MSU professor premieres documentary
MSU professor of 35 years Bob Albers has dedicated his life to telling the stories of others.
Albers is a professor first, but a documentarian second. His most recent documentary, "Chasing the Moment," premiered at the Capital City Film Festival on April 8. Albers was among the dozens of audience members who watched the film as it was projected onto the big screen.
Audience members who joined Albers included faculty, students and community members. The documentary not only represented the stories of others, but it also represented the story of Albers.
Albers spent more than four years working on the film. He has been "chasing the moment" all his life.
“It is about the phenomenon of being in the moment,” Albers said. “I think being in the moment is something just about everyone experiences, but not at the level that these people do. ... It is about being in that place where everything comes sort of effortlessly and without thought.”
The film featured experiences of people including athletes, musicians, chefs and soldiers. The film gives audience members a look into the minds of many award-winning people.
Before becoming a professor at MSU, Albers wore many hats, some of which included being a classic guitar player, a science teacher and an athlete. Albers said he didn’t get involved with filmmaking until after college.
“The desire to do it was there and the love of it was there, I just had no tools to express it,” Albers said. “There wasn’t anything in my family, I am not criticizing my family, but I have a brother who was a fire chief, I have another brother who was a lawyer, another brother who was an engineer ... there wasn’t anything towards arts in my household. There was a violin hidden in a closet that belonged to my uncle.”
Albers started making "Chasing the Moment" between 2011 and 2012. He said he was interested in the process of being in the moment because he experienced it during his athletic career.
“Throughout my career I have been able to get people in my films who are really top notch,” Albers said. "That is one of the thrills of making this is getting to rub shoulders with those kinds of people.”
While working on the documentary, Albers was diagnosed with a tumor, which took Albers away from his work for about eight months. Albers said the tumor prevented him from finishing the film a year or two earlier, but he said he is proud of the experiences the film provided him.
“The place where I get the most enjoyment is when it really comes together,” Albers said. “I have eight terabytes of material, hundreds of hours of footage. ... Seeing things coalesce into understandable, moving stories is what I really like."
Albers will retire at the end of this semester. Albers said he and his wife have sold their house and plan to move back to his hometown of Louisville. He had one final piece of advice to students.
“Don’t worry right away about getting a job,” Albers said. “Find something that turns you on and you can be excited about. ... Not to make money be the goal — it should be make money while pursuing something you really love.”
Creative advertising senior Travis Root met Albers during his freshman year. Root helped connect Albers with Jake Elliott. Elliott is a world champion yo-yo competitor who was featured in the documentary. Root was one of the editors on a 20-student team.
“It was very cool to work collaboratively with some other editors I was on the team with,” Root said. “It was occasionally very frustrating to deal with the whole thing ... but I wouldn’t trade the editing experience for anything in the world.”
Media and information senior Elise Conklin met Albers in 2013. Since she formed a connection with Albers he has been her executive producer, director, professor and mentor. Conklin said Albers helped introduce her to the world of documentary filmmaking.
Conklin’s documentary "From Flint: Voices Of A Poisoned City" was made with the help of Albers. She won a student Academy Award and was one of the youngest females to ever win.
“Bob has been a very influential person in my life,” Conklin said. “He was my first professor and now he is one of my last professors at MSU. ... Bob is very much about trying new things and fostering creativity, but as a director he knows exactly what he wants and he knows the interviews so well. ... I don’t think Michigan State will be the same without him.”