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Tyler Aug captures his own creative niche in Rochester with film

Career took root when he took up his grandfather's video camera.

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Rochester native and filmmaker Tyler J. Aug stands near a spot he set up to film Jan. 6, 2022, at Art Heads Emporium.

ROCHESTER — Rochester native Tyler Aug was surprised to be honored by Rochester Mayor Kim Norton in December 2019 with the Mayor’s Award for artistic and cultural achievement. Aug thought he was there to help film the event and was instead surprised with the honor himself.

Aug began shooting and using video when he was about 11 years old. His grandfather died leaving behind, among other things, a VHS video camera.

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He turned his enthusiasm for using that into a successful career after studying film in Chicago and the University of Minnesota where he earned a degree in film studies and media production.

Since his recognition, Aug has been busy with commissioned videography work while also working on a documentary about the former grocery store chain Red Owl. Aug teased the multi-year project in recent screenings of his documentary The Crows.

Tell me about inheriting your grandfather’s video camera.

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My grandfather died (when I was in) sixth grade. No one wanted the video camera. I started shooting school projects with it. I loved it. I didn’t have anything to edit with, so I had to do in-camera editing – you know, shoot what I want it to be in the order it will be. Any time there was a school project, I said, I’m doing a video. Then I realized I want to do this for the rest of my life. That’s what I’m doing.

How have things been for you doing it for a living?

I want to sound boastful, but this past year has been nonstop. I think it became a consequence of when I’m doing my own thing in a way, it changes the way people look at you in terms of what you have to offer. Your average business spends thousands and thousands of dollars on advertising every year. To not have to do that or think about that, it’s like a dream come true.

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Rochester native and filmmaker Tyler J. Aug poses near a spot he set up to film and interview at Art Heads Emporium for one of his projects Jan. 6, 2022.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

The award raised your profile?

In a sense, but that came from me doing my own thing too. When I came back to Rochester, I’d read a whole thing on how college towns at the time really sell themselves via their YouTube page because that’s where the youth would look and see what’s going on in that town, what are they doing?

Rochester’s was just basically Mayo tour videos and people shopping at the Galleria. I started at the Creative Salon, and I was like there was a lot more going on in this town. Not to bash Mayo or the culture of Mayo and how they activate the downtown, but there’s still a lot of things on the outskirts.

So it was a way of connecting those people and telling those stories that I felt was important. And it was a great way for me to meet those people. It became just years of doing that and having fun doing that and trying to do weird episodes and one thing led to another. The crows documentary came out of that.

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Mayor Kim Norton presents Tyler Aug with the Artistic/Cultural Achievement Award during the Mayor's Medal of Honor ceremony Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

How is the Red Owl project coming?

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I’m excited about this project.

I’ve spent the last three or four years slowly collecting these basically legacy stories – third generation people – their whole families have been invested 80 years in these small-town grocery stores that have basically evaporated into thin air.

The subject can be dry and that’s kind of my challenge – to have fun with it and bring it life again. But my theory is people still have a very pavlovian response to that logo because they associate it with getting candy and pop. Shopping with grandma and getting a treat. Man, I wear a shirt out and, guaranteed, I’ll have somebody come up to me.

With such an overarching project, how is it suited to film instead of another medium such as a book?

Film has its own pace and its own life and it's a matter of bringing things to life, but you’re also at the disposal of time.

I know attention spans have changed. So when you’re looking at a slower life in a way, how can I speed it up and hypertize it?

A book functions in a different way.

Now, at the same time, I’m transcribing all these interviews and re-writing them for what will become less a long-format look at that.

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You lose certain stories that you just can’t capture with just a talking head. You can only supplement that with so much B-roll as they say. It’s fun finding what limited assets there are available for visual things. It plays into that challenge of how do I tell a story that’s just as appealing to an older generation and can possibly pique the interest of a younger crowd.

Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there someone you'd like to see features? Send suggestions to news@postbulletin.com.

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