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A few minutes with filmmaker Alison Victor

September 6, 2005

"A few minutes with" is a lighter look at a student who has been in the news.

Photo of Alison VictorAlison Victor is the manager of The Depot, which offers free live music, films and televised sporting events during the academic year on the lower level of the Student Center. Victor books entertainment for the campus, but she is a star in her own right. Her documentary "Sailors First" has aired on the FOX Sports Net channel and Bay Area television stations and continues to air nationwide. The film, which tells the inspiring story of a group of sailors with disabilities, won "Best of Festival" at 2003's Berkeley Video and Film Festival and this spring led to a prestigious scholarship at the 34th annual Northern California Area Emmy Awards. Victor earned a bachelor's degree from the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) Department in 2004 and begins the master's program this semester.

Describe a perfect day:
Receiving a phone call at 9 a.m. that I've won a prestigious award [the Peter J. Marino Television Production Scholarship from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.] … And then being able to go back to bed!

Why did you choose SFSU?
The reputation of the BECA program. It's well-respected. I had a rock 'n' roll career for 13 years and played around the world [lead guitar with a number of bands including AC/DShe, an all-girl AC/DC tribute band]. But I thought it was time to learn something else -- something that comes with a 401K, retirement, health insurance -- grown-up stuff.

What was the inspiration for your award-winning documentary?
I wanted sailing lessons and was walking along The Embarcadero when I met these guys. One was blind, the other a quadriplegic. They needed able-bodied people to go sailing with them. I wanted to see how they did it. Other people had approached them to do documentaries but always with a big sigh like it's a sad, sad story. It's not. My mother is disabled so I think they could see I understood. Those guys taught me that it's not what happened to you in your life but how you deal with it. When you have a passion for something, nothing will stop you. These are people who can't get out of their beds on their own in the morning yet they go sailing!

Favorite quote:
I'll use one from the sailors: "You can be dealt a lousy hand and still come out a winner."

Favorite SFSU faculty members:
Miriam Smith -- she's so funny and delivers the information in a really interesting way. She's been very supportive. And Michelle Wolf. Her energy is phenomenal -- I want to be her when I grow up. And Dr. Hewitt, the documentary teacher. I call him my "Doc Dad" because he was so supportive.

What was your first job?
During high school [Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto] I had a drive-time radio show on KFJC, an alternative radio station funded through Foothill College. I was too young to see the bands [in local clubs], but I could interview them. I got to interview some interesting ones: "The Damned" and "Love and Rockets." I wasn't even 18. The look on their faces was [an incredulous] "you're going to interview us?"

Who are your heroes?
I'm making a documentary on behalf of a group called And Castro For All. It's a Human Rights group that was brought in when a bar in the Castro was accused of [racial discrimination]. Heroes to me are people who on a Saturday night spend their money and time fighting on behalf of justice for others.

What other projects are you working on?
I'll be doing a documentary with [SFSU alumnus and broadcaster] Fred Inglis at Channel 2 on disabled hockey players who skate on sleds. And a documentary on cloggers who travel around the world going to cultural festivals representing the USA. Miriam Smith is executive producer.

What are your long-term goals?
Making documentaries, teaching at the college level and getting a Ph.D. at UCLA or USC. I'm interested in media literacy, media activism and the study of aesthetics.

Name a guilty pleasure of yours.
Watching TV talk shows like "Montel," "Oprah" and dare I say it, "Jerry Springer." That's a pretty guilty pleasure for a media student. I guess I just outed myself.

What person, dead or living, would you most like to meet?
[Albert] Einstein. I think it would be fun to talk to him. And Richard Branson [the founder and chairman of the Virgin Group].

If you could change one thing about SFSU, what would it be?
There's not enough sense of community. People say State is a commuter school but there are a lot of people living on campus in the dorms and close by in the city. I try to [foster a sense of community] by offering lots of different types of bands, comedy night and films at the Depot.

What is the toughest thing about being you?
There are too many things that I want to do all at once.

-- Adrianne Bee


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Last modified September 6, 2005 by University Communications