Sara Nesson had been thinking of leaving filmmaking. She had even taken up blacksmithing. “I think I just wasn’t inspired by anything,” she said this week.
And then she met Drew Cameron. “Green Door Studio was literally in my back yard in Burlington. They had an open studio with a photographic exhibit. I missed the opening, but I walked by to check it out and met Drew,” she said. “I had never met a veteran of the Iraq War before I met him. When you meet Drew, you’re really taken aback. He has these eyes that are wide open and you know he takes the world in with these eyes. He takes it in and he gives back. He made me realize there was something really significant going on here in this little papermaking mill in Vermont,” she said.
Inside this paper mill, Mr. Cameron had begun the Combat Paper Project, an art program in which war veterans turn their old uniforms into paper and into art. “It was amazing to me that a vet who was so young could articulate himself so well, so honestly, so articulately, so creatively,” she said. “He told me that when he first returned home, he didn’t want to publicize that he was a vet. I asked him what had changed since he began the project. He said, I found my voice.”
Five months after meeting him, on a hike in the mountains with her father, also a documentary filmmaker, Ms. Nessen realized his was a story she needed to tell.
So she grabbed her camera. She filmed the papermaking process, filmed the veterans as they ripped apart their uniforms and turned them into something new, something beautiful. She has been filming for a year and hopes to make a full-length documentary, tentatively titled Iraq, Paper, Scissors. But the film is only partially done.
“I’ve been funding this with credit cards and my mom has been helping. I have applied for grants, which, if I get them, will take another eight months to come in. I need $162,000 to finish the film and that’s lowball,” she said. So tomorrow, Ms. Nessen, who called the Vineyard home for seven years, has organized an all-day event at the Grange Hall. She will screen her film-in-progress and will be joined by veterans, on Island this week for a writing and papermaking workshop Ms. Nessen helped to organize. She is asking for donations and the vets will be selling their art.
— Julia Rappaport