One Day in Detroit

Profile Spotlight: Geoff George

New Michigan Media - A Fresh Voice from One of Us Films on Vimeo.

1. Who are you and what is your profession?
My name is Geoff George and I am a cinematographer and filmmaker based in Detroit, Michigan.

2. Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?
I was born in Detroit and raised in the metro area.  My family owned a small dairy in Eastern Market and I was always fascinated by Detroit.  Throughout high school I made an effort to explore and discover the city and became completely absorbed by the environment and people here.  After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in film, I saw great opportunities here and made the move to the city.

3. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Two things inspired me to be a filmmaker -- my father, who taught me photography at a very early age -- and the many films I watched as a kid.  When I saw The Shining as a teenager, I knew that filmmaking was the only thing I wanted to do.

4. Who or what do you most admire?
I admire the many great artists and people who have made a mark here in the city of Detroit over the years.  They provide the inspiration for me to continue a great tradition of visual artists from Detroit.

5. What do you love about Detroit?
Absolutely, the people of Detroit are what I love most about this city.  The soul of the city is in its people, young and old.  I never visit a city where people are as engaging and genuine as they are in Detroit.  It is what keeps me here despite the all the frustrations and problems this city seems to experience.  Our people remain strong through all the hardships, and it inspires me to do the same in my work.

6. What do you fear most for Detroit?
I truly fear that our revitalization will happen at the expense of those who have been here for the many years and decades before big businesses and "urban pioneers" ever took an interest in this city.  I look at examples of removing senior citizens from Capitol Park and Cass Park in favor of high rents and stadiums as a sign that our city is not immune from the issues surrounding gentrification.  It is really too bad, because Detroit has room for everyone, and we do not have to displace people to remake this city -- there are thousands of vacant lots and empty buildings here that are being ignored.  What kind of example will we set if we brazenly remove and marginalize lower-income peoples for the sake of a false renaissance?  Detroit's authenticity lies in the fact that we are not a town of overpriced lofts and bland skyscrapers.  Again, the people here are our greatest asset, and we should not be removing or displacing them after so many decades of doing exactly that for freeways and housing projects.

7. What do you hope for Detroit in the next 20 years?
Detroit is already a great city, but I hope that over the next 20 years, we are able to mend our broken education system and improve our safety.  These are two basic things that must be improved upon before our city is able to fully remake itself.  I also hope that we are wise about how we redevelop Detroit.  Our remaining architecture is world-class, and we should continue that tradition and not replace magnificent buildings with suburban-style cookie-cutter developments.  We should mend the planning mistakes of our past by implementing proper public transportation and moving away from an auto-centric culture.

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