Updated: May 30, 2019
I spent a day shooting with Jayson one day last summer. We went to the airport to pick up a large group (nine, I think?) of Somali Bantu refugees arriving in Syracuse after twenty-four hours of flying from a refugee camp in Kenya. We got in the car that day, and I started shooting. I made fun of him for getting a HUGE flavored iced coffee drink from Dunkin’ Donuts. He blamed it on me having to stop for a pee 10 minutes after getting into the car. We drove through a torrential, five-minute rain storm into a shiny golden evening on the way. I had genuine fun on that ride, which isn’t always the case when I’m shooting. So often I am focused on whether I’m shooting at the right color-temperature, whether the audio is clean, whether I’m capturing an appropriate reaction shot for the relative positions of each character based on their relative importance to the moment. But that day was mostly about getting to know Jayson a bit more, and letting the camera roll in the process. The night ended late, after we had dropped off the new-arrivals to a big group of relatives packed into a living room in Utica, so gracious and thankful and full of smiles. On the drive back to my car, Jayson suddenly began to sing, unprompted, “I got a feeling, tonight’s gonna be a good night,” broken up by what can only be described as genuine giggling. You could see how much joy he got out of doing his job, helping exhausted refugees from the other side of the world have a softer landing in a foreign place.
When I finally got around to editing this footage, I had a sense it would be good on screen. And it is! It’s been a new experience for me to work on something long-form like this. Revisiting memories in the edit a year or two after shooting is bizarre and gratifying. I feel privileged to be a part of both ends, both the production and post-production. I had real feelings about that drive with Jayson; now these memories are alive on-screen. We showed a rough cut of this scene to a small group of family friends at my parents’ house. Watching Jayson’s joy spread out into the room like that, watching other people smile at a guy I had smiled at, who was smiling about people who seemed happy, is some sort of existential reverberation of positive energy that could become addictive.