Saltwater film debuts after nearly two years

Flyer for the movie Saltwater. A Lise swenson film
Flyer for the movie Saltwater. A Lise Swenson film.

By Alexander Tidd:

A production team comprised primarily of City College students and led by professor Lise Swenson presented the first public airing of scenes from their feature film “Saltwater” at a San Francisco Goodwill thrift store Sept. 13.

“Saltwater” is about a young woman named Jenny who is searching for her grandmother’s wedding dress. She travels to the Salton Sea where she reconnects with her eccentric aunt and begins to uncover a murky family history.

The film was a joint collaboration between City College and Goodwill San Francisco, which provided costumes and props for the film.

Using City College students for 90 percent of the production roles has presented the students with a unique opportunity to not only receive on-the-job training with experienced filmmakers, but also to have their names on the credit reel of a feature film expected to perform well at the Sundance Film Festival.

“All the key roles, such as our editor Jessie Spencer and cinematographer Frasier Bradshaw, are industry professionals. But they came on with the knowledge that they were going to have to train and head up teams of students who are trying to get into the industry,” writer and director Lise Swenson said. “I couldn’t have done it without these students—no way in the world. We are under a $200,000 budget and we have made something that looks as pretty and compelling as this film.”

Swenson’s students are just as grateful to be a part of the filmmaking process.

“I was attending City College cinema courses in the fall of last year and I wanted to get heavily involved with the project, so I jumped into ‘Saltwater’ with Lise,” associate producer and second assistant director Kris Sones said. “I’ve learned a lot about leadership and working with multiple teams.”

Though getting her feet wet in the behind-the-scenes part of filmmaking was a good experience for Jones, being a part of the shoot crew was even more valuable.

“I learned a lot about what being on a feature film set is like,” Jones said. “I had been on small sets doing student projects before, but it was really different being on a feature film set. I learned what everybody does and what all those components require.”

Henry Mauldin, the senior producer of “Saltwater” and also CNN’s former director of talent development and recruitment, loved working with City College students on set.

“I’m [a former] City College student from the ‘80s,” Mauldin said. “Collaborating with the students [on a high-level project] really shows that City College is producing not just award-winning filmmakers, but also is affording its students opportunities to break into the field.”

Swenson agreed with Mauldin that this feature film really showcases City College talent.

“We are telling the world that City College absolutely should not be closed—look what our students can do,” Swenson said.  “Most importantly, I want to thank the students who worked on the film. I could not have done this without these guys and the support of CCSF.”

Saltwater is in post-production and is expected to continue the editing process for some time, but Jones feels City College students should be excited to see the film when they get the chance.

“I think it’s phenomenal how this project has given over 75 students the opportunity to work on a feature film set and our school should be proud of that,” Jones said. “The story itself is shot beautifully and is very compelling.”

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