The Bayview community, including its resident actors, celebrates the premiere with champagne and cake. Photo by Bayview Retirement Community
The Bayview community, including its resident actors, celebrates the premiere with champagne and cake. Photo by Bayview Retirement Community
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On Nov. 17, the Bayview Retirement Community (11 W. Aloha St.) premiered its 13-webisode project, consisting of a series of two- to three-minute episodes written, created and performed by residents.

Filmmaker Karen Tanzy, director Scott Jackman and executive producer Nancy Weinbeck, who is also director of resident services at Bayview, led the project and opened the event with admiration and applause for residents’ contributions and hard work.

“This project was the brainchild of our residents,” Weinbeck said. “They created the stories, they wrote the scripts, they acted, they performed, they did camera work, they directed, they played a role in all of this.” 

The project was designed to inspire self-expression, community building and confidence among residents through filmmaking, while challenging ageism and expectations of aging adults, Tanzy explained.

“This collaborative work is really innovative and pioneering. To our knowledge, nothing like it has been done in retirement communities,” she continued. “There are many benefits to these creative endeavors, but one in particular is working in collaboration on creative projects. It’s about building community and strengthening relationships, and that’s a very, very powerful practice with respect to healthy aging.”

Tanzy, who has a psychology background, and Jackman started the film project at Bayview about three years ago to bring out the residents’ stories by providing them with a creative vehicle to do so.

According to Tanzy, creative work offers a wealth of benefits, from freshening one’s outlook, enriching relationships and providing resiliency and optimism to bringing individuals a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction.

“When one does something new and innovative, the person can benefit from this cognitively, as well,” Tanzy said. “It helps with mental sharpness, and research in neuroscience is showing that new learning leads to neuronal growth, regardless of age.

“One of the participants in this project is 104,” she said. “She has been writing and reciting poetry every day for years. She is a beautiful example of one who embraces creativity and is flourishing cognitively.”

 

Spreading the message

The webisodes marked the project’s third major film installment, following the 2013 award-winning musical comedy “Going My Way” and “The Thirteenth Floor,” a science fiction piece completed in 2014.

While the 2013 and 2014 film projects were 10-minute movies, a short webisode format was chosen for this year’s project because it allowed more people to participate, while also providing a completed mini series, with episodes in the ideal length for uploading and sharing online, via YouTube and other online platforms.

“The goal of this series, ultimately, is to spread it as far and wide as we possibly can, because the message is so important,” Jackman said from Houston via a video presentation. “The images you see on the screen and the message underlying all of it is it’s never too late to have fun.”

Residents and staff have been working on the film project since last winter. The 13 webisodes were created and filmed throughout 10 film courses at Bayview taught by Tanzy and Jackman. Residents participated in front of and behind the camera.

“There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm around the brainstorming of ideas, character development, creating scenarios and coming up with dialogue during the class time,” Tanzy said. “We would often run out of time, so the residents would take their ideas and develop them on their own and bring them back to class. They wrote plots, dialogue, rehearsed scenes together — all outside of class.” 

Thirty residents, between ages 78 and 104, contributed their talents, skills and experiences to the project. Musical talents were shared, with resident Bill Clarke playing classical piano throughout the episodes, while the art of rhythm and spoken language were highlighted in poetry written and composed by resident Betty Negro. Residents were even involved in directing certain episodes, something unique to this year’s project.

“It’s very exciting work, and these people are leading the way as examples of what is possible in an older-adult residential community,” Tanzy said.

 

Coming attractions

An animated film project is in the works for residents to participate in starting this January, incorporating script writing, voice recording, idea brainstorming, character development, sketches of characters and more.

“It’s a different take on filmmaking,” Tanzy said. “There’s a man at Bayview who does a lot of illustration work, so we thought of using his talents. And there are many people who may not want to be on the camera, but they have these lovely voices, so we thought that would be a way to have people in involved.” 

Tanzy will teach animated-film classes at Bayview, while Jackman, who recently relocated to Houston, will assist and edit remotely.

Tanzy and Jackman are also planning to teach a weeklong film class next summer, with the goal of incorporating younger folks in an intergenerational film project, for which Jackman will fly back to Seattle to participate.

All 13 webisodes are available online, along with the previous two short movies, “Going My Way” and “The Thirteenth Floor,” via Bayview Retirement Community’s Youtube channel: www.youtube.com/user/RetireAtBayview. 

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