Lisa Andracke ’05 was going to be a doctor—until her career plans were suddenly interrupted by a video camera foisted upon her by Professor Phyllis Mannocchi. It was her senior year, the class was American Dreams: the Documentary Film Perspective and Andracke officially caught the bug.
“My group did a documentary on Tom Dostie [a 20-year-old Maine soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004], and it was such an incredible thing to work on,” she said. “It’s a huge issue, and there were all sorts of viewpoints flying around, from Democratic to Republican. We struggled to make it apolitical and just tell the story. And I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m not going to be the doctor I never had the science grades for, anyway.’ So when I left Colby, I started working as a grip at HBO Sports.”
To be fair, Andracke came by her newfound professional passion honestly. She grew up in New York, where her father was a cinematographer and her mother was a television producer. Andracke figured she’d rebel and be different—hence the medical-school plans—but the seed was already germinating.
“My father would come home from working in Africa or the Philippines, and he would tell me stories,” she said. “They were fascinating.”
Only two years after she graduated, Andracke moved up to the role of production assistant on an HBO documentary about the Brooklyn Dodgers. She worked with a team of eight—another production assistant, two associate producers, two editors, and two producer/directors—and she loved every minute of it.
“For eight people to spend every day together for a year, you get to know pretty much everything about them,” she said. “My coworkers are not only incredibly smart, but they’re also kind. Basically, we’re all a bunch of dorks who love what we do. And we all want to make sure that this film is the best, and most interesting, that it can possibly be.”
There are no “typical” days at her job, but some include pre-production work, researching and tracking down people who may be interviewed. Others are production days, which Andracke describes as, “basically trying to prepare for any possible thing that could go wrong during the shoot.” Parking permits, food, and water need to be arranged. And then there’s always the “wild card,” the neighbor’s kid who might start making noise and riding around on his tricycle just as the cameras begin rolling. Then there’s post-production, wherein stock footage is researched and all of the film is carefully catalogued for the producers.
Despite the baseball topic of the Robinson documentary, which aired in July, Andracke admits she’s no sports nut. “I didn’t know a thing about it before I started,” she said. “But ultimately, it’s not just baseball—it’s about Jackie Robinson breaking the race barrier. It’s not all about the ninth inning of the third game, although that’s pretty interesting in itself. It’s about our history as a country and as a people and what the Dodgers did for Brooklyn.”
Andracke always has her eye on the next step. From the Robinson project she moved to Florentine Films where she is working on a film by the renowned filmmaker Ken Burns. “I wouldn’t be ready to do it now, but one day I’d love to produce my own film, maybe something that dealt with a political issue,” she said. “And I definitely fantasize about having my own production company.”
But for now, life is good for this Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, resident.
“Someone thinks it’s okay to spend money on letting me have fun,” she said, genuinely amazed. “I love it so much, it doesn’t feel like work.”
—Mackenzie Dawson ’99
Editor’s note: See profile of Professor Phyllis Mannocchi and the American Dreams class, p 32.