c/o Sydney Kim, Staff Photographer

c/o Sydney Kim, Staff Photographer

When The Argus interviewed Maddie Nagler ’22 it was in a rare moment of quiet amidst her busy day. Recognizable by her chronically unzipped backpack, Nagler spent her fall break on campus, working on a thesis film set and running. You might have seen her dashing through campus training with the cross country team, or behind a camera shooting a film. The Argus sat down with Nagler to discuss filmmaking, track, and psychology. 

The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated for WesCeleb?

Maddie Nagler: I saw this question on other people’s Wes celebs. I think I know some people on The Argus so probably that. 

A: What are you involved in on campus and what is your major? 

MN: I am a member of the cross country and track teams, I serve on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, I made films for the Purpose of School Labs, and I generally enjoy making documentaries. I am also a Psych and Film double major. 

A: Wow, it’s amazing you even have time to complete your assignments! How is cross country and track at Wes?

MN: I love my teammates, they are a phenomenal group of people. We’ve been through a lot, as other Wes students may know, but the team is a resilient bunch and it’s amazing the culture we have now and are continuing to build. 

A: It also sounds like you do a lot of film, could you talk a bit more about that?

MN: First semester freshman year I took Intro to Documentary Filmmaking and got randomly assigned to a crew, and we worked so well together! After that class, we realized we wanted to continue to make films outside the classroom setting. We went to Tanzania, and most recently, Oklahoma City, and have also done work here at Wesleyan. Shout out to Professor [Sadia Quraeshi] Shepard for being the reason I fell in love with documentary filmmaking. If you haven’t taken a Shepard class, you are missing out. Professor [Tracy] Strain and Professor [Randall] MacLowry have also been incredibly influential in my experience with filmmaking and I would highly recommend their courses. 

A: Are there any film projects you are especially proud of?

MN: The one I created this summer probably. Myself alongside eight other Wesleyan students went to Oklahoma and told the story of the first openly gay pastor in the Oklahoma Methodist Church, and we are expecting it to be completed within the month. It was really wonderful to be with a group of students who just wanted to dedicate their summer to telling stories. We all shared a tiny Airbnb and shared beds, which was quite a time. It will be an experience I will always hold as deeply meaningful. 

A: Does your thesis have to do with documentary filmmaking?

MN: Yes, I am creating a documentary thesis film about how beekeeping can be used as a form of therapy for kids and young adults who struggle with different forms of generalized anxiety, trauma, and other forms of mental illness. The psychology of it is that people who have experienced different forms of trauma experience a feeling of lack of control in their lives. On the surface, a bee farm seems to be extremely dangerous with lots of bees flying around, but in reality, it is actually highly controlled, so the idea is that when people who feel as though they have a lack of control realize that they can control their environment, psychological healing occurs. 

A: That sounds like a really interesting way to combine your two majors. How has your psychology background influenced this filmmaking process?

MN: All filmmaking is about psychology, and trying to understand how humans think and feel to evoke an emotional response in the audience. I think having a background in psych helps me to look at filmmaking in a unique way. I would love to someday teach a class about the intersection of psychology and film. For example, why is it that when music builds in a film it creates an emotional response in us, what in our brains allows that to happen? 

A: I would certainly enroll in that course, Professor Maddie. One last question: what are some of your favorite Wesleyan memories?

MN: Oh my goodness, there have been so many. I love being with the track team over winter break, it’s fun, no one else is here and we get to do team bonding activities like playing sardines in Olin, or going on film trips through Wesleyan. 

[Maddie picked up her phone to scroll through her photos to jog her memory.]

MN: We had a prank war with the apartment above us junior year, and all the spontaneous evening Miller’s trips. Honestly it’s all been amazing. 
John Vernaglia can be reached at jvernaglia@wesleyan.edu.

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