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Presenting "After the Storm" at the Magnum Foundation's "Photography, Expanded" symposium in NYC

If you're in New York on November 1st, I hope you'll come out to the New School for the Magnum Foundation's "Photography, Expanded" symposium. I'll be there presenting "After the Storm" as a case study along with my co-producer Alex Wittholz from Helios Design Labs. We'll be talking about interactive documentary making and the emerging form. It should be a great event!

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"After the Storm" co-presented by Independent Lens and the Washington Post

On the fourth anniversary of the monster tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I'm really excited to present the interactive documentary project "After the Storm." Produced with Helios Design Labs out of Toronto and funded by ITVS, this interactive doc is a kind of hybrid lyric essay. It was a delight to work with Independent Lens and the Post, and I'm thrilled that the project is being seen by so many people. Here's the Independent Lens page, and here's a Q&A with me about producing the piece. Oh, and here's a Q&A between me and the designers talking about the challenges and the excitement of working on a piece like this. 

 

You can experience the piece for yourself here. It's optimized for modern browsers (Chrome or Safari is best) but a streamlined version with less navigability is available for mobile and older platforms. 

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"After the Storm" coming to SXSW

"After the Storm," my interactive documentary/essay hybrid is coming to SXSW in March! I'm excited to have a formal release of the project tied to a panel I'm leading entitled "Tool Kit for Crafting an Interactive Documentary." With Cathy Fischer, our production manager from ITVS, and Mike Robbins and Alex Wittholz, my incredible graphic and web-design team from Helios Desing Labs in Toronto, we'll be talking about the development of the project and the ways that filmmakers and techonologists can become full collaborators. If you're in Austin, buy us a beer! 

 

Also, check out our teaser for the project here. This website will have more launch details as we get prepared to release the project. 

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"The Durrs of Montgomery" wins big at the Southeastern Regional Emmys

We were very pleased to learn last week that "The Durrs of Montgomery" picked up three Emmys in Atlanta during the Southeastern Regional Emmy Awards. The film was nominated in four categories - photography, editing, sound design and Best Historical Documentary. The only place we got robbed was in the photography category - and it was indeed a robbery, since Justin's work on the movie was really beautiful. But a hardy congrats to Nick Punch (audio) and Paul Rogers (editing).

If you haven't seen the film, you can watch it for free on APT's Vimeo channel here.

I like to think that Virginia would be pleased. That's my favorite picture of her, sitting in the den at Pea Level, regaling some visitor with stories and theories and admonishments.  

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On the road and in the edit suite.

"Eating Alabama" has been making the film festival circuit rounds for the past year. It's been great to share the movie with different audiences throughout the country. We've picked up some great reviews and some awards too! Check out the "Eating Alabama" website to see more and read about our various screenings. But it wasn't just screening the film that dominated last year - I also finished shooting and editing "The Durrs of Montgomery" for Alabama Public Television. The crew and I delivered the movie in June and it's been playing regularly on APT. We had a wonderful screening of the film at the Capri in Montgomery, with lots of Cliff and Virginia's friends in attendance. And I shared the film with the Southern Historical Association Conference too back in November. You can watch the entire movie for free on Vimeo! 

Next up I'll be working on the interactive documentary "After the Storm" for ITVS Interactive. And I'll have an announcement in the coming months about the next feature documentary project. Suffice it to say, I'm getting very excited about starting another film. And, if the movies weren't enough, I've started another class at UA called "Anatomy of a Trial." We're soliciting applications from UA students and will begin teaching in the fall. Stay tuned for more info about that one, too!

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"Eating Alabama" at SXSW

I'm very pleased to announce that "Eating Alabama" will finally have its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin in March! Four years in the making, I don't know that I had a very good idea of what this day would feel like. But now that it's finally here, I'm thrilled! I have to keep this feeling in mind when I'm in the middle of those dark nights of the soul making a film... Hope to see you in Austin!

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Some recent production stills

I'm busy working on a documentary about the lives of Clifford and Virginia Durr for Alabama Public Television. In the past few months, my cinematographer Justin Gaar and I have traveled around the south to film interviews with a variety of Southern historians. The story of the Durrs is a remarkable one, and I'm excited to be working on a film about such principled and admirable Southerners. They represent a kind of transformation narrative that has all the hallmarks of an engaging and emotional drama. It's likely that you've never heard of the Durrs, so if you're interested you can read Cliff's Wikipedia entry here and Virginia's here.

In doing research the past few months and reading their letters and other writing, I've come to identify with them both, but especially with Virginia. Moving back to Montgomery in the early 50s, Cliff and Virginia quickly found themselves involved in the early stirrings of what would become the Civil Rights Movement. Writing to a friend about her feelings on returning South, Virginia said, "The only time I like it is when I'm trying to change it." I've certainly felt that way myself from time to time...

I've started a Twitter account for the film where I'll be periodically posting quotes from Cliff or Virginia and occassional updates on production. Please follow along if you'd like @Virginia_Durr. Incidentally, you can follow me on Twitter @andrewebeckgrace 

Interviewing Clay Carson, Memphis

Tearing apart a hotel room for the interview...The legal historian Laura Edwards at her home in Chapel Hill.

The dean of Southern history, Dan Carter, at his home outside Brevard, North Carolina.

Justin shooting on a dolly in Wilson Library, UNC.The original oral history interview tapes from Virginia Durr, 1974

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After the Storm

I've been working on a new interactive documentary about the aftermath of the April 27th Tornados with a group of former students. We're gathering stories from residents across the city to tell an inteweaving narrative about what happens after the storm. We're interested in following the story for a few years before releasing what I believe will be an innovate new kind of documentary. We'll be working with the new media firm Bombay Flying Club to help develop the site, and I've secured development funding from ITVS Interactive to help us along. We hope to release the project in April of 2013, 2 years after the storm. In the meantime, we're using a simple blogger site to release some of the early character pieces. I've posted the first four below.

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Eating Los Angeles

So I'm just back from about a week in LA working with my old friend Bartley Powers. Bartley and I went to college together and he helped edit my first film during my senior year. While I was living in Wyoming, Bartley came out one summer and together we made a feature doc about the annual reenactments of Custer's Last Stand called "Dying With Custer." It was great fun, and the film itself was pretty good for a first outing. If you'd like, you can see a trailer of the movie here. Ever since DWC, Bartley and I have consulted with each other on our various projects and have always kept in touch. Bartley lives and works in LA as an editor of various short form and long form content. So when I was working through some structural issues with "Eating Alabama" it seemed natural to hop on a plane and visit. We got some great work done and he was instrumental in giving me a fresh perspective on the material and helping me see it from another angle. I also visited my friends Sally and Andrea, both filmmakers involved in their own nonfiction work. Check out Sally's new film "Deep Down" on PBS's Independent Lens this season, and Andrea is currently working on her own doc about the lives of a group of Latina actresses trying to make it in LA. They were both super helpful to talk with, and it was nice to talk to other filmmakers about their own process - something I don't have a lot of opportunity to do in Alabama. Of course, we also ate some great food...

Below is a photo Bartly took of me working with my interminable stack of index cards - representing scenes, themes, narration, stills, etc. Documentary editing can sometimes be like trying to solve a huge jigsaw puzzle. You've got all (or most) of the pieces, but for them to tell the most affecting story, you've got to arrange them just right. It's a long and sometimes agonizing process, but it's ultimately rewarding to see it all coming together.

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More production stills

Still shooting a lot here in the thick of the Alabama summer. Here are a few stills from the past few weeks.

Little Miss Peach contestants wait at the Peach Auction in Chilton County.Nathan Thompson in Cullman shows me one of his six chicken houses.Future McNuggets.Charlie, at Jones Valley Urban Farm, doing what an urban farmer does: digging up slabs of concrete.Steve Davis, historian at Bryce Hospital, shows off a picture of a prize winning pig from the Bryce farms. Weight at slaughter: 846 pounds.

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Production...

I'm in the thick of production on "Eating Alabama" these days. Moving back and forth between small organic gardens, fancy restaurants, huge agribusiness farms, and agricultural themed beauty pageants. Because of my teaching schedule, the summer is really my only time to work fulltime on films. That means I've got about eight weeks to finish the bulk of my shooting before we move into the editing phase. I'm fortunate to have a partnership with Alabama Public Television and I'm really fortunate to have funding from the Independent Television Service. ITVS is a dream to work with, and I look forward to the national distribution the film will recieve when finished. Here are some stills from recent shoots.

At the Walker's farm in northern Tuscaloosa County planting Roundup Ready soybeans.David Snow picking Swiss Chard out at Snow's Bend in Coker.The road leading to the Colony (commonly called "Old Bryce") where there used to be a huge sustainable farm.Frank Stitt recieves delivery of heirloom tomatoes for Bottega and Highlands.The weekly cattle auction at the Moulton Stockyard.The outgoing 2009 Miss Peach and her court take their final bow at the 2010 Miss Peach Pageant in Chilton County.

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