Saratogian Derek Hallquist has been getting a lot of calls and emails over the past few days. That’s because one of his parents, Christine Hallquist, this week became the first-ever transgender candidate to land a major party’s nomination for governor in Vermont. The official results came in on Tuesday, August 14, and if you’re wondering, she’s running as a Democrat. (Watch one of her first major interviews here.) The victory came as a wonderful surprise to everyone in the Hallquist family—especially, Derek, who’s had a particularly strong bond with his parent over the past several years.
Derek’s the Co-founder, Principal Director and Cinematographer for Green River Pictures, an Emmy Award-winning video production company based in Saratoga Springs. Derek’s also an award-winning filmmaker, whose recent full-length documentary, Denial (2016), is one that is as personal as it is brilliant. The film begins as an investigation of electricity usage in the US through Derek’s father and the documentary’s protagonist, David Hallquist (now Christine), the CEO of a Vermont utility company. When David then comes out as transgender four years into the filming process, what starts off as a discussion about some peoples’ refusal to accept climate change quickly turns into a much larger debate on the nature of denial, gender and acceptance.
The resultant film is an honest look at how difficult change can be as well as a bravely intimate portrait of a transgender person who has since become a national political figure. “Change is difficult, and that’s really the theme of my movie,” Derek says. “No matter what it is—moving to a different house or changing schools for your kids, big, small, day-to-day. Humans don’t do well with change.” It took Derek almost eight years to finish Denial, working finally with an editor at Charlotte Street Films down in Manhattan. The bulk of the project’s editing and producing happened right here in Saratoga. “I spent about eight months editing down there in the basement of the Arcade building on Broadway,” says Hallquist (the rough cut was first shown to a focus group of students and faculty at Skidmore College). Since its release a little more than two years ago, Denial has been an official selection at a host of prestigious film festivals, ranging from the Los Angeles Film Festival to the Effy Environmental Film Festival at Yale, among many others.
Originally from Burlington, VT, Derek filmed his first short documentary about a youth group in Oaxaca, Mexico, when he was just 16 years old. His work in high school earned him a Vermont state-funded scholarship, which enabled him to attend Emerson College. In 2009, Derek and his business partner, Austin Pritchard, founded Green River Pictures in Burlington, and three years later, they relocated it to Saratoga to have better access to New York City. Since then, Green River’s been serving clients locally, nationally and internationally. (Derek’s wife, Mary, is a Saratoga native and went to high school with saratoga living‘s Executive Editor Will Levith.) “That’s one of the beautiful things about Saratoga—New York City is not that difficult to get to,” says Derek about his company’s move. “There’ve been a couple of projects where I would go down early and come back at night. It’s a long day, but it’s not crazy.” The company produces content for a range of media, winning an Emmy in 2013 for Best Public Service Announcement for its work on an advertisement about Internet crimes in Vermont.
Now, with Christine in the national spotlight, it’s unlikely that Derek’s inbox will be getting any less cluttered anytime soon. But he doesn’t seem to mind the attention. “Life has got its twists and turns,” he says. “And today couldn’t be better. It’s a wonderful turn.”