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Mayor’s Presidential Bid Inspires IU South Bend Professor to Produce Film

Feb 4, 2022

A distinctive time in South Bend, when the national media spotlight was on the city during former Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, inspired Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Zachary Schrank to create the film documentary Big Enough, Small Enough South Bend in Transition.

Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Zachary SchrankAssociate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Zachary Schrank

As the national media was profiling Mayor Pete’s role in South Bend, explained Schrank, I felt like it was an appropriate time as locals to create and document an oral history of South Bend, merging local and national issues.

Through a mutual friend, Schrank, met filmmaker Ryan Blaske, who moved back to his hometown of South Bend as an adult. Together the two set out to make the film. Schrank, who was on sabbatical at the time, identified people to interview and Blaske, filmed their conversations.

For more than 50 years after Studebaker closed South Bend has struggled to determine its identity, but it was beginning to change rapidly, said Blaske. We wanted to answer the question: What type of place is South Bend to South Benders in 2020?

From July to December 2019, Schrank and Blaske held conversations with people around South Bend to capture how residents were experiencing its changes, embracing its new life, and confronting its enduring problemsthinking about it all as the mayor ran for president.

The storyline developed organically, said Schrank. It became something we did not anticipate in the beginning. The conversations they had with local engaged citizens led to deeper topics and new voices. We let the people tell the story, said Blaske.

The film covers several themes related to industrial decline and rebound, race relations, small business innovation, the LGBTQ community, and a newly flourishing arts and cultural scene.

Above all, Schrank and Blaske wanted to represent diverse voices in the city from different neighborhoods, professions, backgrounds and political perspectives.

After completing the interviews, Schrank reviewed and transcribed the film footage, looking for a pattern across all the interviews. What became obvious is that every person we interviewed had a real thought-out perspective of the city and the changes that were occurringsome good and some not so good, said Shrank.

Over eight months, Schrank and Blaske, who had a full-time job, worked nights and weekends to create the film. We felt the story was important to tell, said Schrank. We created it on shoestring. It was a great opportunity because neither of us had a monetary need at the time.

Although the pandemic shut down the film’s screenings in March, 2020, Big Enough, Small Enough South Bend in Transition lives on the internet. In addition, the St. Joseph Public Library, hosted two screenings in January. There are also plans for the film to be screened at IU South Bend at a later date.

Shrank and Blaske feel lucky to have met each other when they did. Shrank was looking for an opportunity to do something really new while on sabbatical and Blaske was a talented filmmaker, who saw the project as a real opportunity. It was a passion project for both of us, said Shrank.

The list of those South Bend residents interviewed:

  • Lloyd Ketchum Retired Notre Dame Professor
  • Dennis Burns Diesel Mechanic
  • Kathy Burnette Brain Lair Book Store Owner
  • Jim Ward Chemist; Souunds South Bend Founder
  • Angelo Williams - Cook
  • Sara Stewart Director of Unity Gardens
  • Shaun Maeyens Zen Cafe Coffee Roaster Owner
  • Sam CentellasDirector of La Casa de Amistad
  • Kat Redding Black Lives Matter South Bend
  • Shahir Rizk Biochemistry Professor, Indiana University South Bend; Ultreia Arts Organizer
  • Alex Ann Allen - Artist
  • Willow Wetherall Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Barbara Sutton Accountant
  • Martin Mechtenberg Architect
  • Brendyn Cane - Musician
  • Juan Constantino Development Coordinator La Casa de Amistad
  • Patrick Quigly Engineer; Venue & Event Organizer
  • H.R. Jung Director LGBTQ Center
  • Willie Coates Jr. Retired Pastor
  • Jennifer Lister - Educational Paraprofessional
  • Abi Gillan Ragamuffin Bakery Owner
  • Jacob Titus Designer

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