Del Mar resident thriving as an independent filmmaker

By Karen Billing

In the second draft of Sue Vicory’s life, she decided to become a documentary filmmaker so that she could make films that inspire. Vicory, a Del Mar resident, is now working on her fourth documentary film. She has told stories about homelessness, the history of jazz and blues in Kansas City, and her family business. Currently, she is trying to wrap her arms around the topic of “global humanity and our individual significance and impact within it” with her ambitious new project “One.”

“I’m just a girl with a camera and I just stepped into this life I created for myself,” Victory said. “Everything I’ve done is such a privilege. I can’t believe it’s my life, it’s so amazing. I don’t know how else I would want to spend my time.”

Vicory moved to Del Mar from Kansas City a little over a year ago when her scientist husband had the opportunity to move to San Diego with a promotion. She said she had always felt a tug from the ocean and has found her perfect fit here, with a view of Torrey Pines State Beach out of her window.

Vicory started on her filmmaking journey 10 years ago after her youngest of two daughters went away to college. She had worked at her family’s business for 20 years and was asking herself what the second half of her life was going to be like.

The idea of being a documentary filmmaker came to her and within 30 minutes she went online and signed up for film class in New York in the fall of that year.

She started to doubt her decision as fall inched closer but was encouraged by her older daughter to just go for it.

“I went to school and became hooked on the process,” Vicory said. “I wanted to be an editor so I went to Washington, D.C. for editing school and set up an editing studio in my home.”

In a matter of nine months she had changed her entire life path; now she just needed to start making films.

Her first film was a short 10-minute film called “Homelessness and The Power of One.”

The three-year project took her to 15 different cities for documentary interviews.

She released the film right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the film was able to raise $30,000 for local shelters. As an additional result of her first film, she started the Power of One Project, where she worked with nine inner city schools in Kansas City, taking on community service projects.

In Kansas City, there is a big jazz and blues heritage so for her next project, she spent five years created a feature-length documentary “Kansas City Jazz and Blues: Past, Present & Future.”

“The learning curve was extreme,” said Vicory of her first full-length feature film in which she went through an extensive, exhaustive post-production process with the more-than 150 hours of footage.

She completed the film in 2011 and it aired on PBS in June of that year and again in January of 2012.

“That film has certainly exceeded my expectations,” Victory said.

Her third film “1898: The W.F. Norman story” she did on her family’s hand pressed tin ceiling business, which is 115 years old. She still works as the company’s CFO.

The idea for her latest film came out of her first project.

While working on “Homelessness and the Power of One,” she had a chance to interview a 60-year-old formerly homeless man named Eugene in Harlem, New York. Eugene said his life was changed when an “angel” came to him as he lived on the streets and asked, “Is this all you want with your life?”

The angel was a 75-year-old woman named Beth Reed who Vicory got the chance to meet and who became the centerpiece of her film.

“That was a lightbulb moment, how significant we are and how powerful we can be if we’re intentional about it in our lives,” Vicory said. “If you’re intentional about how your life goes, imagine the number of people you can inspire or lift up and then the trickle effect…you can’t even quantify.”

So far with “One,” she has completed 12 interviews in Kansas City and one locally in San Diego. She is still looking for local subjects who would like to participate.

With the film, Vicory is trying to get a broad brush of humanity — a homeless man and a CEO, a Republican and a Democrat, people from different religious backgrounds and different ages.

She would like for the project to be international and is trying to work out a way to do some traveling to different countries.

“I want to include as much of humanity as I can,” Vicory said. “It’s a big, global word yet what I hope to come out of it is a voice that is loud and clear.”

In her interviews, she asks her subjects if they feel they are a significant piece of humanity, if they feel they’ve made an impact on global humanity in any way, what act they feel has changed someone’s life and what they want their legacy to be.

The stories and answers she has gotten so far have been impactful and she hopes the project continues to stretch and elevate, she doesn’t want it to be just “pablum,” she wants it to resonate and light people up.

While her last film took five years, she doesn’t know how long her current effort will take. The beauty of being a filmmaker is she’s calling the shots.

“It will be ready when it’s ready,” Vicory said. “I don’t want it to end because it’s going to be amazing.”

To learn more about “One” visit

  1. Vicory also just created the website

which has resources for fellow filmmakers, as well as a journal she will write documenting the making of “One.”