“Family, Professors, and society are pressuring you to do well [in college], whatever that means, but from ages 18 to 22, you’re also developing tremendously; the brain doesn’t stop developing our behavior until age 25. This is a very crucial part of our lives, but no one talks about it.”
Marz Saffore ’15 sought to rethink convention and challenge the status quo with her senior honors thesis show, “Erasing Hierarchies.” Saffore said, “I wanted to create a space where people felt they could talk about [differences], but not feel like they were alone in talking about it… I created a project where everyone was talking about it.” As one of the subjects of the film, attending the premier certainly prompted me to reconsider many of the ideas I previously had about the way I interact with others. Based on the reactions of those in the audience, this reaction was widely shared. Overall, “Erasing Hierarchies” was a keen-eyed tour de force; a window into what deeply unites humanity in spite of our external differences.
According to Saffore, seeing last year’s honors senior thesis show, by Lauren Blair ’13/T5, inspired her to undertake one of her own. Blair revived the program’s honors track, which involves taking three extra classes in the Art and Art History Department, and writing a 15-page paper, in addition to the honors thesis exhibition. Saffore decided the summer after she saw Blair’s show to switch onto the honors track. “In the summertime, I emailed my adviser,” Saffore recalled, “I told her, ‘I want to switch over, right now!’ Then I did, and as of right now, the honors program is officially revived; there’s someone else in the Class of 2016 who’s doing it.”
Saffore had some experience in digital media production from her work on a similar film chronicling her experience with Art New York, as well as from coursework. During her semester in New York City, she honed her interview style, and learned to use b-roll, or stock footage. Assigned to make a podcast about her experience, she decided to include a visual element, and produced a short documentary about how four students “all come together and actually have a cool, meaningful semester, besides the whole surface level thing.” Returning to Rochester last fall, she wanted to use the same skills to show how students at the U of R are all striving for fulfillment of the same basic needs. A psychology minor, Saffore recalled Maslow’s hierarchy as a useful framework for organizing her film.
“Erasing Hierarchies” consisted of clips from 53 interviews with undergraduates from various walks of life. These clips were edited together and displayed on a three-panel screen. Saffore consciously sought to maintain thematic unity, yet juxtaposed interview clips from students representing different positions within the same societal hierarchies. Another important guiding principle was to stay true each students’ experiences by accurately portraying their genuine emotions. Structurally, the film was organized into eight segments; each centered around one representative student, with smaller segments interspersed. This style created an attitude that all the film’s subjects were more similar than different, and many were going through the same fundamental struggles, whether they realized it or not. According to Saffore, it was difficult to edit out 99% of each of her 50+ 45-60 minute interviews, to a final length of 30 minutes, but the results truly speak for themselves.
The premier was followed by a Q & A session with the artist and a reception at the Sage Art Center featuring two performance art pieces. The first was an opportunity for the subjects of the documentary and audience members to interview Marz, asking her insightful, revealing personal questions which were all caught on camera, just like the interviews featured in the film. The second was a dance party. This reporter truly enjoyed it, and would highly recommend a trip to Sage Art Center to see an exhibit including the film, and various production notes and full interviews.