Amy C. Elliott Talks About Her Documentary Salvage – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus

The 2019 SXSW Film Festival is almost upon us and we can’t wait to have you here! Before you make your way down to Austin, TX, get to know films from our lineup a little bit better with our Filmmaker In Focus series. Dive into our Q&A with director Amy C. Elliott, as she tells us about her film Salvage, which will make its world premiere in Documentary Spotlight.

In your own words, what does this film mean to you?

Amy C. Elliott: Salvage was a huge labor of love for me – I spent ten years and logged over 35,000 miles making it. You could say I planned my first shoot on the film for fun (if you’re the kind of person who considers shooting alone for two weeks at a garbage dump near the Arctic Circle “fun”). I left with the nagging sense that this was a project worth pursuing for real, and just kept going back. And sure enough, witnessing the evolution of both the landfill and the city of Yellowknife proved to be incredibly rewarding.

What motivated you to tell this story?

ACE: I’ve always been drawn to unique local cultures and customs, especially those that are fading. As a filmmaker, I feel compelled to document them. When one is lost, the world becomes a little more homogenous, a little less interesting. The decline of Yellowknife’s open salvage dump, and the community that frequented it, is right in my wheelhouse.

I also wanted to make a film about consumption, materialism and waste – issues that I think are pretty pressing right now. Spotlighting the life of a beloved town dump seemed a compelling way to do that. The people who salvage there do so for many different reasons – some earn an income from it, some out of a sense of morality or concern for the environment, some just find it fun. But all believe it is important, even meaningful, to rescue items that others have discarded. That philosophy resonates with me, especially in this time of limitless consumerism.

What do you want the audience to take away?

ACE: Think about what you buy – and realize much of it will end up forever in a landfill!

How did you find your subject?

ACE: It wasn’t my first choice to pick a shooting location 3500 miles from my home. I wanted to make a film about people’s relationships to their local dump, but found the vast majority of those in the US are closed to the public. I scouted a few in some small towns, but nothing I felt I could build a feature around. Then I came across the Column Tales From The Dump by Walt Humphries (who later ended up being the protagonist of my film). I realized if there was a community where the dump was so popular and so well-frequented that it actually inspired a weekly newspaper column, I had to check it out.

What were you doing when you found out you were coming to SXSW?

ACE: I was trail riding out in the woods with my four-year old, covered in mud, fixing the wheel on his bike when the email came in. I was ecstatic. I know I was sworn to secrecy until the formal announcement but thought it was safe to tell him (he could not have cared less).

What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?

ACE It’s such an exciting place to premiere. It attracts audiences that are hungry to discover films that are a little different – perfect for an offbeat doc like Salvage.

Add Salvage to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2019 filmmakers!

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Salvage – Photo by Amy C. Elliott

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