Friday, December 21, 2007

Rumor's of TV's Demise: Greatly Exaggerated

I must say I've put off exploring the news that This American Life - the stunningly good radio show hosted by the sublime Ira Glass - had made a television debut on Showtime. TAF is so eclectic and so original that I felt television in all its literal-ness would kill its unique voice. Not so, it seems. TAF has partnered with Killer Films - who created Boys Don't Cry, Far From Heaven and I Shot Andy Warhol. The result? A whole new being that couples the radio show's famous dramatic narrative with beautiful, cinematic images that seem to take TAF to a whole new level.

This is very good news.

Here is the website:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Save the Date - Wit, Will and Walls at American University

Save the date for the Washington, DC premiere of Wit, Will and Walls; the Betty Kilby Fisher Story. American University's Center for Social Media (my VERY favorite film advocacy organization)is hosting the film as part of their MLK celebration. Betty and I will be there to present. Mark your calendars and come on over!!!

When: Wednesday, January 23 at 6PM
Where: Wechler Theater, 3rd Floor, Mary Graydon Center, American University Campus

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Quotable - On Boldness

A fellow peacebuilder reminded me of this quote today.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, October 22, 2007

Peacebuilding This Week/Fridays at 11

This week on Fridays at 11, Shenandoah University's student news roundtable show - participants talk about the fallout from the Jena 6 situation in Louisiana, where for the past year tensions have escalated over racial clashes. Watch 6 minutes now on YouTube.

Another YouTube story explaining the Jena situation... very good.

And an interesting analysis by Peter Applebome in the NYTimes Our Towns column from last week about the significance of the appearance of nooses in Jena, at Columbia University and at a New York post office. Is the appearance of the noose a racial crisis? Or just a rope in the hands of fools?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Media Buildings - New Concepts Communicate

Nice article in the NYTimes today about 3 new buildings, dedicated to media, breaking new ground on interacting with the public... WGBH in Brighton, MA, the Newseum in Washington, DC and the Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University. Love it.


The building’s facade is itself a media element: a digital skin that will project varying LED images every day. (The city prohibits any text display there because of broader concerns about commercialization.) On a gray morning, for example, the electronic mural could display fluffy white clouds in a deep blue sky.

The notion is to have the building consistently engaging with the public. “Hopefully people will think, ‘What is WGBH going to throw at me today?’ ” Mr. Olcott said.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

EMU Quotable - Amen, Sister

"Things grow here."

-Amy Potter, Program Assistant, Practice Institute at Eastern Mennonite University reflecting on the wonder of life and work in the Shenandoah Valley

Monday, September 17, 2007

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding Students

Here's a link from Eastern Mennonite University with bios of my fellow Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduate students. Gosh, they're a pretty amazing bunch:

The Point - The Photojournalist

On this edition of The Point for SUTV, I interview Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Bernie Boston and his wife Peggy about being witness to the civil rights era, decades at the White House, scores of front page news stories... and their new phase of life in the Shenandoah Valley.

Watch 7 minutes now on YouTube:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Peacebuilding This Week - 9/11, Another Lens

On the 6th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, EMU Conflict Transformation Masters Program student and Fulbright Scholar Boniface Cheembe from Zambia said he was receiving calls from overseas asking how people in this country were observing the day. He told them he couldn't speak for the rest of the country, but he felt right to be in a class called Conflict Analysis examining the root causes of the struggle between the U.S. and Al Qaeda.

Fellow CJP student Michele Edwards forwarded this thought provoking link - about a few cautious voices beginning to suggest the unthinkable... that maybe it is time to consider talking to Al Qaeda. See what you think...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Quotable

"Nothing is so harmful to inventing as a critical sense waiting to pounce on the drawbacks of any new idea. Judgement hinders imagination. "

-Roger Fisher, Warren Ury
"Getting to Yes"
Harvard Negotiation Project

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Peacebuilding Idea of the Week - Red Dots

Classes for my Conflict Transformation Masters program at Eastern Mennonite University began this week and among so many interesting thoughts and ideas swirling around, one local effort described by a Virginia teacher named Michele in my Analysis class struck me as simple and important.

After tragedies like Virginia Tech and Colombine, Michele said that teachers and administrators in her school write the names of all of their students on a chart and if any teacher has a connection with a student, a red dot is placed next to the student's name.

Students who have no dots; those who are not communicative, not known, who have the potential to fall between the cracks of society, those students are sought out by teachers and administrators to connect in some way. They schedule lunch, a talk, a deliberate effort of interaction with the student in the hopes of creating a web of community which they hope will stave off a spiraling of those "no dot" students into violence.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Quarryography in Stonington Maine

Here is what I did with my summer vacation! Thanks to co-worker/all around cool guy producer David Norman - I was part of a Shenandoah University crew that made a 14 hour trek to Stonington, Maine (and back!) to film a gorgeous, quirky, touching performance called Quarryography. The dance is directed by renowned choreographer Alison Chase in collaboration with Mia Kanazawa.

The two bring professional dancers, university students and their beloved community together to show us what goes on at the local quarry when no one is watching...

Watch 3 minutes now on YouTube:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shenandoah University Tours France #3 - Notre Dame

In the last of a 3 part series - the Shenandoah Conservatory Choir is one of just three international groups chosen each year to sing at Notre Dame's High Mass in Paris. Students take us behind the scenes at the renowned cathedral - revealing the sights, the sounds of the event and the antics of some amusing Eucharistic ministers.

Watch 6 minutes now on YouTube:

Shenandoah Conservatory Tours France #2 - Normandy

Shenandoah Conservatory choir members continue their tour through France with a trip to the poignant landscapes of the Normandy Beaches. There the group gives an impromptu and deeply moving performance to some appreciative onlookers.

Watch 5 minutes now on YouTube:

Shendandoah Conservatory Tours France #1 - The Arrival

Shenandoah Conservatory Choir takes a rollicking tour of France. In this, the first of 3 segments, the group performs in major cathedrals, channels Marie Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles, and students reflect on the challenges and the honor of working with Grammy Award-winning conductor Robert Shafer.

"Robert Shafer has been a treasure for the Washington choral community for more than 30 years."

-The Washington Post

Watch 7 minutes now on YouTube:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quote of the Year

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

-Mary Oliver
Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet

Photo by Tyrone Turner

Friday, August 17, 2007

Save the Date - October Peace Conference

October 26-27, 2007 the Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking in Memphis, Tennessee. The theme is Building the Beloved Community and it's presented by the National Civil Rights Museum, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, HEAL Foundation and Indian Community Fund.

I'll be speaking along with author and activist Betty Kilby Fisher and "cousin" Phoebe Kilby who works at Eastern Mennonite University about the role of television and film in building community.

The title is Seeing Ourselves, Healing Our Hearts; the Role of Filmmaking in Building Peace Within Community.

Our proposal states that television and filmmaking as a magnifying element and delivery system for storytelling and narrative is proving to be an important tool in areas of tension and crisis to build community and promote peace. This presentation is a case study of two recent documentaries about desegregation in the Shenandoah Valley created by Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia titled; Wit, Will and Walls; the Betty Kilby Fisher Story and its companion film In My Grandmother’s Footsteps. We will recount how these films have provided a platform for personal exploration and public discussion around the social trauma of the civil rights struggle in the Shenandoah Valley and have led to opportunities for healing and reconciliation within the community.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Reclaiming Indian Rights

Enfranchised, A Daughter's Journey is the topic for a documentary about my mother and me for which I am currently seeking funding.

In 1970 my mom, Patricia Moore, aged 37, sold our family’s Indian Rights to the Six Nations of the Grand River Reservation in Brantford, Ontario. Her intent was to settle once and for all the question of her identity.

Patricia’s father was Mohawk and grew up on Six Nations Reservation in Brantford, Ontario. Her mother was white, a former indentured maid from Rochester, NY who married to escape a life of servitude. She, sadly, later referred to her husband’s relatives as “the dirty Indians”

Throughout Patricia’s life, she was forbidden by her mother from telling others about her native background. This secret came to define her. People asked her why she had dark skin and a prominent nose. Was she Italian? Jewish? The questions were troubling and persistent. And her anticipation of them was torture. Her mother’s racism instilled in Patricia a deep and abiding shame about who she was and what other people thought of her.

This shame led my mother to a legal loophole in how to deal with her abhorrent identity. Patricia Moore found she could sell her rights to claim herself as an Indian back to her Mohawk tribe under a Canadian law that had been in effect for more than 100 years. Canada’s Indian Act intended to mainstream Indians into white society and promoted a process where Indians became full citizens by relinquishing ties to their community including language, dances, traditions and rights to land. Until 1960 an Indian could vote in a federal election only by renouncing his or her Indian status. The United Nations ruled in 1981 that the Indian Act was a human rights violation and by 1985 Canadian Indians were no longer able to sell their rights.

But on June 22nd, 1970, in Brantford, Ontario my mother saw the provisions of the Indian Act as an opportunity to in one small way be free of a lifetime of scrutiny. When the transaction was finished, Patricia received $36 and was deemed by Canadian law “a person”. The registrar crossed out my mother’s name on the tribal books and next to it wrote the word that the Canadian Government gave to those who forfeited their Indian identity; “Enfranchised”.

The hour-long documentary titled Enfranchised, A Daughter’s Journey tells the intimate story of my mother and me; two strong-willed women wrangling with our identity and our legacy. This show documents our physical, spiritual and legal quest to regain the Mohawk rights we lost on June 22nd, 1970 and to reclaim a missing part of our family’s history.

Watch 3 minutes now on YouTube - I contact Six Nations Reservation in Brantford, Ontario to attempt to begin the process of reclaiming these rights.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More about Monetizing the Web

Well, a cool internet TV group called Cooking Up a Story (
seems to be revealing how to monetize TV production on the web. They've hooked up with internet distributor Brightcove to push their product and bring in revenue for a simple concept of an internet show about food, sustainability and the people who are dedicated to both.

Here is the pitch from CUAS site:

Syndicate our shows through Brightcove on a managed account and receive 20% of the ad revenue, when available. Cooking Up A Story Syndication Offers:
Single Title; Multiple Line-up; Single Line-up; Sign up now for your free player(s) and for those who qualify, share in the ad revenue generated from your site.

And the pitch from Brightcove:

The Brightcove online service is used by content owners, consumers, web publishers, and advertisers. With Brightcove, content owners can create, distribute and monetize Internet TV channels. At the same time, consumers use Brightcove to discover, watch, share and participate in channels. Web publishers can find content and syndicate channels to enhance their sites and generate new revenue. Finally, marketers can use Brightcove AdNet to aggregate online video audiences and reach consumers across wide range of niche channels with both advertising and branded broadband content.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Point - The Orchardists

Today on The Point - I interview Diane Kearns and Philip Glaize, orchardists from Frederick County, Virginia who talk about the state of their industry and the subtleties of apple tasting.

Watch it now on YouTube:

Monday, June 04, 2007

Shenandoah University Choir Tours France - Highlights

Here is what I've been working on during my recent blog silence:

Shenandoah Conservatory Choir tours France where the group is one of only 3 international choirs per year invited to sing during High Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Watch 2 minutes now on YouTube:

Photo by Byron Jones

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Local News Coverage of SU Students' Show

Today's TV 3 Winchester story about SU student roundtable Fridays at 11.

Everything Is As It Should Be

Spitsbergen is a Norwegian island in the Svalbard archipelago. It has spectacular mountains, abundant glaciers and desolate tundra, where stones are littered over a flat and mostly featureless terrain. In places on this tundra, the stones are arranged in a remarkable way; they lie not in a chaotic, haphazard jumble but in an ordered array of hauntingly beautiful, nearly perfect circular piles.

Today NYTimes blogger and theoretical physicist Mark Buchanan links these stones to human social patterns in some lovely and reassuring ways:

Although we tend to think of ourselves as individuals making up our own minds, we’re obviously influenced by what others around us do. Social patterns routinely emerge that have little to do with the character of individual people.

Check out the link at:

and a study from UC Santa Cruz on the crazy Norwegian stones:

Monday, May 07, 2007

National Geographic Levees Story

Photog pal and National Geographic New Orleans go-to-guy Tyrone Turner is at it again - this time with a breaking news story on the city's breaking levees. His full post-Katrina layout makes the cover of National Geographic's August edition... but this news was so big NG released it early to its website and to other news organizations including the New York Times. This is the first time ever the magazine has previewed a story in this way.

And a New York Times article reacting to the story using a Tyrone photo:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fridays at 11 - Talking about Campus Safety

On the latest Fridays at 11 – SU students in their weekly roundtable talk about the recent explosion of a homemade bomb on SU campus and the steps being taken to insure safety and responsibility. Be sure to watch it now and post your comments on YouTube: – 6 minutes in length.

Brought to you by SU students Lacey Rollins and Raul Hasbun

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Architect's Brother

I love this photographer/sculptor/artist. His work is breathtaking.
Robert ParkeHarrison collaborates with his wife, Shana, on the conception and execution of complex images that combine performance, sculpture, photography, and painting. Their innovative approach to picture making draws upon their use of paper negatives and collage to construct stories of loss and struggle amid landscapes scarred by technology and over-use.
At the heart of these pictorial tales is a lone individual—ParkeHarrison himself as “Everyman”—engaged in Herculean struggles with nature and artifice. The mythic world he creates mirrors our world, where nature is domesticated and controlled. In actions that are both humorously metaphorical and lyrically poetic, ParkeHarrison constructs beguiling stories that make us consider what we have done or are doing to our earth.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fridays at 11 - Talking about Virginia Tech

Shendandoah University students in their weekly roundtable talk about the fallout from the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. See it now on YouTube:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Grad School for Conflict Transformation

In an effort to give an academic grounding to my move to take my films to a public setting for dialogue and reconciliation, I am off to grad school for a seminar class this summer and a full time quest in the fall for my Masters in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite University. This is an emerging field of study - keying off of the justice and peacebuilding that went on in South Africa after apartheid.

Here is a blurb about the Masters Program:
The mission of the Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation is to promote reflective practice by providing value-based, applied education in conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, mediation and related applied fields.

The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), formerly the Conflict Transformation Program (CTP), was founded to further the personal and professional development of individuals as peacebuilders and to strengthen the peacebuilding capacities of the institutions they serve. The program is committed to supporting conflict transformation and peacebuilding efforts at all levels of society in situation of complex, protracted, violent, or potentially violent, social conflict in the United States and abroad.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fridays at 11/ SU Students on YouTube

Today on YouTube - the premiere of Fridays at 11 - the new weekly SU student-produced show on hot topics of the day. I am serving as their staff advisor. The first show features discussion about shock jock Don Imus being fired from his programs for insulting remarks/racial slurs he made against the Rutgers women's basketball team. What a cool, interesting, thoughtful group of students. Lacey Rollins and Raul Hasbun took the lead in making this happen.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sculptor on YouTube - The Point

Clarke County stone carver Malcolm Harlow was a journeyman at the National Cathedral for 7 years in the mid-1970's. We talk with him on SUTV's The Point about his craft, the past and the future of his trade and his "crazy place".

Click on this YouTube link to watch this 9 minute segment.
And this is Malcolm's bio on the Stone Carver's guild website:
Malcolm's Personal Statement:"I like the sting of that chip of stone against my cheek."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dance about Race - SU Dance Ensemble

Shenandoah Universty Dance Ensemble rehearses for a piece called Race - inspired by my documentary short Wit, Will and Walls; the Betty Kilby Fisher story. The dance premiered this weekend and we intend to take it on the road with the film. Very talented SU Professor Ting-Yu Chen was the choreographer - along with the dancers.

And Ting-Yu's personal site Flying Lions Dance Company:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Suburban Secrets on CourtTV

Check out Suburban Secrets on Court TV, Monday, March 26 at 10:30pm. This is a show I directed in January with Sirens Media out of Silver Spring, MD. A Dudley, Massachusetts woman was poisoned by her husband and it took her mother and a dedicated detective years to put him behind bars.

It's called Methanol Mystery.

Adventures in Geekdom - DVD Recorder Update

Attention all you poor TV producers with PCs out there - your Luddite days of shrinking, ripping, and 10-step programs to produce a simple DVD are nearly over. While our Mac friends get to drag and drop their vid projects onto on-board DVD recorders, we've been suffering with our lack of a viable solution to produce a critical format.

NYTimes reporter David Pogue recommended the Sony VRD-MC3 DVD Recorder in his Circuits column a few weeks back. I just got the device and it is what he promised; a simple 4-button, high quality, low cost device that makes life so much easier.

You still have to do an output to Mini-DV tape before transferring it over - but this is a great solution until the PC world decides to cross the DVD divide.

Here is an excerpt from the Pogue column:

DIGITAL VIDEOTAPES -- If you have a more recent camcorder -- a MiniDV digital model -- things are even simpler. You connect the camcorder to the Sony's FireWire jack. The camcorder magically rewinds itself and then pours itself onto a blank DVD. Each scene on the tape is supposed to become a new title on the DVD automatically, although that feature didn't work on my unit.

The Sony can even handle video from Sony high-definition camcorders, although it doesn't burn high-def DVDs -- just wide-screen, standard ones.

All this being said, Pogue's next 2 columns dealt with the DEATH of the DVD - but in the meantime, this was $249.00 well spent.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Indomitable Hazel Dickens

One of the most haunting moments in film in on of my favorite movies of all time is that of a folk singer standing by the grave of a slain West Virginia coal miner singing a simple and heartwrenching hymn. That scene is in John Sayles film "Matewan"; about unions and mine workers and that singer is bluegrass maven Hazel Dickens.

Thanks to the dynamic-duo-brother-filmmakers Clai and Will Lashely, I was recently honored to meet and adore Hazel close-up while the Lashley's interviewed her in her adopted hometown of Washington, DC for their upcoming documentary on Bluegrass tentatively titled "Music Across the River".

Dickens is characterized by her "high lonesome" singing and her provacative pro-union, feminist songs. Her voice is considered among the most powerful and moving of all bluegrass singers.

All in the room were struck by this National Heritage Fellow's authenticity and humor. The stories of her family's extreme poverty and of writing "Black Lung", a tribute to her coal miner brother were poignant and moving. She was delighful as she told of moving to Baltimore to work in factories and trying to fit in by finding the "ings" at the end of her words; "sing-ING instead of singin".

Look for an upcoming tribute album to Hazel which includes covers by Roseanne Cash, EmmyLou Harris, Wyononna Judd and others.

Also, keep an eye on the Lashleys and the progress of their comprehensive film. Here is the link to their website.

Thank you Will and Clai - and thank YOU Hazel Dickens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Where's the Table?! Over There in Richmond!

I thought it was a joke from the Onion Newspaper when a colleague sent me a news clip saying civil rights leader Al Sharpton's forebearers were slaves owned by Strom Thurmond's family, a longtime segregationist. Apparently it's true.

It seems, however, that the Sharptons and the Thurmonds won't be taking any lessons of transcendance from Betty Kilby Fisher and Phoebe Kilby along the lines of sitting down together at the table, as Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed.

Mr. Sharpton said he had not heard from the Thurmonds and had no immediate plans of contacting them. “This is not family,” he said firmly. “This is property.”

Amazingly, some transcendance on race issues is coming out of Richmond, Virginia - former capitol of the Confederacy. The Virginia state legislature issued an apology over the weekend for the state's past history of slavery. The Old Dominion becomes the first southern state to formally acknowledge its role through legislative channels. The measure also expressed regret for the state's treatment of Native Americans.

The resolution was introduced as Virginia begins its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, where the first Africans arrived in 1619. Richmond, home to a popular boulevard lined with statues of Confederate heroes, later became another point of arrival for Africans and a slave-trade hub.
In Virginia, black voter turnout was suppressed with a poll tax and literacy tests before those practices were struck down by federal courts, and state leaders responded to federally ordered school desegregation with a "Massive Resistance" movement in the 1950s and early '60s. Some communities created exclusive whites-only schools.

Among those voting for the measure was Delegate Frank D. Hargrove, an 80-year-old Republican who infuriated black leaders last month by saying "black citizens should get over" slavery.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Audience Feedback From WWW Screening

Here are comments from those who attended the Wit, Will and Walls screenings from 2/17 and 2/18. These link to the posting about the screenings below. I will add to these as more come in - so please feel free to send me your comments:

Jill Finsen, Artist and Non Profit Policy Staff - It was remarkable that Wit, Will and Walls brought together relatives of a former slave and slave owner—a significant meeting as told by both of these women. Wit, Will and Walls allows us to better appreciate what was a remarkably courageous and threatening experience for those who led the way. Thanks to those who participated 50 years ago and to those who continue to keep the story alive to improve relations for today and the future.

David Sheon, President PR Firm - After hearing those stories, I appreciate more how deep the emotional scars, the systematic disenfranchisement, and the cultural deprivation caused by white society's raping of black society must still hurt.

Consider that Kilby's great grandmother - if I've guessed the generations correctly - could well have been a slave attacked/raped by the slave owner. Somehow I doubt it was love behind that! So the wheels were put in motion from that point on to create a person who would not be "at home" anywhere.

Then the well documented systematic and "legal" closure of the high school, the brutal attack, and the social alienation of Kilby by her peers, educators, and courts brings the ignorance/hate/intolerance to another generation. The story of being constantly attacked by spitballs, and then being sent to detention because she had the nerve to complain about it - is such good imagery, and so painful for us all to hear.

Reconciliation is a much higher hurdle than I ever realized, but we're fortunate to be living at a time when courageous people are beginning to poke their heads out from dark closets. The heroes of our day come in all colors, ages, shapes and sizes.

Kris Larsen, TV Director, Producer -When Betty Kilby Fisher told her story of reconciliation and introduced her "cousin" Ms. Phoebe Kilby, she pointed out that "we are living Dr. Matin Luther King's dream" -- I doubt there was a dry eye in the place! Also, involving young filmmakers to tell Tanesia's story is a brilliant move - the stories, and the whole evening, unfolded beautifully. Epic!

Dr. Ann Denkler, SU Historian - The best part of the events was the venue of the church. The film, the church, and the community just fit together perfectly. I also think that your film brings out the need to know history, to reconcile racially, and, most importantly, to celebrate these two things. It's as if one shouldn't simply try to understand racism and the horrors of segregation without looking at how the African American community wants to see it dealt with. And, clearly, it should be looked at as a celebration of healing.

Bob Burke, SU Director of Corporate Relations - For me the story is not historical but a part of who I am. I remember segregation in Southern Missouri and how stupid I though it was and how disturbing it was for me that white adults in my church could support the idea including my parents. One of the reasons I gave up going to church. The only time my father and I had a physical altercation was over segregation. It was a pretty good fight, I was 16.

M. Tyson Gilpin, Attorney - I attended the screenings of “Wit Will and Walls” at two different places. First, at the home of Tracy Fitzsimmons in Reliance, VA and second, at Mt. Carmel Church in Winchester, VA. Despite the fact that the audiences were from completely different backgrounds the reactions were the same. The audiences were powerfully moved by the coming together and triumph of Betty Kilby Fisher and her granddaughter to tell the story. In addition, both the white Kilbys and the African American Kilbys were in both audiences. The spontaneous bonding within the greater Kilby “family” at both events was inspiring.

Dr. Warren Hofstra, SU Historian -What hit me the hardest about Betty’s story and your work together is how much it lives today. Betty’s story begins 50 years ago, but what you and Betty have to say about race and reconciliation for the present is very powerful. That power was very evident in Sunday’s premiere.

Patsy Moore, Secretary, My Mom - I was very impressed with the words from Dr. Deborah Lee, the public historian, as she stressed that movements survive and much is accomplished when they are faith and spirit motivated. We linked arms and concluded with "WE SHALL OVERCOME". I know this film will evolve into a full hour-long documentary. Motives are correct and God will bless.

Sheila Smith, Director of Photography -The thing that struck me most was the courageous reunion between the grandaughter of the slave owner and Betty. Only when meetings like this happen can reconciliation and healing begin. And I was touched my the anguish of Betty's father, having to sacrifice his daughter's safety and innocence to send her into the school to "earn" the education which he was deprived.

Also, I was encouraged my the documentary made by the younger generation. It seems they really understood the hardship Betty's generation had to endure so that their descendant's could have a better life and with that realization comes the responsibility of both races of today's generation to continue the work needed for our society to move towards racial equality.

Dr. James Bryant II, SU Historian - Betty Kilby Fisher's story is a testament of how faith and perserverance can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She gives us lessons for life.

Claiborne Lashley, Lighting Director - I have been in the film industry since 1983; worked on 30+ feature films. John Sayles, Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Ivan Rittman… Whoop Goldberg, Julia Roberts, James Earl Jones, Tom Cruise…many others.

That’s Hollywood; I prefer Betty and Paulette.

Through their vision and interpretation we come face to face with an issue that is haunting yet we see that a nightmare can become a dream. To be identified with a project like Wit, Will and Walls means to give something to our culture that is poignant and educational.

Betty’s story needs to be shouted from the mountaintop.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wit, Will and Walls - the Shenandoah Valley Screenings

It has been an amazing month of gearing up for and screening Wit, Will and Walls; the Betty Kilby Fisher Story in 2 public venues. We were scheduled for three, but a wintery blast of glacial ice across the Shenandoah Valley last week conspired to keep us out of Warren County High School, the historic location where Betty Kilby Fisher was the infant plaintiff to desegregate the county's schools. Look for that screening, with some special guests, to be rescheduled in March or later this spring.

The lead-up to the weekend was the round of press in Winchester and Front Royal with Betty and me. The most intriguing interview was with Dan McDermott of The Valley Today radio show. It was on this show that Betty revealed that she had kept the fact that she had been raped in Warren Couny High School auditorium a secret from her mother until last Wednesday. Her mother's response after 50 years? She simply said quietly "So it's true."

This has been a terrifying experience for Betty to work through, but telling the truth of it when she has been ready has been cathartic for her and healing for others. Dan was a sensitive and insightful interviewer - lots of trust there for Betty to share her story. A link to the interview:

And a link to the companion story in Dan's independent newspaper The Warren County Report (Dan is the hardest working man in media today)

On Saturday night 2/17 we screened at Old Reliance Theater, in Reliance, VA. Shenandoah University Vice President Tracy Fitzsimmons and her husband Dr. Chuck Call live upstairs in this refurbished schoolhouse - and their basement is a theater where ambitious social issue theater productions like The Laramie Project and The Vagina Monologues have been staged with great success. A few hightlights:

I was proud to screen the SU student piece about Betty's granddaughter, Tanesia. Tanesia portrayed her grandmother in my film. Sibling teams Nick and Kevin Matheson and Hallie and Cody Penwell worked VERY hard to profile Tanesia and her take on her family's legacy with touching results.
During discussion after the screenings, a woman named Phoebe Kilby from Harrisonburg, VA announced that she's done preliminary research and believes that her family was the Kilby slaveholder and Betty's family were the slaves! She felt that by contacting Betty that they together would be able to live out Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of the daughters of the slaves and slaveholders sitting down together at the table. Betty's family has already taken to calling her "cousin Phoebe"!
Not at all ironically, but sort of startlingly Phoebe Kilby works with Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg. EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding hosts a project called Coming to the Table, which gathers and documents the stories of the descendents of slaves and slaveholders.

An NPR story about the Coming to... project:

On Sunday 2/18 we screened at the wonderful Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Winchester, VA. What an afternoon of discussion and truths. When the discussion was over, all in the church linked arms and sang "We Shall Overcome". Thank you Pastor Gilbert Mack, Linda Jackson and the congregation from Mt. Carmel for welcoming us to your beautiful venue. I look forward to more collaboration... and singing!

Friday, February 02, 2007

More Illuminating Content From AU's Documentary Seminar

Repurpose. Recyle, Reinvent. These are the key points I took away from the 2nd day of American University's Making Documentaries Matter Seminar. Gone are the days when the documentary filmmaker toiled behind the production curtain for months or even years before rolling out the BIG PICTURE for one stunning night of broadcast, and then retreated back into the nether worlds of research and pre-production to begin the cycle all over again.

Today's production landscape is a rolling line of output and smaller milestones that reaches to community and partners for feedback all along the way to present in multiple platform and venues; community screenings, festivals, broadcast, cable, deep cable, deeper cable, websites, file sharing sites cellphones, house parties.

For me it's not news, just validation of the process that has already begun in my work which is tremendously helpful. The panels were too comprehensive and varied to do justice to them in my tiny blog, but below are a few random thoughts. The Center for Social Media does a tremendous job of documenting the whole event on DVD and on their website. Anyone who is remotely interested in the state of non-fiction filmmaking needs to put this seminar on the top of their to do lists.
-More gasps from the audience than the cell phone that you can shoot and edit on:
Jean Seoh of Arts Engine - an advocacy group on the participatory media panel showed a heart-stopping short film about the devastating effects of racism with the film A Girl Like Me which shows an experiment where black children are asked to chose between white and black dolls. You can find that on YouTube and the Media that Matters website.
-I couldn't imagine this job existed!:
Katerina Ciznek, Filmmaker-in-Residence, St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto. Katerina was on a panel about participatory media but I became obsessed with the concept of her job. Soooo - this woman was appointed by the Canadian government to go and hang out in Canada's premiere hospital to create projects like an art photo blog about pregnant teens and flash films about a day in the life of a health care worker so that the hospital could effectively advocate for issues that need attention. I am still trying to get my brain around this one but I think it is fantastic.
-New Media Word of the Day: What is a bit torrent?
I don't know, but my sense is we all better figure it out. It has something to do with a technology that allows users downloading the same video clip to share the "load" (my word) of the information so that the more people who view the clip, the better the quality of the clip. I could also be completely wrong. I looked it up on Wikipedia, but it is written in some kind of Vulcan dialect that I can't follow.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Gasps from Documentary Audience At American University

At American University this week for their always-excellent "Making Your Documentary Matter" seminar sponsored by the Center for Social Media. This group addresses the current and varied issues for independent filmmakers focused on using media for social change.

Among the stunning array of speakers from the first symposium - Benjamin Walker of PBS's We Shall Remain - a massive American Experience project to document Native American history which will take up nearly half the broadcast season in 2009 -

Walker comes from the new media initiatives for this project and the audience gasped and applauded when he revealed that he will help arm thousands of native americans in Arizona with an unbelievable new Nokia phone which will have video capture and EDITING capability built-in. They will gather video over the course of one year and document their American Experience on a PBS website. Wow.

The phone is N93 which costs around $700 with Carl Zeiss optics and memory cards with built in instructional videos on how to shoot quality video.

All of the speakers speak of cell phones as the 4th screen - the follow-on to theater, television and compter screens.

More to follow as the conference progresses!