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October 09, 2008
Corn is focus of documentary shot in southcentral Nebraska
SUPERIOR, Nebraska (STPNS) -- Lights! Camera! Corn!!
What's that? You don't think corn is exciting?
Two documentary filmmakers who spent the weekend in southcentral Nebraska might disagree with you.
Heather Danskin and Katie Kassof are graduate students at American University in Washington, D.C. The film they are making together represents the thesis for their master of fine arts degrees in documentary filmmaking.
Danskin, the daughter of Chuck Danskin, Superior, and Marianna Danskin, Half Moon Bay, Calif., grew up in California and earned her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Kassof is from Florida and earned her undergraduate degree in film and electronic media. Danskin is the producer; Kassof the director of photography.
While in Nebraska, the duo shot more than 14 hours of footage, which they will eventually whittle down to about 44 minutes, because their goal is to have a documentary suitable for television and its one-hour time-slots.
They came from Washington to Lincoln Friday morning. Their first scheduled shoot, shortly after lunch, was at Midwest Feeding Company, a large cattle feedlot located just south of Interstate 80 at the Milford exit.
There they learned about the importance of corn in the cattle feeding business. Midwest also grows some of the corn they feed their cattle and purchases distillers grain from ethanol plants.
Their next stop, late Friday afternoon, was at one of those ethanol plants, Advanced Bioenergy, located west of Fairmont on Highway 6. They toured the facility and interviewed Grant Johanson, plant manager.
Friday evening, they stayed in Exeter with Danskin's aunt, Sandi Danskin. While in Exeter, they shot additional footage including the grain elevator and passing grain trains.
Saturday morning, they traveled to Beaver Crossing, where Danskin's grandfather was a minister for many years. Beaver Crossing proved to be perfect for shooting panoramic footage of farmsteads, corn fields and small-town life.
After lunch Friday, they went back to Lincoln, home of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, to shoot footage of tailgate parties, lawn decorations, fraternity and sorority houses and, of course, cornheads, those faithful Husker fans with corn hats perched on their heads for football games.
Sunday was in Superior, where they filmed more small-town life, people entering and exiting the Methodist Church and downtown storefronts. They also went to the Velvet Rose and talked to local residents, some of them farmers. The Velvet Rose also utilizes a corn-burning stove.
Sunday afternoon, they interviewed Mike Adams at his home west of Superior. Adams is a farmer who suffered extensive crop loss during the early summer hail storms.
Sunday evening and again Monday morning, they filmed at Superior Commodities, where they interviewed Tom Jensen and got more sound bytes from area farmers. Jensen talked about the business of agricultural futures and commodities
Monday afternoon, they interviewed Bruce Tinkham at work. Tinkham is a grain merchandiser at Agrex in Superior, a Japanese-owned company. Danskin said Agrex, which deals with actual product, provided a nice contrast to Superior Commodities, which deals with speculation and futures.
Their last interview was with Richard Mazour, a grass-fed cattle rancher south of Deweese. Mazour and his wife own and operate Walnut Creek Organic Ranch. Mazour discussed the natural history of the cow, the effects of corn versus grass feeding on cows, his passion for organic ranching and his feelings about commercial feedlots.
After four days of hectic traveling, filming and interviewing, Danskin and Kassof boarded a plane for Washington, D.C. at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Both young women will earn their MFAs from American University in the spring. They each have a few more classes to take, and of course they must finish their documentary. They are unsure what the title of their finished product will be, but their working title has been "Cornography."
The two are already award-winning makers of documentary films, having placed at festivals both individually and once as a team.
While going to graduate school full-time, Danskin works part-time as a producer for C-Span 3.
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