By Melinda Munson

I’m walking down the street when I forget how to breathe. Normally, I’m pretty good at inhaling and exhaling while I ambulate, but not when the professional camera crew follows.

The documentary crew, a collaboration between two Colorado companies, Go North Productions and Flying Giant Productions, asked to film me strolling down the street — for 20 minutes.

“Um, can’t I hike instead?”

“No,” producer and Skagway School graduate Stan Bush answers. “You always walk to work. That’s your scene.”

True, but the mayor got to be interviewed on a short excursion to Yakutania Point, so I’m jealous.

I acquiesce and try to do my best. But as I walk, I realize I’m a mouth breather. That’s going to look bad on screen so I clamp my chompers shut and breathe through my nose. Except now my nostrils are flaring dramatically and I remember I breathe through my mouth because I have bad allergies and stuffy sinuses.

Walking isn’t my only difficulty. I’m also not supposed to look at the camera. My head darts back and forth as I track the black contraption. I’ve never been good at following directions.

I’m getting paid $0 to be part of a documentary about the survival of The Skagway News and the fate of this quirky tourist town as it grapples with a worldwide pandemic. I agreed to the project because former Skagway News intern Bush has passion. Without a buyer, he committed to self-financing the start of the film which he hopes will travel all the way to Sundance.

We let Bush into our tiny home to show what it’s like to get six kids with various special needs ready for the day. He followed my husband as he pushed the wheelchair to school, accompanied by lunch bags, backpacks and five energetic children. Then Bush camped at the office while Gretchen and I prepared the latest issue.

This has been an uncomfortable experience. I am — I hope, an eloquent writer. I can weave words, choosing what to include and what to ignore. I edit over and over again. With film, everything spoken is recorded forever. Bush will make all the edits.

I had stomachaches for days leading up to the crew’s arrival. I blamed it on the numerous wild mushrooms we’ve been foraging and consuming. The pains continued until the team’s departure. I’m happy to report, I am not allergic to native mushrooms, I’m allergic to Stan Bush, despite his professionalism and empathy.

I managed to make progress. By the time the team left, I’d almost gotten used to camerawoman Melanie documenting every mundane move and sound engineer Ryan threading microphones down the front of my shirt. One night with dirty dishes strewn across the kitchen counters and the three year old screaming, I turned to my husband with fake reluctance. 

“Sorry, gotta go. My camera crew is waiting.”

I hope a documentary about the paper will remind our nation that newspapers are imperative. I hope it will lead to more ads and subscriptions and more travelers to my beloved town. And most of all, I hope I won’t look like an idiot.