By Maddy Harvey
It’s a Saturday night in March at a roller derby match at Redwood Acres in Eureka, in all the commotion of the excited fans and intense athletes, a small figure runs around the action carrying a camera that’s bigger than them, completely focused on the game and getting the best footage.
“Roller derby pushes my physical limits and mental thinking in a completely different way than I’ve ever come across before,” HSU film lecturer Michelle Cartier said.
Cartier is one of the coaches for Humboldt Roller Derby. She first got involved with the sport not by playing but by being part of a video crew just to get footage to help the team with training. When the rest of the crew stopped doing it, she just kept on doing this on her own because it challenged her. Eventually she finally joined the sport and completely fell in love with it.
“It’s just a completely democratic body of women, all volunteer, and by the skater for the skater,” Cartier said.
Her involvement in roller derby has allowed for her to gain international as well as commercial opportunities, such as working for ESPN, where she has been traveling to tournaments and creating promo videos for the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which is just another thing to add to her resume.
When she’s not whizzing around the derby track, Cartier teaches film at Humboldt State University.
Cartier first began her journey into the world of film at a pretty young age. She had always been fascinated by films and would play around with cameras in high school.
“When I graduated high school my dad bought me one of those old school video cameras,” Cartier said. “It, like, blew my mind to be able to make things and create things,”
It took a while for Cartier to realize that film could be a possible career choice though.
When she first came to Humboldt State she was a zoology major, only thinking a career in science would be a viable option for her, even though one of the reasons she picked this school was because of the fact that it had its very own film festival.
That was until she took a screenwriting class her first year here, and realized it was something she could do.
Cartier became completely in love with film and loved the DIY and experimental aspects of it that were encouraged to her by her mentor and first cinematography professor, Margaret Kelso.
While Cartier was getting her graduate degrees overseas, she became heavily involved with the study of film and explored critical writing of it as well, this would lead to her later involvement in the world of teaching when she would later return to Humboldt.
After she had received her doctorate in fine arts, Cartier came back to Humboldt and applied to teach at College of the Redwoods, after realizing this would be a way for her to just talk, write about, and screen films all the time. She also loved the fact that at CR film was put into the humanities department, so she was able to explore film in a larger scope of human interaction as well. It was a way for all of her interests to be tied together into one.
After some urging from her mentor, she moved on to teaching at Humboldt State, and while she’s only been teaching her for two years she’s made quite the impact already, having students who change their majors after taking a class of hers or just causing them to realize that there’s more to explore in film than just the technical aspects.
“I enjoy their honesty with opinions and having the students be the real thinker,” transfer student and film major Marvin Cardenas said of Cartier.
If you go to one of her classes you see this right off the bat. Cartier always brings her in depth analysis of that day’s topics to the start of the class and always makes time for students to share their own thoughts and ask any questions they may have, and makes it an environment where group discussion is completely encouraged and always is open to each individual’s ideas.
Third year film major Cameron Rodriguez has taken a few classes with Cartier and doesn’t feel like there’s any class he hasn’t enjoyed.
“She’s just really genuine in her passion for the topics and takes her time with the class, you can tell she’s really there for us,” Rodriguez said.
Cartier views teaching as a new way for her to be able to have a new way of critically analyzing and exploring film and hearing different aspects from others that can broaden her view of not only the art, but the world and her community as well.
Her love of learning has been a constant throughout her existence and with teaching she has been able to continue that in depth and expansive learning process for herself, as well as the given ability to pass on those passions to her students.
However, Cartier isn’t quite sure if she will be teaching here for much longer.
“I’m about to approach more of like a writing phase again,” Cartier said. “I’ll be really focused on writing and presenting these ideas.”
During this upcoming new chapter in her life, Cartier will probably begin travelling and getting back in touch with her mentors again, and maybe getting around to making a feature film of her own at age 50.
Though she may not be completely aware of it, Michelle has become a total mentor for nearly all of her students.
“I think Michelle is an absolutely extraordinary person,” Cardenas said. “At the end of the day they just really give you a lot of fuckin’ heart.”