Using the skills they learned at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, a pair of local filmmakers is pointing a lens at the school's decision to suspend 25 programs Oct. 31, 2017.
Producer Katie Lindow is a 2016 graduate of the school; director Megan McGarvey graduated in 2018. Both have degrees in Communicating Arts-Digital Cinema Track and records of solid work.
"Both are very talented, very bright, very focused," said Brent Notbohm, chairman of the Communicating Arts Department at UWS.
The two are editing more than 45 hours of footage into a story they say needs to be told. They expect their passion project, "Outsourced: The New Wisconsin Idea," to be released around June.
It's not a "hit piece," the pair said. They're not looking to villainize the administrators who made the abrupt decision to suspend the programs.
"One of the main reasons we really started working on this was because this is continuing to happen in the country. UWS was just kind of a catalyst, a spot where people watched to see what the university was going to do," Lindow said. "We've seen it happen, not only in higher education Wisconsin, but we've seen it across the country, this kind of idea of streamlining and privatizing higher education. It's a very disturbing trend."
The pair said they appreciate their time at UWS, both the connections they made and the skills they learned.
"I absolutely loved my experience there," McGarvey said. "I grew. I met longtime friends. I also was able to create a lot of relationships and a lot of ties that helped me get the jobs I have. I'm very grateful to the university and to the faculty of UWS."
But the campus they knew has changed.
"If you go on campus now as opposed to two years ago, it's a completely different atmosphere," McGarvey said. "There's less openness."
The pair started filming the day the suspensions were made, putting 25 programs in limbo for five years and preventing new enrollments into them.
"We shot the protest and everything because that's good archival footage," Lindow said.
And yes, she said, there was a bit of anger. The reason given by administrators for the suspensions was that first-generation college students were overwhelmed with too many options, something that didn't sit well with Lindow, a first-generation student.
"It's very hard to remain unemotional during the shooting and the editing of this project, especially when it's so soon, so close to home," she said.
McGarvey said she, like other students, turned her focus from protesting to finishing her degree. This summer, the pair revisited the story.
"After you've taken half a year, you can see it from a different perspective," McGarvey said. "There's no more anger attached to it. There's now drive for understanding. That's the way we've approached it."
Many of the interviews they have done with students, faculty, staff and city leaders have been emotional. And both filmmakers have opinions.
"It won't stop me from telling a good story because that's what the university taught me to do," McGarvey said.
The two spend hours at Lindow's kitchen table every week editing footage on two 14-inch economy laptop computers. They've started their own company, Grey Forrest Pictures, applied for grants and launched an indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign to raise $2,500 to upgrade their editing software and purchase a computer to store footage in.
Both McGarvey and Lindow have shown themselves to be perceptive storytellers, Notbohm said.
"It's a natural step for them to tell this story based on what they learned at UWS and the insight they have," he said. "Being a filmmaker myself, you're always looking for that story worth telling. I think it shows how much they love UWS."
The lack of transparency across the board when the suspensions were announced is at the core of what they plan to cover with their documentary. They will also look back at prior program suspensions and privatization efforts that took place starting in 2014.
"I don't think we'll be able to convince the university to bring those programs back," Lindow said. "Our point is merely to tell this story. It's not something we're doing for fame and fortune, anything like that. We fell this story is important to be told."
"This is us saying the stories of the faculty and staff matter; the stories of the students that did experience this while it was going on matter," McGarvey said. "And the fact that the students, any future student if the suspensions were to remain in place, would have a different university than the one we had."
When reached for comment via email, UWS Chancellor Renee Wachter noted the suspensions occurred over a year ago.
"The campus is about to embark on a new academic plan led by the faculty and a new strategic plan," she said. "We respectfully decline to comment further about the suspensions."