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Fast Talk garners an Award of Merit from The Accolade Competition.


Fast Talk garners an Award of Merit from the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood. Premiere TBA at another venue


When Debra Tolchinsky and co-producer Dave Tolchinsky received an Innovations Grant for a documentary on the National Debate Tournament, the plan was that the film, Debatable, would follow the Northwestern debate team over the course of a season. It would be something like the spelling-bee film Spellbound, featuring college students grappling with the issues of the day instead of preteens struggling with vocabulary.

Except, said Deb Tolchinsky, who’s directing the film, debate doesn’t fit so cleanly into that packaging. “If you watch a contemporary college debate match, your jaw will drop,” she said. “They speed talk like auctioneers. The average person can’t understand what’s being said.”

Deb has been experimenting with how to make debate “relate-able” for non-debaters. “There seems to be a parallel between the increasing speed of college debate and the accelerated way humans live now. The push to do more, say more, to rush as many words out as you can in order to be successful and to win. The question is at what cost.”

Deb and her production crew including co-producer Ronald Ward have recorded more than 200 hours of footage and are putting the final touches on for a debut later this year. As the debaters traveled to compete, student filmmakers took turns behind the camera. Later, in the editing room, the students helped Deb craft early test scenes. Student contributors — now alumni — were Omar Butti (C06), Jackie Doherty (C07), John Pappas (C07), Martin Rodahl (C08), and Rachel Wolther (C07).

Deb thinks the Innovations Grant was an important kick-start to the project, and offered a valuable opportunity to students. “Students want the chance to work one-on-one with their professors in a professional setting,” she said. “Hopefully it was fun and educational for the students. From our end, it was a pleasure.”

From Dialogue, p. 6. 

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