The Life of Vesper Geer
By Michael Turner
For a long time I wanted to make a documentary about an ordinary person’s life. Vesper Geer was in many ways extraordinary: her work ethic, her heart and humor, her pioneer family homestead that she struggled to preserve in a dusty corner of Oregon history. Yet her enduring love for her house, her bittersweet marriages, the cultural and agricultural landscape of the 20th century that changed before a single pair of eyes are things that belong in the emerging genre of microhistory. To discover a passing world through home movies, family scrapbooks, archival recordings made on the back porch on a sunny autumn day — these are things that truly give us the flavor of how life used to be.
When I was commissioned by GeerCrest Farm & Historical Societyto create the movie, my goal was to make something first for Vesper’s family. But, since I was not a Geer, I also wanted to create something that would make a stranger think about the importance of preserving their own family history. Vesper had no children of her own, but still believed that passing on her story was an obligation: “written, narrated around a cozy fireplace on a winter evening, recorded or pictured with subtitles — just don’t take it all to your grave with you! What good is done by taking it with you?”
Without a story, a place is just a place. When you can’t hear it firsthand around a cozy fireplace, a documentary is a fantastic way to pass on your story: you can see the face of someone who has passed on, hear the way their voice sounded. I never knew Vesper, but she taught me more than I can say, and I feel blessed to have dipped in the stream of her life.
Join us at the following screenings in Fall 2012:
– Oct. 16, Salem Public Library (Loucks Auditorium), 7pm
– Oct. 18, Linn County Historical Museum, 7pm
– Nov. 8, Wilsonville Public Library, 6pm
– Nov. 14, Western Oregon University (Hamersly Library), 7pm
– Dec. 3, Mission Theater (McMenamins History Pub, Portland), 7pm
All screenings are free and feature a question and answer session after the presentation to discuss the movie and the process of creating it. Follow the movie at www.facebook.com/VesperGeer and learn more about the farm at www.geercrest.org.
Michael Turner is a filmmaker living outside Silverton, Oregon.