Sheltered In Place
“In today’s world,” said filmmaker Brandon Ferdig, “we often forget that everyday life, the ordinary, is no longer ordinary, but extraordinary.”
“I wanted to capture a unique slice-of-life,” added Brandon, “and have something to remember these trying times.”
So, Brandon, with the family’s permission, decided to film one day in the life of his brother Jerald’s family.
Said Brandon, “These are unique times, and under the circumstances of the Stay- at-Home order, I wanted to document on film the extraordinary, but relatable, daily life.”
Jerald said, “I was not surprised my brother wanted to do this. We did not hesitate, as we thought this would be a good case study, recording our family for one day. And we were comfortable with him coming into our house.”
Jerald and Maggie Ferdig
Jerald and Maggie Ferdig and their three children, Robbie, Veronica, and Christopher live in Buffalo.
For the past fourteen years, Jerald has been the 7-12 director of bands at Rockford Middle and High School. He is now working from home.
Maggie works in food services at Rockford Elementary, but has been laid off. Not as many food services staff are needed for preparing the meals for distribution to the at-home students. She also has worked one day a week as a server at Buffalo Applebee’s, but now Applebee’s is only providing curbside service.
Son Robbie is an eighth grader at Rockford Middle School. Daughter Veronica is a fourth grader, and son Christopher is in kindergarten, both at Rockford Elementary.
With the governor’s stay-at-home order, the schedule for the Ferdig family, as for all families, changed quickly and significantly.
Maggie is now in charge of the distance learning and keeping the family organized.
Using suggestions from the Rockford School District for school work, the family uses post-it notes for each child, listing what needs to be done in each school subject. When a class task is completed, the post-it note is moved up to the “parking lot.”
Robbie needs the least supervision.
Jerald commented, “He is pretty independent, using a desktop computer in the basement.”
“He is doing fine,” said Jerald. “He mostly works alone. He is a good student and gets his work done by himself.”
Veronica uses her new Chromebook, an early birthday present.
Maggie works most of the morning at the kitchen table with kindergartner Christopher, who needs the most guidance because of his young age. His teacher sends out a video every morning and meets virtually every week with the whole class.
Although the youngsters are doing well, distance learning has been a challenge.
“They really miss their friends,” said Jerald. “When they get a chance to call their friends or chat with them during class meetings, they really light up.”
“They miss their activities, too,” added Jerald. “Robbie was looking to participate in track and now really misses dirt biking with his friends. For the summer, Veronica was ready for softball, and Christopher was going to start T-Ball. I don’t know what’s going to happen with summer activities. It’s very difficult for all of us.”
“I got into teaching to work with students,” said Jerald. “I really miss them.”
While Jerald is working with his students, it is, of course, from afar and virtual.
For the daily check-in for attendance, Jerald asks a question about classical music, a unit he had taught and the students had completed before school closed.
He gives out weekly assignments, expecting students to practice and then perform and record a piece of music. It might be from their lesson books or from a piece that the whole band may perform in the future. The students send their recordings via Google classroom, the platform Rockford Schools uses.
With 240 students, Jerald has many recordings to listen to and offer ways to improve.
He uses his scheduled office hours to meet with individual students and provide the help they need.
“It’s much harder and frustrating at times. It’s hard to show them how to play a rhythm correctly. I even tried to help a student repair her saxophone, but she still had to send it in for repairs,” he said.
“Everything is going as well as can be expected,” said Jerald. “The kids have been pretty involved, and a high percentage are getting their work done.”
Right now, Jerald and his senior students are working on a way for them all to play the school song one last time together, but virtually.
Brandon is a documentary filmmaker, working out of Minneapolis. He is the owner of The Periphery Media. The Periphery is a media company devoted to bringing into focus, through interviews, analysis, and action, that which people ordinarily miss.
He might cover the life story of an unnoticed person, take an unseen angle on a current topic, or show an unrecognized solution to a social issue.
Last year, he completed a documentary on the homelessness and the tent city in Minneapolis. That documentary, “The Wall: Stories of the 2018 Homeless Camp,” was shown at St. Anthony Main and this year at Grand Makwa Cinema for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Currently, among other projects, he is working on a documentary of President Donald Trump’s visit to Minneapolis last October. Brandon said that the visit was historic as it was Trump’s first rally after his impeachment and the first starting his campaign for re-election.
Ferdig Family Documentary
“An American Family: Sheltered in Place,” debuted online on Wednesday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. It premiered on the YouTube channel The Periphery, https://www.youtube.com/c/theperiphery.
The film will also be available on social media outlets and on The Periphery YouTube channel.
“We’re all used to this by now,” said filmmaker Brandon Ferdig in an email. “But the shutdowns have been a monumental shift for millions of lives. I wanted to document this period in our country by documenting the everyday life of those adjusting to this ‘new normal.’ By capturing this family’s thoughts and feelings, I was surprised how impactful a story about inaction can be.”