The Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) is proud to share Go Your Own Way, the third of four youth productions from Envisioning Our Future– the 2016 Summer Documentary Institute (SDI). Each summer for the past 28 years, the SDI has invited central Appalachian youth aged 14-22 to engage in place-based education, documentary media making and creative youth development at Appalshop. The SDI provides a nurturing space for young people to explore the ways media production skills can be used to ask, and begin to answer, critical questions about themselves and their communities.
For 8 weeks throughout June & July, our youth interns and peer trainers participated in daily workshops in the Boone building– Appalshop’s digital classroom. During this time they also had the opportunity to travel twice to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to engage deeply in the city’s various models of community-based arts, through a collaboration with Carnegie Museum of Art.
Go Your Own Way is a documentary film by AMI interns Elyssia Lowe, Jaydon Tolliver & Joshua Collier that tells the story of four residents of eastern Kentucky who are pushing towards a new diversified, equitable economy through arts and agriculture.
Elyssia Lowe (22, Grayson, Kentucky) provided insight into her motivation for creating the piece, stating: “Our film came from the ideas and experiences that this summer gave us. I applied for this internship to learn and to gain new perspectives of my home and that’s exactly what I got. That, and so much more. I wanted to take part in creating a film that inspired people– to love where they’re from and to understand that there are so many opportunities just outside of their door.
During my summer in Whitesburg, I learned so much about media production and my home and the people who inhabit it. I was gaining a new love for this place and I felt for the first time like I could be happy in my future here, even if I didn’t succeed in working at my dream job (Pixar). This film showcases some of the amazing people who taught me so much and who I believe will inspire others. I miss AMI and everyone who helped me grow over the summer. I’ve made lifelong friends and left with an extended family.”
Joshua Collier (16, Waco, Kentucky) shared his perspective, stating: “AMI’s summer program was filled with most of what I expected and almost everything I did not. I did learn how to use many various technologies and effectively became an apprentice filmmaker. I now have a published documentary under my belt and I am sure that it will look good on a resume somewhere, but that accomplishment is perhaps the lowest on the list of those from my “first job”. Saying that the Summer Documentary Institute was a great experience is an understatement; it was an experience that for a lucky few happened once in their lifetime. It seems almost fictional that I can say I was one of those few. This past summer, I met many great people and did many great things. I made connections, learned of new places, and was immersed in parts of this beautiful world that were unknown to me previously. I made friends, true friends, and grew with them for months. I made memories that, barring my natural state of forgetfulness, will stay with me always. This past summer, I truly enjoyed myself among others enjoying themselves and felt whole in a way different from any way I had felt before.
Go Your Own Way was originally about a singular person, an elderly man who had already gone his own path and readily admits he has not much trail-blazing left to do. As you will see, there is not an old man in the finished piece. The method of conveying the meaning of the piece changed quite a bit; in truth, most aspects of the piece changed substantially during the brief, three-week production period. A profile piece quickly changed to a commentary on Appalachian youth and then transformed into a narrated story with a main character, for which there were multiple options. The end product can be described as none of the aforementioned, but does not fall short in capacity. This film, though my first, says volumes about the overwhelming energy in the region and identifies the most cumbersome obstacles faced when trying to capitalize on it. I think I speak not only for myself, but also for my two film-making partners when I say that we are very proud of this piece. I hope we might stun the world with a refreshing perspective, and maybe even start some sort of fire inside someone else.”
Jaydon Tolliver (17, Whitesburg, Kentucky) shared his experience at AMI, stating: “When I first started this summer I never thought it would turn out the way it did. I bonded more with people I didn’t know than the friends I already had here. Making this movie was eye opening to me. Telling the story of people who despite the loss of jobs, were able to pull through and stick to their roots and stay home. This is something that I now realize I want, and am able, to do.”
You can watch Go Your Own Way here:
To share this film with your community or to arrange a screening, please contact [email protected]
The 2016 Summer Documentary Institute was made possible by the generous support of our partners from PhotoWings, Making Connections News, Economic Hardship Reporting Project and JPB Foundation.