Andrew Garrison ’74

Interview by Christian Feuerstein ’94

Andrew GarrisonAndrew Garrison ’74 is an independent filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. He is also an associate professor of film and digital media production at the University of Texas at Austin. He recently completed the documentary Trash Dance. The film follows choreographer Allison Orr as she joins Austin sanitation workers on their daily routes to listen, learn, and ultimately convince them to collaborate in a unique dance performance. After months of rehearsal, two-dozen trash collectors—and their trucks—perform an extraordinary spectacle on an abandoned airport runway, in front of thousands of people. The documentary was declared “Inspired and inspiring…a paean to the nobility of labor,” by Paste Magazine. It won the SXSW 2012 Special Jury Award, the audience award from the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and, most recently, won the audience award at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival. A trailer and more information about the movie can be seen at trashdancemovie.com.

How did Trash Dance come about?
This one specifically dated back because I needed to do something different. I was interested in shooting movement. It would be a fun thing to do. I ran into [the choreographer] Allison, and she was working the very next week with the Department of Sanitation Services. Before that, I did a film called Third Ward TX about local artists in the inner city of Houston. It was about these seven artists who worked with a community to clean up the neighborhood, picked up the broken glass, and asked junkies to leave abandoned houses, and with a small NEA grant, converted buildings to artists’ lofts and housing for single mothers going to school. They really made a huge impact, and then developers started to move in, so they got into low-cost housing so that the neighborhood wasn’t priced out for the residents.

What was your major at Antioch?
I was a double major. Political science and communication—Bob Devine had just started teaching video when I was there.

Any teachers who were big influences on you?
Bob was great! There was Norm Diamond and David Ober, both of whom were radical Marxists. Dimi Reber! Stan Bernstein! I used to visit with Stan and his wife. I loved listening to John Ronsheim on the radio, listening to him on WYSO. WYSO was a huge influence—it was great working with the station. Also Dimi Rieber, I took dance classes with her.

What are some of your favorite memories from Antioch?
Being in Bob’s class. We’d make stuff up—we’d do a weekly video magazine. There was so much talent all around me. Being in this milieu of talented people making things was very exciting.

Just even playing soccer on the golf course was nice. Going to Ohio—I’m from Florida, so this was the first time I had seen snow! Deciduous hardwood. Brick buildings. I loved the Glen—in the winter, it was great, because no one was there.

Do you have any advice for the current Antioch College students?
For me, really, it’s all about picking the things that I loved to do. I don’t even understand how people plan out their lives.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on my first fiction film. It’s about two sisters, one in a border town in Texas and the other in Mexico. I’m also working on another documentary, but I’m not ready to talk about that yet.