We want and need a community and recreational center for our district. We are petitioning for the rights to save the Northfork High School Gymnasium.
We would like to continue this and convince our school board that it is more cost effective and will be more beneficial to the community to allow us to keep the high school gynasium.Historical Northfork High School is sitting as a deteriorating…
Hollow featured in “New Digital Storytelling” series in Filmmaker Magazine: The fine folks at the MIT Open Doc Lab asked us to contribute to the series and we’re super excited about the final piece. The series will continue throughout the year!
"Beautiful McDowell County" photo exhibit has moved from Charleston to Bramwell, West Virginia: The exhibit, which features photography by Betty Rivard and myself, will open on March 18 at the Coal Heritage Interpretive Center in the Bramwell Depot. The exhibit will be on display through May 11.Tomorrow (Tues. 3/19), an artist reception with Betty Rivard will be held from 5:30-7:30 PM at the depot.
2013 WVU Short Film Fest: This past weekend I traveled to Morgantown to screen two short pieces fromHollow and take part in a panel discussion about Appalachian identity. It was great to meet Martha Stephens, a talented Appalachian filmmaker and writer/director of Pilgrim Song.
Tribeca Film Fest: In late April, we will be attending the Tribeca Film Festival to represent Hollow. I will provide more details closer to the date!
SXSW Interactive and Film Festival: Last week, I had the pleasure to serve as a digital media and film mentor at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas. The trip was an amazing experience and I was so surprised to meet people who already knew about Hollow. It was also great to be able to meet several of our Kickstarter backers in Austin, including Mike Andrick and Dan Mistich.
Today I met Alexander Wright at his home in Newhall. The McDowell County resident is very concerned about issues that he believes stem from several strip mining jobs nearby. Alexander says blasting has caused large cracks in his home’s foundation. He is also concerned with the water quality of Cucumber Creek which has been recently running “black as coal.” He is working with Rob Goodwin, of Coal River Mountain Watch, to help file a complaint and find a solution through the DEP. More of the story (and details) to come when we launch in May.
If McDowell leaders truly believe that tourism is the key to the future, why are they providing no goods/services to visitors?
All summer I have heard some people say that is would be hard to attract tourists without a major highway. But the truth of the matter is: the tourists are here.
The photo above was taken today at Northfork a town where three trails from the Hatfield & McCoy system drops into. Northfork has the potential to be the “model” town for the county yet there are no grocery stores or gas stations in the town. Shawn Penwarden does ATV repair and sells bbq but most of the goods and services bought by the riders are purchased in Mercer County. Ashland Resort brings in hundreds of new tourists each weekend but what is the town of Northfork doing to cater to these riders? Today, riders told me they came for the history and asked if there was a place where they could buy a postcard in town. Others said they were looking for fresh produce. It was heartbreaking to have to tell them, “no, I’m sorry, you can’t find those things in this town.”
People asked me, “What happened here? Why are there so many abandoned homes?”
The most shocking part was that every single rider I spoke to said they wished they could invest in some property in the area.
So my question is: If visitors can see value and potential in investing, why can’t the leaders of McDowell?
Bottom line: there is a demand and I would like to see leaders acknowledge the potential and run with it. Unless McDowell County takes advantage of tourism money coming in, there is no point to even have the Hatfield & McCoy trail listed under economic development. Money will continue to leave and no investments within the local economy will occur. It’s common sense folks.
Our Kickstarter backers who chose the postcard reward can look forward to receiving one within the next few weeks! We just got the shipment in today :)
Next Wednesday, I am wrapping up production here in McDowell. Then I’m making the hike back up to Boston for post-production with the team!
We’re very excited to move onto the next phase of production for “Hollow” but saying goodbye (for now) to this awesome community is very hard. We know that just because “production” is ending doesn’t mean our connections with the community will end. This past week I have been training the five community video coordinators who will be in charge of distributing cameras and training new residents while we are away. We have spread the cameras all across the county to insure that the tools are accessible to everyone.
Thanks for your continued support!
P.S. The deadline for our SXSW panel picker has been extended to September 3. If you haven’t already, please take the time to vote and feel free to share your thoughts on why you support this participatory documentary with the judges! We have had great response already thanks to the residents here in McDowell.
McDowell County’s racial diversity is unique in a state where 93% of residents are White. African Americans from the South came to West Virginia’s coalfields at the same time as immigrants from Germany, Hungary, Italy and elsewhere. That same diversity can still be seen across the county today where 72% of Keystone residents, 54% of Northfork residents, 19% of Welch residents and 35% of Gary residents are African American.
This evening I had the pleasure of interviewing Rose and Roland Henderson of Kyle, W.Va. The couple married 49 years ago after meeting at Elkhorn High School. Growing up in the coal camps of Kyle and Gilliam, Roland and Ruth say there was no differentiation between Black and White families. “When they all came out of the mines they were all black,” Roland said about his father and the other immigrants.
The Black American couple told the story of their first experience with racism after moving to Louisiana.
"We went to a movie together and we went in hand-in-hand," Roland said. "The man said, ‘You can’t sit here. You have to go upstairs and she has to go downstairs.’ And I looked at the man and said, ‘Wait a minute. Her body is just as black as mine and she’s my wife so wherever I go, she goes with me.’"
It was at that point they realized their unified upbringing in McDowell was a unique experience not seen in the deep south.
What better use of an abandoned building in Welch than to use it for an airsoft game? One of the most interesting shoots I have had all summer. My mind was racing the entire time about how many paintball enthusiasts would pay to come and run around these old classrooms, hallways and auditoriums of Welch High School. Bottom photo is of James, 17, our GoPro videographer for the game.
Mary McKinney’s drawings of her “future McDowell.” Really inspiring documents here, folks. This is just a few examples of ideas for Keystone and Landgraff out of a whole package she gave me. I dare anyone to tell me the people of McDowell don’t have ideas for improving their communities. It’s time we take these ideas to those in power and make things happen in the coalfields.