Connecting the Movements: Filmmaker Sam Mayfield Discusses Wisconsin Rising Documentary

Filmmaker Sam Mafield
Filmmaker Sam Mafield
Sam Mayfield is a freelance video journalist and documentary filmmaker from Burlington, VT. She has filed reports for Democracy Now!, The Uptake, Free Speech TV and Her work has taken her to India, Palestine, Africa and Mexico. She is currently making the feature length documentary film, Wisconsin Rising.

Sam produced numerous videos for Toward Freedom from Wisconsin on the people’s uprising there, and in this interview she talks about what initially drew her to Wisconsin, her experience on the ground, her hope for the impact of the documentary, and the connection between the Occupy movement and its counterpart in Wisconsin. She also mentions how you can help with the completion of her important documentary on a historic people’s movement.

Ben Dangl: What drew you to Wisconsin to work on your documentary, Wisconsin Rising?

Sam Mayfield: Seeing for the first time people taking over their State Capitol building, occupying it for weeks, and seeing the bravery, creativity and spontaneity of the people – this is what drew me to Wisconsin. I was initially dispatched on assignment for the media outlet The Uptake. Having worked for them in the past, they called and asked if I would go and report for them. I left a few days after the phone call and thought I was going out for four days. Seven months later, I came home with the material to make a movie.

BD:  How would you describe the general feeling on the ground among participants in this movement?

SM: In many of the interviews I conducted I heard a common thread, that Scott Walker is the best union organizer in the state of Wisconsin: through his crackdown on workers’ rights he brought everyone together in protest. And many people, most of them non-union members, told me that they found new community, they found inspiration and courage in the movement, and they found new friends who became their family. This is to say that, while I can’t speak for Wisconsinites and say how they felt, I can say that they described to me feeling power in knowing they were not alone. I think when people remember that we are all connected and are part of a common struggle we can make serious changes to our political environment.

BD: How would you describe the interaction and similarities between the occupy movement what has been going on Wisconsin?

Protest in Wisconsin
Protest in Wisconsin
SM: I think that the actions in Wisconsin helped lay the blueprint for what has become the occupy movement all over the country. There are many similarities between the movements, from using the people’s microphone to occupying a public space as Wisconsinites did in their state house for weeks in February and March, and again in occupying their streets in downtown Madison in June. I think what people are remembering is that they are much stronger together. People are fed up, it’s clear, but the creativity comes in through how people take action based on that frustration. The people in Wisconsin have been and continue to be creative, animated and peaceful in their resistance. 

BD: What do you hope the impact of your documentary is?

SM: I hope my documentary impacts average working Americans who may feel isolated, cast out or bored with politics. I hope that people watch the movie and are able to draw a connection between people in power who strategically pass laws on the backs of the poorest, most vulnerable people in a state so that corporations can benefit. I hope people watch the movie and are inspired to build community in their own towns, and that those communities hold their elected representatives accountable for representing them in a dignified and honorable way. Or, best case scenario, I hope that people watch the movie and realize we need a new system: it’s all up to the people.

BD: What can people do to help you make this important documentary?

SM: Here are ways people can help:

-You can donate right now to the film’s Kickstarter Page

-Up your Kickstarter pledge $10

-Send the Kickstarter link to five friends

-Post the link to Facebook and Twitter

-Get one friend to pledge.

-View film’s trailer and Kickstarter appeal here: