'101 ways to retire, or not!' The movie.
This is Sue's transcribed interview she'd done with herself in a recording! We love it! We hope you will as well. Thanks Sue!
Words by Sue Perlgut, New York Sept 2017.
Hi, I’m Sue Perlgut and I’m an independent documentary filmmaker located in Upstate NY. I came to filmmaking late. I started making films in 2006 after I had retired. My last job before retirement was the director of Development and Community Relations at an affordable housing agency in Upstate NY. I’ve co-owned two retail businesses, Djuna Books, a Feminist Bookstore in NYC and a clothing store in large sizes in my town in Upstate NY. I’ve had a variety of careers in social work, fund raising, and sales. Through all of that I’ve been involved in theatre — making theatre, acting, directing and teaching. I helped to start a feminist theatre troupe,'It’s All Right To Be Woman Theatre' in NYC in the early 1970s (you can find out more about them here). Currently I direct a Senior Citizen Theatre Troupe in my town where we perform stories from our lives (more here). My life long love for films has led me to my current work — Close to Home Productions.
When I retired, years ago, of course I was thinking about retirement and decided that I
would write a play called 101 Ways to Retire—or Not! My plan was to interview a
cross section of retired people in my town and write a play based on their interviews.
As I interviewed them, I decided to video tape them so that I could have actual
footage of the person being shown behind the actors. I hired a young filmmaker,
Christopher Julian, to do the taping. During the first interview, I turned to Chris and said
this isn’t a play, it’s a documentary. I had received a small grant for the play so I
contacted the grantors and they said it was fine to make it a documentary. And that is
how the documentary 101 Ways to Retire—or Not! We interviewed a
diverse segment of our community. What we say on our web site is that the film is
“Lighthearted, humorous and packed with wisdom, it features real women and men in their
fifties through their eighties, who redefine what it means to be “retired” and to be “senior
citizens,” as they live active and vital lives. This documentary will change your ideas about
retirement in the 21st Century.” We won an award and were featured in a Regional film
festival. Pretty good for my first time out. I was the co-director and producer. Although the film
was produced in 2007, so much of what is said by the people in the movie is still relevant now.
My motivation for making the film was to explore retirement issues. Once I was making the
film I became, 'the or-not'. I fell in love with filmmaking and have since made two more
documentaries and many short videos.
"When I tell people my age, many people say, 'oh you don’t look like 73!' Well, this is what 73 looks like! On the other hand, my film partner, Nils Hoover is 30. We can sit and edit a project together. It’s a fantastic intergenerational collaboration."
When I first read your question question, 'Has this project changed how you view age?' I thought it wasn’t the project that changed the way I
viewed my age, but actually I do think it was working on the project. Becoming a filmmaker
that has changed the way I view my age, retirement and my creativity.
Starting in November of last year, I became very involved in many video and theatre projects. I was and am very distressed about the turn that our country has taken and knew that I had to get involved to make a difference. By the end of this spring, I was exhausted. I had helped to organize the Women’s March in our town, finished a major video project about women, participated in and taped several plays and on and on. I had to stop! I began to see that I’m not as young as I use to be. I know I have more films and theatre projects in me, but I’m taking a break now and it feels good! For me taking a break means I’m only....... on two boards of directors; directing the Senior Theatre troupe; doing yoga; participating in a writing group; dinner out with my husband and friends; playing with our granddaughter; going to the movies and theatre and finishing some smaller video projects! Our travels since the spring has been short car trips to see family and friends. As of this moment, September 2017 I’m not looking for another film project, I’m just enjoying my break. I guess I could say I’m in retirement for now. I’m re-evaluating what I want from my life for now and forward.
When I see people around town, I’m asked, 'what I’m working on now?' These days, I say I’m taking a break. I believe I’m seen as a model of an older person, one of many in my town. When young people see me still creating and doing good work it gives them hope for themselves as they age. When I tell people my age, many people say, 'oh you don’t look like 73!' Well, this is what 73 looks like! On the other hand, my film partner, Nils Hoover, for the last two documentaries is a 30-year-old man. We can sit and edit a project together. It’s a fantastic intergenerational collaboration. We have both learned so much from each other. Just recently he encouraged me to be my own cameraperson and help me to buy a camera and set me off on a path of doing some of my own projects. That’s been great. Working with him is wonderful. Really, I could be his grandmother!
The biggest stress of my life is doing too much and that is because of the direction I see this country going. I cannot and will not stand by while I see my country being dismantled. I’m surprised that I still have to fight for the freedoms that I worked so hard for in the 60’s and 70’s. I have to still fight for Women’s rights, fight against racism and anti-Semitism, fight for the rights of immigrants. I do, however, come at my social activism from a different place from when I was younger. Although I did help organise the women’s march in January in our town, I don’t find myself going to marches and rallies. I’m donating money to social justice organisations and using my filmmaking and theatre for good.
"When I first read your question question 'Has this project changed how you view age?' I thought it wasn’t the project that changed the way I viewed my age. But on thinking on it again I do. Becoming a filmmaker has changed the way I view my age, retirement and my creativity."
For me the one of the biggest challenges we share across all ages is being true to
ourselves, and working for our shared values and ideals. And we do it in different
I learn from people older than me by watching them navigate their lives — when they
take breaks, when they continue their creative work, when they say it’s enough. Years
ago I had a 95-year-old friend in a nursing home. When I was visiting her I told her
about a book I thought she would like to read. Her reply to me was, 'bring it soon
since, I've had enough'. She died two weeks later. I've learned that there is time when
people say there is enough. Personally I can’t imagine that, but I do believe it.
My young filmmaker partner friend Nils has taught me so much about navigating life
as a 30 year old in this society, as a free and creative person. Watching my younger
friends in their creative work, how they raise their children, how they see the world is
wonderful. I love being around younger people, they give me a lot of hope and I enjoy
myself with them.
It would be very freeing if we lived in a society where age does not define us!
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