Incoming Artist-in-Residence Hilary Cline Tells Her Key West Story

After numerous years supporting artists and artists’ program at the Writers Guild Foundation, Maine Alliance for Arts Education and the youth media organization Spy Hop Productions, I rejoiced when I learned that I was accepted into TSKW’s Artist Residency program which would allow me a concentrated amount of time to focus on my own creative pursuits (documentary filmmaking). While the residency does not officially begin until September 2011, I decided to arrive a month early to visit with family friends, reacquaint myself with the island and to scout out potential subjects for my film.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been flooded with various memories dating back to the eighties and early nineties.  I spent many years as a teenager visiting my families home on Petronia Street and was also fortunate to work, my senior year of high school, as an intern with the editor and photojournalist of the Key West Citizen. During that month-long internship, I accidentally discovered the power of storytelling when I biked down a side street in Bahama Village.  It was there that I met an elderly couple that was kind enough to invite me into their home. While sitting for hours at their kitchen table, I listened to their captivating story. Fortunately, I had my camera thrown over my shoulder and was able to capture their portraits. On that particular day, I realized that my curiosity and desire to seek out the unknown led me to a story that may have not otherwise been told. It was the journey itself into an unfamiliar area, the bond that was created with those strangers, and transformative power of storytelling that altered my perceptions of community.

After my graduation from high school, I returned to Key West and spent a longer duration of time on the island. I worked at the Waterfront Market and on my off days, I found myself enchanted by a series of serendipitous moments and intertwining stories that appeared daily through the many characters that were either permanent residents or attracted as visitors from elsewhere. Over the years, I’ve reminisced about those characters and the creative spirit in Key West that fed my imagination as a young woman. Now as an adult, I am honored to return to a place that shaped my passion for language, photography, story, and the visual arts.

While working as the Development Director of the youth media organization Spy Hop Productions, I was amazed at the number of youth who became empowered through the creative process and motivated to make a personal change in their own lives. As a result, I began to take my own interest and passion for documentary filmmaking more seriously and make a career change.

My recent educational training with the non-profit, documentary organization Barefoot Workshops helped me to shape my craft and to better understand the special relationship that is developed between the storyteller and the listener. Additionally, it was through Barefoot’s two-week documentary workshop that I gained a deep appreciation for individuals in a community who open their lives to a visiting filmmaker. The knowledge I gained at the Maine Media Workshops forever changed my understanding of story development. Presently, I am still getting use to the idea that I am not here writing a grant for another artist to manifest their vision. Rather, TSKW has granted me the opportunity to explore my own vision and voice while documenting a local story.

While I have yet to determine the subject for my short documentary (to be created during the month-long residency at TSKW), the number of individuals who have made suggestions and shared their knowledge has revealed many avenues of exploration. Perhaps, the “story” will draw me in as it did so many years ago and when I least expect it!

The Studios of Key West