One Hidden Gem, One Porcine Prize

Golden Piggy--highest award for mini-documentary

Every year Fairfax hosts a mini-documentary challenge. The contestants are asked to make a movie–4 minutes in length (not coincidentally the typical length of a pitch for a film)–ina 48 hour period, usually the last weekend in March.

Kids enter, and grown ups. Pros and amateurs.

Neighbor Karl V. asked me to help him interview people concerning possible change  in our neighborhood school.  He’s been to no meetings (neither had I at that point) but wanted to film some opinions.   I was not sure what his was, but I know that the current school– Fairfax San Anselmo Children’s Center–should remain at the bucolic Deer Park site, and a fancier school built somewhere else (assuming there really is a population explosion going on in Marin).

Just so you know:  FXSACC is more than a school…they have men’s programs, parenting workshops, they feed the kids three meals, have an infirmary so parents can work even if the child is (mildly) ill…it’s a life saver for families who make less than X dollars a year. Competition for the hundred-plus slots is intense…and luckily for us, there happen to be incredible public elementary schools sprinkled throughout the county…

The Deer Park location hasn’t been a neighborhood  elementary for over 40 years because Marin’s kid population plummeted in the seventies. It had morphed into a prize winning daycare/school, as well as Fairfax’s biggest hiking, cycling and dogwalking trailhead. Complete with loads of parking since the school isn’t open on the weekend.

So locals are content with the protected, diverse population who enjoy the children’s center  (which buses some the kids in from around Ross Valley and beyond, sparing more hideous traffic). But now they’ve been branded “NIMBY”…which is ironic, since NIMBY (not in my back yard) is usually leveled at homeowners who are concerned about “property  values”, and can’t allow half way houses, or bike paths, tunnels, etc… in their back yard.
We cyclists learned that when we proposed  a “demonstration trail”  in the late 1980’s, one where bikers and hikers would share the trail and prove conclusively that there is no problem, no friction between two different flavors of outdoorspeople .

They nixed it in the cascades, at Deer Park, at Sunnyside, all over Marin.
There was just no place where anyone wanted “all the traffic that shared trail would bring”…but deep down, the truth was if there really is no problem, then Open Space and  Municipal Strict Dict might have to be cycle access on narrow  trails…which is not going to happen.

The real irony is that if a great school is yanked out, and a new one put in (in the middle of a fiscal meltdown, this seems unbrainy) those under-served kids will lose a two generation legacy.

I think.
Or: the school board sold off their school land (like in San Anselmo) never forseeing a few extra kids coming along in the future.

Like Karl, I’d been to no school board meetings, and  yet I’d already heard  some debate.  I needed to learn more…and   agreed to interview people I knew, some who work at the school itself.

Ethel and Stan Seiderman founded FSACC  almost forty years ago,  in time to weather the ‘tax relief’ (=gutting social programs) of the 1980’s.   The school has always been a quiet neighbor at the end of Porteous Avenue here in Fairfax.

Thousands of hikers and cyclists, dog people and aerobic pogo-sticker enthusiasts gather  under the  Valley oaks. The parking lot is known for Olympic-size pot holes that aid in the traffic calming…

One skirts the shaded school buildings,  to emerge in a bright star-thistle meadow. Then it’s through the back  gate into the  Strict Woods (MMWD).

Mid day Saturday, after filming about half a dozen people, I learned that neighborhood activist Trevor Hughs had a film brewing in the back of HIS head.

When I told him about the contest (make a movie in 48 hours between Fri eve. and Sun. evening on the  last weekend in March) he said he’d move his production up and enter the contest.

“But now you have only 28 hours remaining” I warned him. “I’m available if I can be of help”.

Trev’s a retired doctor, on-fire community activist. He knows the situation in all its complexity, having  been to 25 school board meetings (which are themselves quite the little circus).

Says he  “this is what we must bequeath to our children’s children”  (namely, keeping the non-profit kid center there on that particular sylvan spot, rather than evicting them and building a massive modern primary school for more affluent families).

He sprang into action, and gave me a role in his production.

Karl’s movie, “The Truth About Deer Park” wrapped with the invaluable editing skills of Jason Baker, and will probably go on You Tube… my footage was not used in that one, alas….

Trevor’s film, entitled “Our Hidden Gem” has a few of my still photographs of kids playing,  is honestly Kevin Cate’s opus…was completed in time, and submitted among a dozen others. They would be judged and shown two weeks later.

In the afterglow of a dozen great little flicks, I sat between Kevin the (professional) videographer and Ethel Seiderman, the doyenne of Marin County’s  progressive educators, while prize after prize was awarded to the many wonderful films about Fairfax’s unique population of dogs, shadows, pranksters, stoners, teens….our great town.

I’ve seldom been surer of a job well executed, but hopes were dashed as each documentary team gathered their prize (of ice cream, dinner-for-two, citations, etc)…until  only one award remained.

“The golden piggy” went to Trev, Kev and one barely-had-anything-to-do-with-it-wombat.

~ by jacquiephelan on April 12, 2010.

2 Responses to “One Hidden Gem, One Porcine Prize”

  1. Jaquie,

    We met at the italian art institute on tuesday. my name is Matthew Bajda. you wanted me to email you a link to some photos. here is what i have for you.

    hope all is well.

  2. Oh J,

    I hate that NIMBY crap. It goes on all over about everything and is only self serving.


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