Funded! This project was successfully funded on May 13, 2012.

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Exploring the issues and future of rural America through the eyes and ideas of those living in Southern West Virginia.

Thanks for taking the time to check out HOLLOW

People are Talking:

Morgan Spurlock: American documentary filmmaker, known for the documentary film Super Size Me.

Homer Hickam: NASA Engineer, Award-Winning Author of "October Sky"

United States Senator, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Neil Gaiman: Author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films

In the News (updated daily):

"Hollow" has been featured by the Charleston Gazette, Daily DotNPR, Washington ExaminerWashington TImesThe Hillville Magazine, The Revivalist, Appalachian HistoryThe Daily Athenaeum, Innovative Interactivity, Coal Tattoo, The Journal

The Project:

Hollow is an interactive documentary and community participatory project that focuses on the lives of residents in McDowell County, West Virginia. Hollow combines personal portraits, interactive data, participatory mapping and user-generated content on an HTML5 website designed to address the issues stemming from stereotyping and population loss in rural America. Community members will take part in the filmmaking process by creating their own documentary portraits and balloon maps. Hollow strives to bring attention to issues in rural America, encourage trust among the community and become a place where users can share ideas for the future. 

Background:

National media portrays the residents of Southern West Virginia the way they perceive them, instead of how the community see itself. This constant flow of images depicting only poverty, drug abuse and unemployment have an effect on the way the community sees themselves and limits their capacity for action and empowerment. Hollow will provide the McDowell County community a chance to express their own ideas in a project that addresses universal issues seen across rural America. This is not our interpretation of Southern West Virginia but instead a project "for the community, by the community" and a unique chance to be part of future improvement.

Project Outcome Goals:

If we were to look back on this project a year after we had completed it, we would hope that:

  • Hollow communicated the historical, cultural, social and economic significance of Southern West Virginia through user-generated content, interactive data and interviews with residents of all ages.
  • Hollow empowered the people of Appalachia by giving residents a chance to produce their own stories through community workshops and forms of participatory mapping.
  • Hollow built an online interactive world for people globally to understand the issue of population loss in rural America while also providing an understanding of the options available to keep small-town America alive.

Fundraising Goals:

Donors have an opportunity to snag tickets to Culturefest, albums by Option 22Stacy Grubb and renowned mandolin player, Luke Shamblin; signed copies of Homer Hickham's (author of "October Sky") latest book Crater; and the original HOLLOW soundtrack, which features music by West Virginia artists. 

The more money we raise the more people we can feature in the interactive website, so help us communicate the voices of rural America through a donation today!

Your tax-deductible donation (through Documentary Educational Resources) will help bring this interactive documentary to life. Beyond the experience you'll be providing to those who will view this project, we have some cool rewards to offer as well. Not interested in online payment systems? Send your donation via check to Documentary Educational Resources with "Hollow" in the memo.

First tier goal: $25,000

With this amount of money we can spend four months interviewing approximately 20 people and provide five cameras to the community to shoot 15 short documentaries of their own. We can also complete three participatory mapping activities with the youth. $25k will also take us into one month of post-production to allow the programmer to start coding the interactive site and editors to begin editing 10 portraits. 

Second tier goal: $50,000

We can distribute two more cameras to residents and feature upwards of 50 residents on the website with content shot by the team and the community. We can complete five participatory mapping activities with the youth and more editing workshops in the community to allow residents full control over the images they produce. This money will allow for all editing and programming to be completed.

Third tier goal: $75,000-$100,000

We can produce all of the above plus develop a robust backend platform so that other filmmakers and communities worldwide can take advantage of this model to use in their own hometowns to address issues and inspire change. We will also have the capability to hold interactive screenings throughout the country in rural towns.

FAQ:

What is an interactive documentary? An interactive documentary is a transmedia project that exists across multiple platforms and allows a non-linear experience to users. Unlike linear/traditional documentaries--an experience viewed by a captive audience that encourages little particpation--interactive documentaries encourage viewers to explore the stories and geography in their own unique way. In the case of HOLLOW, the documentaries, maps and data visualizations will be incorporated on a layered experience that encourages active participation and allows for users to upload and share content. Check out some of our favorite transmedia documentaries: Highrise: Out My Window, Welcome to Pine Point, Powering a NationLa Zone, Farewell ComradesMapping Main Street, and Bear 71.

What role will data visualizations play? Integrating data visualizations will allow for Hollow to push the boundaries of the interactive documentary experience. HTML5 technologies encourage viewer participation and allows them to go deeper into the issues by experiencing both qualitative (documentary portraits) and quantitative (data sets) at the same time. The data will be built using Processing.js and other open source libraries.

What is participatory mapping? Participatory mapping is a collaborative process between the community and facilitators that seeks to discuss and map place-based affairs by using place-based knowledge. Eric Lovell and the community youth will use the grassroots technique of balloon mapping to map the downtown areas of McDowell County. Lovell will then hold participatory mapping workshops to engage with the broader community in mapping their own lived-experiences of their hometowns.

Why should I care about population loss in West Virginia? According to demographers, the 10 communities that make up McDowell County, West Virginia, are just years away from extinction. From 1950 to 2010, the population of the county has diminished from 100,000 to 22,000. Located in the coalfields, the area has experienced the effects of a boom and bust economy, but its experience is similar to many rural towns. In just over two decades, more than 700 rural counties, from the Plains to the Texas Panhandle through to Appalachia, lost 10 percent or more of their population. Nationally, there are more deaths than births in one of two rural counties. The most dramatic evidence has been the loss of the most talented young people at precisely the same time that changes in industry have occurred.

The issues of rural America do not receive as much attention as urban concerns. Rural development falls under the Department of Agriculture and is fourth in line. Compare this to the urban affairs, which have a secretary-level member of the cabinet whose sole job is to advice the president on housing and urban affairs. National media, including The Washington Post and New York Times, assigns reporters to cover suburban and urban beats have no equivalent rural-issues correspondents. Hollow is an opportunity to explore these issues through the eyes and ideas of people living in Southern West Virginia.

“If, as a nation, we decided not to intervene, then we must accept a future with a myriad of social problems throughout the countryside, the spread of rural wastelands, and the unraveling of civic institutions such as churches and local schools. The economic, political, and social costs of allowing huge swaths of the countryside to decline in this manner are simply too extreme to comprehend.”

--Patrick Carr and Maria Kefalas: Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Braindrain and What it Means for America

$25,000 seems like a lot of money, why would you need more? Because the nature of Hollow is to engage the community in the storytelling process and to create an online experience for people across the country to interact with, our budget is much larger than that of a traditional documentary. There are many costs associated with the community storytelling workshops, participatory mapping workshops, editing workshops and the purchase of community cameras that cannot be avoided. In a project that hinges on building community trust and encourages resident involvement we have to ensure that we have the funding to provide the most meaningful experience for the community. Additionally, because the website is a highly-designed interactive experience the programming involved is quite extensive. The post-production process of this film will last twice as long as the production. Most of our talented team is donating their time to this project, however production costs and travel expenses cannot be avoided in order for this to be a truly collaborative experience. 

Receive updates daily/weekly by following our blogFacebook and Twitter

Production Schedule:

Our supporters will receive updates daily/weekly by following our blog, Facebook and Twitter.

May 2012: Designs for the HTML5 website will be locked and wireframes will be fully developed. We will begin to prepare for shooting—gather equipment, make last minute preparations—and head to McDowell County for the summer. Mid-May begin production in McDowell County. 

June 2012: Production in McDowell County. Shooting community events, fairs, festivals and interviewing community members. We will start training and distributing the cameras to the youth in the community and hold our first workshop one in mid-June. Continue to blog, add content and behind-the-scenes photos to the temporary website and add people to our contact list. 

July 2012: Work with the community members who have shot footage, written stories and taken photos. Continue to shoot our own footage, as well. Start participatory mapping production. Hold second workshop in mid-July where we will include mapping results. 

August 2012: Work with the community members who have shot footage, written stories and taken photos. Continue to shoot our own footage and participatory mapping exercises. Hold third and final workshop. Wrap up production by the end of August.

September-November 2012: Post Production starts in Boston. Elaine will continue to edit the many documentary portraits. Russell Goldenberg, our HTML5 programmer, will continue to build the site with rough cuts of the media. We will also collect data for the interactive visualizations during this time.

December 2012-January 2013: Pass additional rough cuts of media to programmer for them to test. Continue editing.

February 2013: Fine cut, picture lock of all portraits. Start color correcting, doing preliminary graphics and sound design. All data will be finalized and coded into the interactive charts.

March-April 2013: Wrap up all post-production and launch the first version of the website. Work out any bugs for final launch in May 2013.

May 2013: Hollow launches and will be live for viewers to interact with. Travel to rural areas, including back to McDowell County, to hold live screenings in high school computer labs and public libraries.

Project Director's Statement:

by Elaine McMillion

Growing up in Logan County, a county away from McDowell County, I have been part of the boom and bust economy. My father has been in the coal industry for over 30 years now. Layoffs, shutdowns and promotions jerked us all around Southern West Virginia and into Virginia. I looked around me and saw a place that I loved very dearly, a place that I consider to be one of the most beautiful areas in the country, and a place where I had been shaped into the person I am today. Despite my love for the state and my family’s presence there, the lack of jobs and opportunity for a young filmmaker drove me away.

Today, I feel a sense of guilt that I left my state behind to chase my dreams. I was encouraged to leave by my family, who knew that I would never be happy settling with a job in my hometown. But as I grow older, my desire to return to West Virginia, make improvements and create social change grows. This project is my way of representing the hardworking people of my state who have been stereotyped for years, as well as exploring possible options to help save communities just like the ones I grew up in. I am part of the problem; I am the face of youth exodus, and I would like to find some solution that could bring all of us back.

FAQ

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Funding period

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