Director Adrienne Wagner developed her love of filmmaking after converting her family’s collection of video tapes to digital format she could keep for a long time after she moved away from home in Indianapolis. “I have always been drawn to films that utilize found footage,” Wagner explains. “I realized pretty quickly that a lot of the video that I found was shot by my grandpa. Up until then, I knew he liked to keep objects and things with sentimental value, but the tapes were a weird new portal through which I could go back in time and literally see family members who had since passed, as well as myself, at pretty much any given age – moving, living, talking. It amazed me. I decided that I wanted to document more of the present, and make sure I had a way to always remember the many stories and history that my grandpa always shared.”

Wagner describes how her grandfather fell right into place as she turned on her camera and watched him go through the filled garage of oil can collections, old war photo books and model airplanes. “I had to hold in my laughter when we were getting started and I told him I just wanted him to open the garage,” Wagner divulges. “At that point in time, I hadn’t planned the shot to be the sort of visual gateway in and out of the film that it would later become in the edit. He legitimately seemed like he was either acting, or had thought through this, or was just a natural at not appearing awkward as he opened the garage, messed around with some stuff, and then walked out of frame.”

Being a very personal project entwined with her family’s history and personality, Wagner was a one-woman crew. “In some respects, this was great, because I had a lot of control, but in others, it was challenging, as I acted essentially as the head of every department,” she admits. “It was a personal project from the start, and I intentionally went at it alone, due to the nature of the material, and my goals for the film (and goals for the filmmaking process, which included gathering tons of stories and visual and audio material of my grandpa as he continues to get older and older, and I spend less and less time in that part of the country).”

As short as six minutes, this film enabled Wagner to dive into her family’s journey in a way she couldn’t over questions at Sunday dinner. “When creating this film, the process allowed me not only to practice my skills as an aspiring filmmaker but also to spend a lot of time with my grandfather (and grandmother), hearing new stories and memories that I likely would not have heard otherwise … They are getting very old, and we no longer live in the same part of the country, but despite all of the inevitable realities of life, I now have a special, visual documentation of who and where I came from.”

Tour the museum in Grandpa Wagner’s garage, April 15 at Indie Oaks Film Festival.
Buy tickets to the film festival.
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