SIOUX CITY — During a snowstorm a few winters ago, Sue Headley couldn’t find her then-90-year-old dad Don at his home.
Headley’s dad wasn’t in his kitchen or his bedroom. Instead, he was blithely shaving wood for a violin he was making inside his basement workshop.
“I feared for my dad’s safety,” Headley remembered. “It turned out he was perfectly fine.”
Don Headley’s no-nonsense, independent lifestyle inspired his daughter to make “Hidden Treasures Among Us,” a 30-minute documentary that tells the stories of seven Siouxland residents, age 90 to 105, while examining their secrets to their longevity.
“All of the people (I interviewed) survived both the Great Depression and World War II,” Headley explained. “They all had terrific work ethics as well as a positive outlook on life.”
Headley, a first-time filmmaker, received the Local Film Showcase Audience Choice Award at the 14th annual Sioux City International Film Festival on Sept. 16 at the Orpheum Theatre.
“I’d been attending the film festival for the past few years and really enjoyed the short films,” she said. “There was always a thought in the back of my mind that I could make my own film.”
A full-time employee for a trucking industry insurance provider, Headley knew a documentary on active seniors was a sure-fire idea. Still, she knew nothing about creating a film.Â
“I literally shot film on my Canon PowerShot digital camera and edited the footage using Microsoft Movie Maker software,” she explained. “I was going for ease over anything else.”
It certainly helped that Headley had such a colorful collection of interview subjects.
In addition to interviewing her now-95-year-old dad, Headley talked with retired farmer and insurance agent Leland Sargisson and longtime Chicago Cubs fanatic Gabrielle “Gabe” Perry, who died in November 2017 at age 106, among others.
“I interviewed Gabe when she was 105 years old,” Headley said. “Gabe said the secret to life is to just live it. That and her religion is what kept her going all that time.”
Other interview subjects said staying active with hobbies and being involved with friends and family members while living life to its fullest kept them young.
“Since most of the subjects grew up poor, they learned to make due with less,” she said.
This was certainly true for her own dad, who took an old ladder and repurposed the wood to fashion a cribbage board for Headley and her siblings.
“My dad was into recycling before recycling was cool,” she said, laughing.Â
In addition, the people featured in “Hidden Treasures Among Us” weren’t afraid to face a challenge. This is a trait that Headley shared with her aged subjects.
“I wanted to make a movie without realizing how much work it involved,” she said. “Am I happy with the way it turned out? I think it can be tightened up a bit but, yeah, I’m happy with it.”
Plus Headley will now able to say that her first foray into film earned her an award.
“I don’t care about the honors,” she said, shaking her head. “I simply wanted to tell stories about people who’ve led interesting lives.”
“There are plenty of people who are hidden treasures out there,” Headley said. “I love listening to their stories.”