fundraising, innovation, projects

saffron cassaday, on cross-generation connections

Last week a friend and I were talking about how technology transformed the way we communicate, we work, we entertain ourselves and how this is affects our social life and relationships. We both belong to the Y Generation, maybe the last one to remember what was life and working without email, or waiting for a letter to arrive or for a film to develop. We’re also the first generation to have shown our parents how to use Skype, and we might have set up their AOL Account. We reflected on the fact that while we’re tech-savvy, we are more aware of the growing disconnect than millennials tend to be. However, we agreed, we too had become more estranged from elder generations than our parents were at our age.

And yet, not long after this conversation, I stumbled upon Saffron Cassaday’s CyberSeniors, a Gen-Y filmmaker who documented her Millennial sisters’ initiative to pair teens with seniors and help them go online. This documentary is a comforting proof that we can still perceive technology as a means and not an end to real life experience. Saffron was nice enough to respond to my questions, so here goes:

1. Age, name & occupation

Saffron Cassaday, 27, Filmmaker

2. What was your dream job as a kid?

A painter, or a singer. I changed my mind a lot, but was always wanted to do something artsy.

3. Where do you get your support or motivation from?

I have an incredibly supportive family. My parents are both entrepreneurs who always went after their dreams and encouraged me to do the same.

 “I started my career as an actor but I hated waiting around for auditions, so I taught myself to edit so I could produce my own video shorts”

4. What sparked your motivation or need to make your own film?

I started my career as an actor but I hated waiting around for auditions, so I taught myself to edit so I could produce my own video shorts. That led to me working as a freelance video editor, which eventually led to me directing and editing a feature length documentary. I’m glad I took charge of my career by trying something new, otherwise I may have never discovered how much more I love filmmaking than I ever liked acting!

5. What were you the most afraid of when you started off?

It was really scary trying something new.  Being my first film, I constantly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  My two younger sisters started the Cyber-Seniors program when they were in high school and I immediately thought this would be such a great topic for a documentary film:  senior citizens who have never used a computer, being taught how to use the Internet by teenaged volunteers.  The comedic and heartwarming moments were there from the get go, and we found really great characters, both young and old.  But my fear was that I wouldn’t be able to turn the footage into a film with a story-arc.  We had over 120 hours of footage by the end and it was all a little overwhelming.  But the fact that I really believed in the subject matter gave me the confidence to keep working at it.

6. What were you the most excited about when you started off?

Getting the seniors online and seeing their eyes light up each time they learned something new.  Like the first time one 93-year-old woman Skyped with her great-granddaughter and tears welled up in her eyes.  You could just see that this was the best part of her day, being able to connect with family meant the world to her.  It was very exciting to know I was part of something that was making a difference.

7. What did you wish you knew before starting all this?

That nothing happens quickly, and there’s no straight path. Even though I knew it was unlikely, part of me truly believed I would land a great acting gig right out of school and become successful overnight! I’m still no where close to reaching my end goal, but now I understand that it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile! I am thoroughly enjoying the journey.

 “I’m still no where close to reaching my end goal, but now I understand that it’s the journey that makes it all worthwhile”

8. Tell us what is was like to start from where you did

As for making a film with modest means, in some ways I think it’s more fun! While I was in the middle of the editing process and kind of losing my mind, I had an experienced filmmaker much older than me tell me he was envious of the position I was in.  He was used to working on bigger productions where he had several “higher-ups” breathing down his neck, voicing their opinions.  He said it felt like he was just a cog in a machine, doing a job for hire.  Whereas when you work on a smaller production, you have much more control to make the film you want to make.  There are positives and negatives to both sides, but I took what he said to heart and decided to focus on the positives and have fun with it.

9. What would you like to know about other innovators who answer this survey?

How many hours a day do they dedicate to their work. 

Follow @cyberseniors as it plays across North America

Learn more about the program, and how to get involved

Check out some of the videos made by the Cyber Seniors