From Andover To National Film Festival: Skyler Sallick ’17 Captures Courage In Documentary

Trekking through the deep woods of Redding, Conn., Skyler Sallick ’17 filmed her older brother setting up his rock climbing equipment to abseil down a small cliff. Overlaying the video footage with audio from an interview with him, Sallick created “My Brother, The Adventurer,” a two-minute documentary film that was chosen as an Official Selection in the American High School Film Festival. It was shown at AMC Theatre in Times Square in New York City earlier this month.

“It was really exciting when I found out [my film was selected] because I didn’t tell anyone about this. I called my mom and was like, ‘Hi Mom, just letting you know, I got into a film festival.’ She was like, ‘You did what? Excuse me?’ ” said Sallick. “I feel like a lot of the things I do in my life are proving a point, like I can do this and I don’t need anyone’s help to do it.”

Sallick’s “My Brother, The Adventurer” differs from many of the other documentaries that were chosen as an Official Selection in the American High School Film Festival. As described by Sallick, most of the other documentaries were done very traditionally, with an educational purpose and covering an issue or a past event with interviews and B-roll, supplemental footage included to help tell the story of the film. Instead of following the standard documentary route, Sallick tried to tell her brother’s story in a more innovative way.

“I really like the fact that I could be creative and still be accepted in the world of filmmaking. There are rules of filmmaking and I feel like being able to break that and being able, even as such a young potential filmmaker, to step in and do something really different, it was really cool for me to see and I think that was a lot of what was going through my head during the film festival, that my work was so different to everyone else’s. To me, that felt like a good thing,” said Sallick.

“My Brother, The Adventurer” is one of the many documentaries Sallick has filmed and edited over the past few years. The film showcases her brother’s passion for the outdoors, especially rock climbing, which allows him to challenge his fear of heights.

“It is his identity in our family, like this outdoorsy, woodsy man. He is this very large human being and to have him open up in a very endearing way about the fact that he does [rock climbing] to better himself was my favorite part. The fact that he opened up about it not just about being outside, [but also] making sure that [he] is being the best human [he] can be. That is really cool, especially as a little sister to have a big brother do that,” said Sallick.

The whole video was filmed using a hand-held camera. Sallick incorporated the technique of cinéma vérité, a style of documentary filmmaking characterized by realistic video footage that conveys a sense of authenticity and is generally made with simple equipment.

“D. A. Pennebaker, who is one of my favorite documentary filmmakers [and] influenced a lot of my filmmaking, spearheaded this idea of cinéma vérité in documentary filmmaking. I think that he influenced a lot of this video in terms of how you can make it so personal. I think that [filming my video] hand-held really helped with how personal the film ended up being,” said Sallick.

Out of the many film genres, Sallick prefers film documentaries. She utilizes close-up shots to immerse viewers in her videos and create an interaction between the viewer and the people in her films.

“I really like the fact that you can make something that showcases who someone is in a way that is different than people just explaining offhand in documentaries. You can show it with visuals and show what they are describing as they are describing it, which gives a whole new meaning and ability to understand,” said Sallick.

Much of what Sallick knows about filmmaking is self-taught. Through experimenting with editing and camera settings, she has improved and discovered her own style.

“With each video that I make and with each thing that I figure out or new thing that I learn, my filmmaking grows. I had made a lot of films in a short time span, and with each film you learn more and you grow more,” said Sallick. “I think [My Brother, The Adventurer] was at the end of the line of a lot of new things that I picked up and a lot of new things that I figured out and could see changing in my filmmaking. It was really coming together in my style of filmmaking, after trying to figure out what that was, and bringing in the beauty of the story with the beauty of the film as a whole and the shooting.”

Looking forward, Sallick hopes to continue to pursue her goal of being a documentary filmmaker.

“There are so many things I want to do with filmmaking because I feel like there are just so many opportunities to tell people’s stories or to explore other cultures and to just share that with such a vast difference of people. There is just so much you can do with film that isn’t being done. I have a lot of ideas I want to just do but there is so little time,” said Sallick.

Editor’s Note: Skyler Sallick ’17 is a Video Editor for The Phillipian.