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Q&A with David Macasaet: LSS' Resident Filmmaker

March 10, 2014 by Hayley Braun

Q&A with David Macasaet: LSS' Resident Filmmaker

Last month, we were thrilled to announce that David Macasaet, Senior Instructional Technology Consultant and Media Services Coordinator here at LSS, co-directed a short documentary that was selected for the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival. “The Round Barns of Vernon County” explores the fascinating history of the unusual round structures that are unique to the rural areas in Vernon County, Wisconsin. One of the round barns is just down the street from the home where Macaset grew up in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Even though his schedule is jam-packed with LSS, his two young daughters, and preparing for the film’s Film Festival premiere on April 5th, David took a few minutes to answer some questions about the film.

When did you realize you wanted to make a film about the round barn you grew up near?
The round barn film grew out of another film that I made in Missoula, Mont. that explored an old homestead in the foothills near the edge of town. It turned into a film about sacred places--and the memory of the barn was like that for me.  It took moving back to Wisconsin from Montana in July 2007 to get me close enough to the barns to begin working on the film.

How old were you and what was your reaction when you found out their story?
The barn is one of my very first memories as a kid. So I remember hearing about the history of the barns when I was back at home visiting my family over the holidays when I was in my early 20s. When I learned about the African American history that was just a few miles away I thought, “Why am I only hearing this now?”

For how long did you work on TRBOVC? Did you have any expectations for it?
Shahin and I started in 2010 and spent a lot of time looking for the barns, driving around the Wisconsin countryside in the summer. We were going off a list from the 1990s. There were 16 then, and there are only 12 today. We wanted to make a film that told the story of the barns by asking people about their lore and history. And it was only natural to make a film that showed the beauty of area. What’s missing from the film today is any of the biographical stuff from my own life.

How did you partner with Shahin Izadi?
Shahin and I worked together at LSS while he was completing his PhD in Philosophy. At the time he was thinking about film as a possible profession. We talked about the round barn film, and he saw the potential and was a major catalyst for the whole process.

This is the first time your work will be featured in the Wisconsin Film Festival. Is that exciting for you, being a Wisconsin native?
It’s very exciting to be part of the Wisconsin Film Festival. It’s known for its audiences that are hungry for something a little outside the mainstream, so I always felt it would be ideal. When we started I thought we could show it in Viroqua and I would be so excited if, like, two people came to see it, so I’m more than satisfied!

What filmmakers inspire you?
I’ve always really loved television and film, and my Communication Arts classes here at UW were really big for me because they helped me see inside the machine. I remember thinking, “Wow, I really get this.” David Bordwell’s book “Film Art” was influential.  It turns out many of the decisions in filmmaking require an awareness of conventions—and deciding which ones will be artful and which ones will be seen as just conventional. Errol Morris is probably the filmmaker who most influenced this film.

Did LSS or UW inspire the film?
Definitely! Directing my own work keeps my consulting sharp. And it’s a great way to channel the problems that happen along the way because I keep in mind that I might be able to help someone else down the road. I find myself being very much inspired by trends in education too. The whole idea of technology being democratized is something I get to see play out in my work. Today there are so many new voices out there, sharing unique stories, that I’m often inspired to be a part of the same movement.

What are you working on next?
My brother and I want to make a film about Wisconsin’s small town doctors. My dad has been a surgeon in Viroqua for forty years and the story of his career and the impact on the community is something we don’t want to lose.

David’s documentary will be featured in the “Short Films from Wisconsin’s Own” showing on Saturday, April 5 at 6:15 pm at the Elvehjem Theater (800 University Ave, Room L160). Tickets are on sale at To learn more about the film, check out To learn more about David Macasaet, go to

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