DC Shorts Film Festival buzzes with alumni work

Allee Sangiolo often sees films at the E Street Cinema, but Tuesday she will get to watch a work of her own.

Sangiolo, 24, co-wrote a short documentary titled “The Capital Buzz,” one of 140 films featured in the ninth annual DC Shorts Film Festival. The alumna originally helped create the film as a project for her six-month graduate program at the GW Institute for Documentary Filmmaking.

“It’s kind of cool to come out of graduate school with a film,” Sangiolo said. “I mean, that’s not really an experience a lot of people get, and I have something to show for it.”

The documentary centers around the concept of urban beekeeping and the growing trend of hobbyist beekeepers who operate from their metropolitan homes.

Media Credit: Becky Crowder | Senior Staff Photographer
A screenshot from “The Capital Buzz.” The film, made by students during six-month program, follows hobbyist beekeepers in the District.

Sangiolo and her seven team members have entered “The Capital Buzz” in four film festivals since their graduation in June 2011, an effort pushed forward with $250 from the Documentary Center program.

DC Shorts is showing the film at three separate screenings, the first of which happened this past Saturday at the U.S. Navy Memorial.

“Ultimately, we just wanted people to see it. You spend all this time working on something, and to just show it once would be kind of a shame,” Sangiolo said.

Diana El-Osta, the producer of “The Capital Buzz,” first conceptualized the film after reading an article about urban beekeeping in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“When we were generating ideas for the program, sort of a light bulb went off, and I wondered if that was a trend that was taking place in Washington, D.C.,” El-Osta said.

The film’s main character, Jeff Miller, maintains various beehives from the roof of his Georgetown townhouse. He accesses his hives through a passage in his bathroom ceiling, which he reaches by climbing a ladder placed in his bathtub.

Miller founded the non-profit DC Honeybees, an organization dedicated to educating people about the process and benefits of beekeeping. DC Honeybees has installed 65 hives across the District, according to “The Capital Buzz” website.

El-Osta said the team grew to appreciate Miller for his quirky personality.

One scene shows Miller, assuring a passerby that his bees are friendly as they swarm a nearby tree.

Even though one team member was stung five times in a row during one of the first shoots, Miller’s casual nature around the bees was comforting, El-Osta said.

Miller wore little to no protection as he handled the hives, and El-Osta said many members of the team began to do the same.

“We would be at shoots, and sometimes we wouldn’t even wear the protective veil, because we became so comfortable around bees,” El-Osta said.

Nina Seavey, the director and founder of the Documentary Center at GW, said Miller himself contributed to the film’s success.

“The film in particular has had a really long life,” Seavey said. “Some of it is because the main character is just charming. When you get a character like that, you just know you’re golden.”

Seavey said “The Capital Buzz” offered a great window into an important issue, and added that the film’s character-driven nature makes it truly entertaining.

A large part of that, she said, is because the film’s team was able to work so well together.

“Every once in a while, you just kind of hit a high note, and this team definitely hit that note,” Seavey said.

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