LINO LAKES — Along with several audience choice awards at film festivals throughout the U.S., a Lino Lakes director’s short documentary has qualified for the 2018 Academy Awards.

Cy Dodson, a resident of both Lino Lakes and Minneapolis, is the director of the short film, “Beneath the Ink,” which premiered in Cleveland in April. After meeting a variety of requirements such as running in a theater for a week in Los Angeles, his documentary is eligible to compete in the Short Documentary Category of the Academy Awards.

Dodson is originally from Ohio. After obtaining a communications degree, his career began in the news production industry, which brought him to Minnesota in 2000 when he took a job at KSTP. He did that for a while but didn’t feel the career was allowing him to express his creativity.

“There is only so much you can do in the news business ... being a photographer/editor, that is what you are unless you want to be news director or something, but I don’t like the news that much to be surrounded by it all of the time,” he said.

That’s when Dodson decided to enter the freelance world and eventually founded his own corporate video production company, Triumph Pictures, in 2008. He has done work for Bell Bank, McDonald’s and nonprofit organizations, to name a few clients.

His focus quickly became documentaries, as it was the platform that allowed him to do the narrative work he enjoyed and explore his creativity. Not having looming deadlines all the time was another perk.

In 2014, Dodson shot his first documentary and “has pretty much been working on something ever since.”

Out of all his projects, Dodson said he spent the least amount of time on “Beneath the Ink.” “I think that kind of says something about the story I got. I didn’t have to try that hard to put it together, everything was there for it,” he explained.

The idea for the film came about when Dodson was headed home to work on another project and stumbled across an article on social media from his hometown paper. “The story was about Billy White and his tattoo shop covering up these tattoos. I contacted Billy about possibly doing something with this, and he was all for it,” he said.

The synopsis is this: “As society’s belief systems are changing or even reverting in time, an Ohio artist Billy Joe White is challenging his community by saying, ‘bring me your mistakes.’ “Beneath the Ink” is a timely look at hate and racism in one Appalachian community that reveals heartfelt stories of change and redemption.”

Dodson really enjoyed the unknown aspect of the project.

“Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t laid out, I didn’t know who I was going to interview, I didn’t know who was going to want to be a part of it, want to be shown and tell their stories,” he recalled. “I pretty much just got to my hometown and was hoping people would be willing to talk about it ... I was just there in the right place at the right time.”

Originally, the film was made from two days of shooting. Dodson was able to film additional footage to improve the film for its qualifying run (for the Academy Awards).

“After seeing it in theater a few times, I realized there were some parts that were not where they probably should have been because I didn’t spend the time to do it,” he explained. Not only did he get some additional footage with both Billy and one of the documentary’s participants, but he also hired a few people to help him with new music cuts and graphic design work.

Dodson likely won’t hear anything about the 2018 awards until sometime next year.

For now, Dodson says he is too busy to even think about his next project. “Maybe around this time next year I might start thinking about something,” he said.


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or

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