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Filmmaker Shares Reflection of Life, Work in Western Kansas

25 October 2014

On Oct. 21, filmmaker Patrick Clement visited Pratt Community College to take part in a brown bag lunch and discussion of his film "Somewhere Between Freedom and Protection, Kansas." The lunch was attended by middle school, high school, college students, and PCC faculty and staff.
 
The film is a 20-minute humanistic narrative that was filmed over a period of 10 days with a cast of 15 local actors starring Pratt High School student Brittnee Hill. Shooting locations included Haviland, Coldwater, Bucklin, Wellsford, Belvidere, Greensburg, Mullinville, Protection, Crescent and Pratt.
 

Clement is originally from Boston before he relocated to Greensburg and worked  as the editor of the Kiowa County Signal for two years. This experience influenced this latest film, his fourth, which features the employees of a rural Kansas newspaper office and explores the role of the newspaper in local communities.
 
 "Life and art heavily influence each other," said Clement, speaking first to students who expressed uncertainty about what career paths to choose. "I drew from my personal experiences to make the film and tell a good story. If you're not an artist yourself, exposing yourself to art is still vital to your success. Unless you experience other things in the world and get your head out of the books, you won't be the best you can be. Photography and painting and theatre and music all make you a better teacher, architect, salesman."
 
Clement.jpgClement is adamant about presenting authentic parts of life in his work, even parts that mainstream movies often choose not to portray.
 
"My film does contain religious elements that initially made some people uncomfortable," he says, referring to Biblical passages recited in a funeral scene. "But I insisted upon including it because religion is a very important part of the Midwestern experience and the Kansas experience. You can't remove that and remain true to the culture."
 
Clement never anticipated leaving the big city for rural Western Kansas, but has found much to love in the people and the communities he has encountered.
 
"As an outsider, there are many things to appreciate about Western Kansas that perhaps a native doesn't recognize. I find that family history and lineage is more accessible here; There's more continuity and less mobility in family lines, so less historical items are lost in moves. That's something that you can easily lose in more metropolitan areas. On the practical side, I never have to pay for parking meters, which is great. But while I love the heirlooms and the lower cost of living, the best part is the people. You never get the chance to have real conversations with strangers in big cities. Here, you can go to the gas station and right away you meet a guy who lives just down the road and you get to hear all about his collection of collapsible cups. I love that!"
 
Given Clement's love for meeting new people, it comes as no surprise that his favorite part of the filmmaking process is casting.
 
"I am all about humans and I have a good eye for interesting people, it's fun to find them and bring them into my projects. I prefer casting people who look real and are able to reflect the culture and the spirit of the region. I hate going to movies and watching Hollywood actors who look nothing like me."
 
The cast isn't the only noticeable difference between Clement's work and mainstream Hollywood films.
 
"My films are like reading a short story: they unfold slowly. It's a meditation on an experience rather than rapid fire action sequences. Commercial films are very formulaic: fast paced with predictable elements. It can be very difficult to fund these endeavors, because I want to make something that's appreciated as a work of art, but that's not the kind of film people pay money to see. Most of the time people invest in me because they like who I am and how I work. They know they're not getting their money back."
 
Somewhere Between Freedom and Protection, Kansas was filmed with a budget of $11,000 and was the recipient of the 2014 Audience Award at the Free State Film Festival in Lawrence. The film has been shown around the country and premiered in Sweden this week, and was screened to an audience of 50 at the Pratt Public Library during Clement's visit.
 
"Everyone I worked with on this project was so wonderful," he said. "I hope to make another film soon and I'd like to see larger movie projects come to Western Kansas in the future. This region has a lot to offer and this has been such a good experience."

Students from Skyline High School, Liberty Middle School, and Pratt Community College staff attend a brown bag lunch with Clement on Oct. 21
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Cast and set photos provided by Patrick Clement