Piled Up

Graduation Date

Fall 12-17-2021

Grading Professor

Phil Bertelsen

Subject Concentration

Urban Reporting

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Piled Up is a 10 minute film about Anna Sacks, a dumpster diver in New York City who has recently found viral social media fame for calling out wasteful corporate practices. Meanwhile, the physical build-up of the trash she collects, and the anxiety of the never-ending cycles of waste are weighing her down and keeping her from her goals.

This is a surprising story about a woman who has found overwhelming social media success while simultaneously dealing with the mechanism of that success, waste, building up in her life. Her videos have garnered her thousands of followers and millions of views on Tik Tok and Instagram. Now she has to decide how she is going to use her platform to make lasting change.

The film follows Anna on her “trash walks” during a summer in New York City. During these adventures she opens up the trash on the curb to document what's inside for her thousands of followers. Her accounts are an archive of New York City's senseless waste and a portal into the usually-invisible world of trash. What she finds is shocking, aggravating, and forces introspection.

Anna wants more than to just go viral, she wants to change laws so this waste stops. Over the course of the film it becomes clear to Anna that creating systemic change will not be easy. It's one thing to get people to watch her shocking videos, to comment, like and share. It’s a whole other to use her platform to educate people about tax law and to bring lawmakers together.

While we see Anna looking like a hero on her nightly trash adventures, we also see her in a deeply vulnerable state as she attempts to clean out her parents home where she lives. She opens up about her problems with hoarding and her overwhelming obsession with diverting waste from landfill. Anna grapples with some of the most universally felt contradictions of our time: a desire to act personally in a way that will help the environment while knowing that the only way to actually make a dent in the amount of waste sent to landfill is to go from the top down and change policy.

By the end of the film, Anna has had a year recouping from the pandemic, focusing herself on what’s important, and even more viral growth than she thought possible. The film ends with Anna hosting the first meeting of her “Donate Don't Dump” coalition, one step closer to her goals.

Link to film:



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