Oregon Lens is celebrating its 16th year on OPB. The program takes the pulse of the Oregon independent film community, highlighting quality cinematic works from seasoned professionals to students. View broadcast schedule
Since discovering her passion for film when she was just 11 years old, Lauren Paterson has shown incredible determination in pursuing her dream of transforming her visions into film.
Paterson, currently a multimedia journalism graduate student, has two documentaries featured in this year’s Oregon Lens series. The Stewardess is a glance at the history of a groundbreaking and sometimes not-so-glamorous profession, and 21st Century Monk, a collaborative work with Jarratt Taylor, examines the place of monastic life in modern society.
Paterson’s work is insightful and thought provoking. For example, The Stewardess is not simply a history of a profession, but is also a history of working women and changing societal standards.
Paterson’s educational background reflects her journalistic spirit. After finishing a degree in broadcast and digital media at the University of Idaho, Paterson relocated to Portland and is now close to finishing a master’s degree at the University of Oregon Turnbull Center. Though she admits it is a difficult and competitive field, she’s confident that the world of filmmaking is where she’s meant to be.
We recently spoke with Paterson about her films, her inspiration and her future in the field of multimedia journalism.
Q & A with Lauren Paterson
OPB: How did you become interested in filmmaking?
Lauren Paterson: I’ve been interested in filmmaking since I was 11 years old. When I got my first camcorder I was always making movies with Barbie or a Tyrannosaurus rex, anything I could do. I was just fascinated with the idea of creating a different world and being able to share it with other people. So, I guess unlike a lot of my peers, who were always changing majors and trying things out, I always loved film, and it was always so magic to me. So I’ve just been on track and been in love with it ever since.
OPB: What is it that appeals to you about documentary filmmaking?
LP: I think, in a way, movies are so fun because they’re fantasy, but that’s just it at the end of the day. Even if they’re about a true event or a true character, there’s always exaggeration and there’s always a way to use an effect or put something in that wasn’t really there or dramatize it. And with documentary, you’re really restricted to real life and real characters and real people, and so that’s the challenge of it — to find that real story using only the elements around you and the characters to best tell that story to everybody else. So it’s really, really challenging, but because of that, it’s really, really rewarding.
OPB: What was your inspiration for The Stewardess?
LP: My grandmother was actually one of the first stewardesses for United Airlines in the 1940s. It was wild. I remember her telling me stories about how she had to have her hair a certain way, she had to show up to work in high heels, and before the cabins on the planes were pressurized, she was actually serving people full meals, in high heels, in flight, and then go to the back of the plane with the other stewardesses to take oxygen hits from a tank in the back of the plane.
So there was so much more to this job than I understood at all, and then I figured that I guess a lot of people didn’t know about this job because it was my own grandma and I didn’t know most of the stuff she was telling me. It was just wild to me, so I wanted to delve into it, do some more research, and find some other stewardesses and flight attendants who had worked in the field to discover some more about the history of this really interesting job. It was very interesting historically, and it was almost a bit of family history to discover as well.
OPB: Do you have any upcoming projects?
LP: I’m really interested in the emerging trend of female firefighters. There are actually more women who are becoming interested in fighting fire. I’d really like to get involved and, you know, follow a girl through the training process and see what it takes. They’re becoming smoke jumpers, they’re out on these fires, and it’s a really dangerous job, but I think it could be really interesting to track some young women in their decision to go through that process.
OPB: What has been your favorite project to date?
LP: I would say The Stewardess so far has been probably the most fun because there was so much that went into it. When I started researching it, there was so much tied into it with the civil rights movement and I just kept going further and further back into history, and there was always more and more to learn. It could be an hour and a half long with all the history that goes along with it. It was super fascinating because it became not only a family history project for me but also an American history project from the United States from a job standpoint, and then also the history of the job itself, the history of flight and the history of working women. That appealed to me in the sense that I’m a working woman and I’m really struggling in this competitive field. The documentary mirrored its own purpose in that it was hard to make, took a lot of research, it was hard work, but that’s what the field is about, too, because there’s going to be competition and it’s going to be hard work to keep doing it, but it’s what I love to do.
Watch “The Stewardess” and “21st Century Monk” on Tuesday, August 26 at 10 p.m. on OPB TV.