PaceDocs is Back with International Focus

Crew to Film in France with Emphasis on its Food

By Jerry McKinstry

Fade In: France

Pace University’s popular documentary course – Producing the Documentary – kicked off its first class this semester earlier this week with an enthusiastic group of students from all over the country who are gearing up to study abroad – and make a powerful film in the process.

The energy and excitement were evident for the 15 students and Professors Maria Luskay and Lou Guarneri, the directors and producers of the PaceDocs program, as the crew met for the first time to start pre-production for a documentary that will be completed in one semester.

“When you have a documentary that has to be completed in 14 weeks, you cannot fade out,” Professor Luskay warned students of the energy level and commitment required from students. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The working title for the film is “For the Love of Food,” and the focus is about the slow food movement, which has a long history in Europe and sprouted up around the world in the 1980s as a push back against fast foods and as a sustainable means of providing healthy locally sourced food.

It’s effectively a return to how generations of families prepared meals: fresh, local, and affordable with an emphasis on produce that is in-season.

This semester marks the return of international travel for the program, which in recent years was forced to film closer to home (in the United States) because of the COVID pandemic. In 2019, the crew was planning to go to Paris to film the bees of Notre Dame, but they had to adapt on the fly because all international travel was shut down. Instead, PaceDocs produced “Bee Aware” by filming throughout the Northeast.

In meeting the class for the first time on Tuesday, Professor Luskay emphasized the need for planning and research, but cautioned that everyone must be able to adapt when filming. The story could – and likely would – change while on location.

“The thing I love about documentaries is that you don’t know what you are going to get until you get it,” she said. “You cannot be stuck to a script. You’re all going to be interviewing people.”

The popular class is part of the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace University’s highly regarded film program that requires students complete a full-length environmentally themed documentary within a semester. During the process, they learn teamwork, problem-solving, research, and organization, along with technical skills such as lighting, sound, camera work, interviewing, and other real-life lessons necessary to complete a film.

The 2023 documentary continues Pace University’s distinguished tradition of producing award-winning documentaries that shine a light on important environmental issues. In recent years, Pace filmmakers have produced documentariesaround the globe focusing on a variety of topics, including the importance of oysters in cleaning the water (2022); how bees pollinate our food supply (2021); the impact of earthquakes in Hawaii (2019); the endurance of the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria (2018); Cuba at a cultural crossroads (2016); reviving Curacao’s coral reefs (2015); as well as many other poignant films.

For Neath Williams, a retired Navy veteran who is earning his master’s in Communications and Digital Media, the project is experiential learning at its best.

“I’m so pumped about this class,” he said. “I love that we are not pigeon-holed into one role and that we get to do everything.”

Everything in 14 weeks. We are in the game.