Antioch University Los Angeles BA in Liberal Studies, Psychology Concentration student Peter Ehrenfried’s 4-minute film “Surfridge” is our feature story for this issue of Psychology Spotlight.
“Surfridge” (you can watch the video here) was Peter’s final project for the course “Documentary Film & The American Psyche” taught by Charley Lang. We sat down with Peter to get some of his reactions to this popular class and to his experience as a first-time filmmaker.
What motivated you to sign up for the course “Documentary Film & The American Psyche”?
I have always been intrigued by filmmaking—I felt that it is a creative interest I never got to explore, and I thought this class would be a good opportunity to see where that took me. I was looking forward to deconstructing film from a psychological perspective, so the added twist of psychology made this class that much sweeter. Plus, Charley is such a warm, welcoming person, and I wanted to have him as an instructor again.
What, if anything, was most surprising and/or unexpected for you in this course experience?
I was really only familiar with expository documentaries before taking this class and just expected to watch these types of films. But I sincerely appreciated the uniqueness and diversity of the documentaries, and each person seemed to have their own take on the films. I felt that this aspect of the class really reflected the artistic qualities documentary films can have.
Was there a particular takeaway or highlight for you in this course?
The final day of class (when everyone presented their films) was awesome. Each person brought their own flavor and energy to the films, and I felt that I got to see a side of my classmates that I hadn’t seen before. No two films were like alike and the filmmaking process seemed to allow each person to express themselves in a way that can’t be captured with writing or speaking.
How did you arrive at selecting the subject matter for your final class project?
Los Angeles seems so rich with history, and I wanted to focus on something that people might not know about. I drive past Surfridge every day, and could just tell by looking at it that it wasn’t just an ordinary stretch of uninhabited land. I did some quick research and decided that Surfridge was perfect for doing some informative filmmaking while adding my own twist of humor and whimsy.
What was most instructive to you in your filmmaking experience?
I remember reading an article for class about keeping the camera moving to keep viewers engaged, and I definitely took that to heart. I didn’t have a lot of material to pull from and was worried about making a dull documentary, so I tried to stretch out my material in whatever way I could. Charley encouraged us to be mindful of how certain sounds might play louder than others during recording, so I spent a lot of time trying to calibrate volume throughout the filmmaking process.