CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s what documentary filmmakers do when they’re blown away by something. They get going on a documentary.
That was certainly the urge after Elaine McMillion encountered the barren storefronts of Welch, in McDowell County, which could be a poster child for the worst of depressed and devastated Third World Appalachia.
"I went to Welch last summer," said McMillion, who did some growing up in Logan and Elkview and now lives in Boston. "It’s just unbelievable. I never knew there were ghost towns like that in West Virginia. You always hear about that out West. It infuriated me and made me mad. And made me really sad."
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See full roundup on Ken Ward’s Coal Tattoo
From the media world, folks who are active on Twitter or Facebook may have seen mentions around this week about a project called “Hollow: An Interactive Documentary,” which its developers describe as:
… A hybrid community participatory project and interactive documentary where content is created “for the community, by the community.” The project combines personal documentary video portraits, user-generated content, photography, soundscapes, interactive data and grassroots mapping on an HTML5 website designed to discuss the many stereotypes associated with the area, population loss and potential for the future. Members of the community will take part in the filmmaking process by creating 20 of the 50 short documentaries in efforts to build engagement and social trust and empower the community to work together for a better future.
They also say:
The project leaders of Hollow believe that the voices of West Virginia have not been heard. Over the years, media has portrayed the people of Appalachia as one-dimensional characters in issue-driven films about coal mining and drug abuse. Films about our homestate have not given residents a chance to speak but have instead used them to fit their categories of “hillbilly,” “poor Appalachian,” “ignorant coal miners,” or “environmentalist.” This community participatory project has great potential to become a place where the community can have a voice and share ideas for the future. We hope that this interactive model can encourage trust among the community and empower them to work together for change. Hollow’s documentary portraits and user-generated content will provide a multidimensional viewpoint, highlighting the ingenuity and spirit that keeps the community fighting.
The project team is currently trying to raise funding through Kickstarter. I’m curious what role coal’s past, present and future is going to play in this particular project, and I may write some more about it after I get to talk more with project leader Elaine McMillion.
Sad to see McDowell County rank last (again) in another research poll…