Molly Kreuzman is the Ashland-based director of “Earth Seasoned … #GapYear,” the official BendFilm documentary selection, the film follows five young women who spend a year together living semi-primitively — from building a shelter to gathering edible and medicinal plants and tracking animals — in the Southern Oregon Cascades. Kreuzman served on boards and as a volunteer for several nonprofits during her years in Bend, including the Tower Theatre, where “Earth Seasoned” will screen at 10 a.m. Sunday. Katie Merritt, founder of BendFilm, is also planning to attend. “It’s this amazing full-circle moment,” Kreuzman said.
Q: How long did you live in Bend?
A: I think we moved there in 2003, so we were there five years. First, we were in Alfalfa, and then, we did finally move into town. Now, I live in Ashland. … We have a nonprofit kids camp (Coyote Trails) down here, and this family from the beginning has let us use their family land, which is 1,600 acres, which is completely unbelievable. I got tired of being a summer camp widow when my husband would be down here, and I said, “Why don’t we just move to Ashland?”
Q: How did you come to make this film?
A: What we do with our camp is we teach kids primitive or traditional skills. One of our culminating classes is called the Caretaker program. In 2014, for the first time in our 15-year history, we had all young women sign up, and no boys. And so I just became fascinated with that. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, and when I was back home, people kept saying, “Well, five girls can’t live in the woods for a year.” … The next thing I know, I’m making a documentary film.
Q: Did you have any background as a filmmaker?
A: No, not per se, other than when I was a kid screwing around with super 8 films. I called Michelle Alvarado (Wahoo Films) … and she embedded for one week of every month with the girls and filmed. And then the girls filmed themselves. Even though their phones didn’t work, they could still use their cameras. So then we had about 160 hours of footage, and I went to my editor, Gary Lundgren … and then we spent the next year and a half going through the footage and pulling the film together.
Q: What surprised you about the girls’ time together?
A: The most profound thing was — they were ages 18 to 23 — and watching them going from not really self-sufficient to being very self-sufficient and self-assured. They had sort of come into their own power, and it wasn’t shaped by the media (or) outside influences. It was what they decided they wanted to be, which I think is just missing nowadays — having that time and space to really just be yourself.
Q: That’s a big thing to give up at that age, a whole year of life. Well, not give up, but …
A: Right, right. It’s funny, because I think probably most of us in hindsight wish we’d had a year off. … For crying out loud, who knows what they want to be when they’re 17, 18 years old. Having that year to really find themselves — certainly for Tori (Davis), who is our lead — really changed the whole trajectory of her life.