Created by seven DC students about local art teacher Tim Gabel, Life as a Collage is a reflexive portrait of a dying artist, his philosophies on life, art and his impact on the community.
Life as a Collage is a documentary made by seven DC students. The film is our attempt to give a local collage artist and teacher, Tim Gabel, a last chance to speak words of wisdom as he struggled with terminal liver cancer in 2011. In Life as a Collage, as part of a documentary production class, youth from the Sitar Arts Center interviewed and documented Tim’s reflections and worldview during the last stages of his life. Throughout production, all of the crew, most of us in high school (though our youngest team member was 9 years-old), came to know Tim and for some, became quite close to him. Midway into filming, however, Tim succumbed to his cancer, something that all of us on the crew dealt with head-on. For some, this was their first experience with death. For others, they had lost family and friends and the process of telling Tim’s story helped them heal from past experiences. Everyone involved in the making of the film came to terms with the fact that the person we had come to know so closely had passed away. Our feelings about Tim’s death became a core theme in the film, primarily expressed through my voiceover as the film’s director.
In Life as a Collage, Tim Gabel, born in Wisconsin, talks about life experiences from moving from a small farm town to a big city and his experience teaching for the first time. Tim taught and volunteered at the Sitar Arts Center, a non-profit arts center based in Adams Morgan for low-income students. For ten years, he taught numerous students both collage and landscape painting. Through his hard work, Tim touched and encouraged many students and became a cornerstone for the Center’s Saturday classes and an important community leader at the Center.
The documentary started as a class at Sitar Arts Center in collaboration with Meridian Hill Pictures to teach students documentary filmmaking. As we decided to explore Tim and his life through making the film, the class became something much different. Not only did we learn about the technical aspects of making a documentary, we grew emotionally through the experience. As much as we learned about art and life from Tim, we also learned how to deal with death and how to use art, specifically documentary filmmaking, to help navigate challenging life circumstances. We met Tim’s family and friends, students and co-workers. We as students learned how to feel new emotions, but most importantly, we learned that even though death is the end of life as we know it, it does not mean that it’s the end of the story. Tim reached so many people that he will continually be remembered and his legacy will live on.
Now that you will be watching our film, you too are a part of that legacy.
-- Forrest Penrod, student director
Director: Forrest Penrod
Producer: Tokunbo Adedeinde
Editor: Cinque Couch
Camera Operator: Phuong Tran
Audio Technician: Huy Tran
Story Supervisor: Vilissia Edmonds
Music Composer: Callye Christopher
Executive Producers/Media Teaching Artists: Brandon and Lance Kramer
Writing Teaching Artist: Livy Tracyzk
Editing Advisor: Daniel Neumann
Production Advisor: Laurel Gwizdak
511 Queen Anne Avenue North
San Francisco, CA 94114
Washington, DC 20001
What a Piece of Work is Man
Huffington Post, July 8, 2012
Hillyer Art Space Screening of ‘Life as a Collage’
DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, November 15, 2011
Interview with Kojo Nnamdi about ‘Life as a Collage’
The Kojo Nnamdi Show
WAMU 88.5, September 20, 2011
Sitar Arts Center students produce documentary about dying teacher
WJA ABC7, September 21, 2011