November 6, 2011, 3:00 P.M.

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


The SCA Alumni Screening Series and Cross X Productions invite you and a guest to a special screening of

Fast Talk

Directed by SCA Alumna Debra Tolchinsky
Produced by Ron Ward, David E. Tolchinsky and Debra Tolchinsky
Followed by a Q&A with Debra Tolchinsky

3:00 P.M. on Sunday, November 6th, 2011

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre

George Lucas Building, SCA 112
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Best Documentary at the LA Femme Film Festival

2011 Award of Excellence: short documentary, The Indie Fest
2011 Award of Merit: editing, The Indie Fest
2011 Award of Merit, The Accolade Competition
2011 Award of Merit, Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood

About Fast Talk

College debaters now speak at unintelligible speeds. Some claim the benefits are clear: more arguments per minute that an opposing team needs to rebut. But is there a dark side to fast talk? To answer this question, filmmaker Debra Tolchinsky spends a year following the Northwestern University debate team, as the students try to fast talk their way to another championship. The result? A documentary that will make you question the speed of your own life and keep you talking.

Provided courtesy of Cross X Productions. Not Rated. Running time: 56 minutes.

To learn more about the film and to view the trailer, click here.


Director's Statement

When I walked into the Hardy House, where the Northwestern University debate team practices, I expected to see students at podiums debating issues I could understand in a clear and persuasive manner along the lines of presidential debates. But then I saw the National Debate Tournament champion Josh Branson “fast talking”—rapidly and loudly sucking in his breath, filling up his lungs, and spitting out as many words as possible before running out of air and sucking in again.
Other debaters got up to the podium (actually a stack of empty banana boxes, Northwestern’s trademark), all speaking so fast that I had no idea what they were saying. They gasped. They stuttered. They literally foamed at the mouth. I assumed I was observing some extreme exercise in preparation for a debate. Then I was informed that this is how policy debaters regularly debate, the fastest supposedly speaking in excess of 400 words per minute. I was stunned.
I wondered: Do all debaters talk this fast?  And is fast talk just a phase or is it here to stay? More importantly, is fast talk good or a sign that something is broken and perhaps not just in debate?
To answer these questions, I spent a year following the Northwestern University debate team, which had won more national debate tournaments than any other team in the country. The team was led by Coach Scott Deatherage. I also met Josh Branson, the returning national debate champion and his new debate partner, Noah Chestnut. I quickly found out that Scott, Josh, Noah and the rest of the team ultimately had one main goal: to repeat what they had accomplished last year--to win the National Debate Tournament (NDT).
To Scott, the benefits of fast-talking were clear: more arguments per minute that an opposing team needed to rebut.  Scott also believed fast talking sharpened the pace of one’s thinking, kept one sharper longer and even staved off Alzheimer’s.   
But then I found out that some debaters didn’t talk fast and claimed fast-talking was a tool of the privileged that discriminated against low income and minority students. To learn the necessary skills entailed attending expensive summer institutes prior to college.  
Others claimed the present state of debate alienated women. High-school and novice teams are tipped toward female debaters, but by the National Debate Tournament, female participation has diminished and/or women as a group don’t excel. One female coach commented that debaters look unattractive while fast talking, and women are conditioned to be more self-conscious about the way they look. Furthermore, to do well one has to be particularly aggressive, which for women is often seen as a liability.
As the National Debate Tournament approached and the team entered lockdown mode working day and night, I thought about what had happened to college debate. Was it really that different from what had happened to any other activity? Everyone I knew was working day and night. Everything seemed increasingly amped up. Also, don’t filmmakers habitually speed things up in much the same way as fast talkers? And as we continued to piece together the film we noted that even editing was getting faster as viewers became more adept at taking in information.    
And I tried to decide:  is debate broken or had it evolved? But maybe that wasn’t what I really wanted to know. Maybe I was asking: Is it good that we are motivated to do more in less time or bad that we are expected to do so just to keep up? Good that we are presented with so much information or bad that much of that information is overwhelming? Are we driven by curiosity and a desire to improve or merely by a thirst for acknowledgment and trophies? The debate continues. . .

-- Debra Tolchinsky

About the Guest

Debra Tolchinsky, director/producer

Deb's films, videos, and installations have been exhibited internationally at such venues as Croxhapox Gallery in Ghent, the Horse Hospital in London, the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and The Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, IL. She has also worked as an assistant film editor on such Hollywood features as Searching for Bobby Fischer and The Doctor. The Hollywood Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild nominated Dolly and Lucky, two of her short films, for Golden Reel Awards. In 2009, she co-curated The Horror Show at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs in New York City which was featured as The Village Voice "Voice Choice for Art" and on The Village Voice’s blog, Runnin’ Scared. She is a graduate of University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (BA) and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA). Deb is currently an assistant professor of Radio-TV- Film at Northwestern University.

About the SCA Alumni Screening Series

The School of Cinematic Arts invites you to an exciting free screening series featuring a dynamic selection of new feature films by SCA alumni and faculty throughout the Fall 2011 semester. All screenings and events will be free of charge and open to the public, although we do ask for an electronic reservation for each screening, which can be made through the website for each individual screening. Many screenings will be overbooked to ensure that capacity is met in the theater. Some screenings will be run from digital sources.

To view the calendar for the SCA Alumni Screening Series, click here.

Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the general public. Please bring a photo ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 2:30 P.M.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $8.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in outdoor Lot M or V, or Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Please note that Parking Structure D cannot accommodate tall vehicles such as SUVs. Free street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago
Phone: 213.740.2330