Additionally, to be able to work with Devon, someone who showed us such openness and generosity every time we spoke with him was such a fulfilling experience. From the beginning we knew we wanted our film to be about a sector of the world that was often neglected and overlooked, but we had expected to focus on the topic of recycling as a practice, more so than on the individual hauler who deals with that recycling. Once we met Devon, however, it became pretty clear to us that we wanted our film to revolve around him and his daily life. There were a few days early on in our filming process where we woke up at the same time as the haulers, 3 AM, in order to film, and I think it gave us a real appreciation for Devon’s lifestyle right off the bat.”

A still from the documentary.

“As we continued talking to him, I realized just how little I actually knew about the life of those who take care of our garbage and keep the streets clean. It’s such a pivotal job because, as he mentions in the film, ‘garbage cannot wait.’ The fact that we as a society tend to look down on our haulers and take their work for granted blows my mind after having spent some time with Devon. Without them, our world would look drastically different. Because of that, Devon’s story means a lot to me, and I feel so proud to have been able to be a part of a project that highlights his perspective. None of that is to say that we didn’t have some crazy hiccups along the way.”

Jared: “We did struggle a lot during the production. We took a long time to learn about the sustainability in Middletown and trash haulers, it was frustrating trying to knit all of the pieces into a logical story, and there were also difficulties when we were trying to better know about Devon.”

Scout: “In fact, during the latter half of the production process, Devon and his whole family got COVID. As it was approaching the end of the semester, and our deadlines were coming up fast, we actually had to conduct an interview with him during his quarantine, in which we put a lav mic on his doorstep, he put it on himself, and we called him on the phone from his front yard and started the interview.”

Jared: “As we had more and more conversations with Devon, I felt that I really started to know him as a complex person, a combination of all of his pasts and futures. This is also the message we want to deliver in our documentary. We wanted to show that someone you may see on a daily basis has his own fascinating stories, and it is definitely worthy to take an interest in everyone you may meet in your life.”

Scout: “All of this is to say that I’m really proud of this film, and so excited that it keeps reaching new audiences even a year later. I feel so lucky to have been able to work on this amazing project with such amazing people.”

Xingyan: “This in-depth experience of completing a short documentary paves the way for my current academic and artistic interest in sensory anthropology. The filmmaking process of From 3 To 3, from interviews to shooting and editing, has also become an important empirical knowledge for me to continue reflecting on the ethics and method of telling other people’s stories, particularly through the film as a medium with such manipulative power on society. I sincerely hope that we will sustainably share and create works about/with/nearby our community and our earth mama.”

Jared: “The entire experience of shooting gave me a chance to express my artistic interest, and allowed me to meet so many amazing peers. It will be a precious memory for my life.”

Xingyan, J.C., and Scout at NHDocs Festival.