Budding film director works to preserve past

FULDA -- There were no celebrities in limousines and no red carpet, but the audience members who arrived to watch the premiere of "Important Items" Thursday night were happy to attend.

Jared Mitchell
Jared Mitchell of Fulda recently premiered a documentary he filmed during the Fulda Wood Duck Festival. The film, entitled "Important Items," features veterans talking about the items they displayed during the festival. (Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe)

FULDA -- There were no celebrities in limousines and no red carpet, but the audience members who arrived to watch the premiere of "Important Items" Thursday night were happy to attend.

Film director Jared Mitchell was pleased with their reactions.

"They appreciated it," he said. "It went well."

Mitchell, who graduated from Fulda High School this spring, was asked to make a film about two Fulda locals -- Jim Sitton and Margaret Popp. Knowing that a group of veterans would gather during Fulda's annual Wood Duck Festival, bringing items they had kept from their service years, Sitton and Popp were anxious to capture the memories of the former soldiers and sailors.

Mitchell, planning to go into film directing, had previously made a movie about third grade pen pals and was happy to take on a new project. He met with Sitton and Popp a few times and was all set to go the day the veterans displayed their mementos.


"The original idea came because of the things the veterans would bring," Mitchell said. "Those things must have some kind of significance to them. I was curious as to why they held onto those items -- why they were important to them."

That is why Mitchell named the documentary "Important Items." At the beginning of the video, Mitchell narrates briefly.

"Anywhere you go, you will find people relying on their items," he states in the opening sequence.

During the festival, Mitchell spoke with almost every veteran, asking them to introduce themselves and talk about the things they had brought to display. The veterans were from a variety of eras -- soldiers and sailors who served during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict and in Iraq.

Interspersed with the interviews from the festival are conversations recorded by the Fulda FCCLA chapter several years ago. Mitchell has been working on transferring the VHS recordings to DVD.

Between the footage Mitchell took and the older interviews, the movie ended up approximately an hour long. In it, veterans display photos that capture the faces of people they served with, places they saw and conditions they endured. Scrapbooks filled with articles, postcards and pictures sat next to medals, meal cards, foreign currency and uniforms. Equipment included patches and insignia, safety items and more.

Mitchell also captured on video the flag ceremony performed by the Fulda Boy Scouts.

Shortly after filming, Mitchell left town for a month to travel the United States. When he got back, he had a week to edit, narrate and complete his project before the screening.


He chose Memorial Park for the narrated bits, wrote the script and then filmed himself. Once it was complete, the screening took place.

Many of those present were participants in the interviews.

Mitchell said the documentary came out mostly as he expected, though he did have some trouble with the sound quality during the interviews recorded during the festival.

"I had good equipment at my disposal thanks to Marcine Elder," Mitchell said. "That wasn't the issue."

Because the displays were set up in Fulda's community hall, the constant buzz of conversation can be heard in the background. For some of the interviews, Mitchell went back and added subtitles.

After the screening, the veterans told Mitchell they enjoyed the documentary and appreciated his efforts.

"They said it was something that needed to be done," Mitchell stated.

Once again on the go, Mitchell left this past Friday for a church trip. Within the next month, he will leave for Augustana College, where he intends to pursue a double major in vocal music and theater. He then plans to attend grad school and pursue a career in film directing.


Mitchell grew up in Chisago Lakes and moved to Fulda at age 13. He became involved in community theater, and in school joined Knowledge Bowl, FCCLA and Speech. In Speech, he was in the great speeches category, performing famous oratories from a variety of eras. His last year in Speech, he took on a unique challenge, performing Adolph Hitler's last speech.

"It was tough to do," he admitted.

It wasn't the content that made it so hard, but the length of the speech, which he had to pare down to eight minutes.

"Great speeches is about people who can motivate and use words to interact," Mitchell explained. "They make their audience see their point of view. It is not about the why - it is about the how he gave his speeches."

Mitchell also spent several years as part of the Youth Diversity Corp, where, ironically, one of his favorite skit roles was that of a Nazi.

His love of film came from a childhood fascination with movies.

"Me and my friends would watch 'Indiana Jones' and want to be archeologists. Then we'd watch 'Apollo 13' and want to be astronauts," he laughed. "One day it occurred to me I could direct movies and be it all."

Copies of "Important Items" can be ordered by contacting Sitton at the Fulda Depot at (507) 425-2201.

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