Filmmaking as Community Development

The answer to, ‘why make a film’ can run the gamut of, ‘to be rich and famous’ and ‘to fulfill the burden of telling a story.’ The answer is usually personal and rarely includes the idea, ‘to help reinvigorate pride in my community, but that’s exactly what I got speaking to Martin Thurlow.

Now normally, I don’t traffic in films that haven’t been shot. I mean, any filmmaker worth his or her viewfinder has a dozen films in the back of their heads they’d hope to make, and probably a film or three they’d hope to finish! But I was really inspired when I heard of Martin’s upcoming project, so I was interested in interviewing him.

What I like about Martin’s project is that, although he’s talking about a river in his random town of Luton, England, (not to be confused with London, England, a totally different ball of wax,) what he’s really getting at is using the history of a place to encourage civic pride, through filmmaking. Suddenly, this isn’t an obscure city in England concept, it’s a concept that could be used in just about every modern city in the world. What city isn’t facing or hasn’t recently faced urban decay and blight after brighter bygone eras of the past? What city doesn’t have high unemployment among the youth and a chasm of understanding between the computer-phone generation and the local silver manes? What city wouldn’t benefit from exploring how locals relate to a local geographic feature.

I mean, ‘history’ is one thing… there’s a reason most kids don’t dig history, be it anevents current irrelevance or differing opinions on what that history ‘means.’ But geography is often omnipresent but overlooked by locals, especially the youth. Seattle sits under the seemingly watchful protection of Mt. Rainer. Rivers run through most American cities but were paved over in the 50’s to build roads. There are tree stands if not individual trees that are hundreds of years old. Atlanta has Stone Mountain.

This kind of community essay, ‘What does X mean to you? Did you know Y?” is the opportunity of great storytelling if your filming documentary style, doing costumed recreations or CG mock ups. You’d have a million ways to approach this kind of story, and best of all, there’s probably ready financing for such a thing. And then there’s all the free press from local outlets and an audience ready and willing to pay a couple bucks to attend a screening. Working with young students and inspiring the next generation of filmmakers anyone? And in Martin’s case, the next generation of poets, graphic designers, painters and photographers. This sort of project isn’t for everyone, but for some, it’s a brilliant idea. and anything that doesn’t require a kickstarter is alright with me. (Nothing wrong with crowd-funding… just looks like an awful lot of work.)

Let’s keep Martin in our filmmaking best wishes and prayers and hope to see something soon regarding this project.

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