Every summer since 1988, the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI) has hosted its Summer Documentary Institute, which brings together young people from across Appalachia for an eight-week crash-course in documentary filmmaking. Over the course of the summer, participants learn the technical aspects of operating a camera, setting up shots and editing footage in a peer-to-peer learning environment facilitated by Appalshop media makers. But rather than ending there, this technical training is just the base from which the real work begins. After learning their way around a camera, students are then charged with using their newfound media skills to talk about their communities, the issues they’re facing, and the stories they deem important. The work that results is often challenging, sometimes provocative, and always eye-opening.
This summer, we were incredibly lucky to work with 11 amazing young people ranging in ages from 14-22. These students brought an incredible level of enthusiasm and effort to the program, tackling big subjects like what “Appalachia” means to them, and the evolving definition of Appalachian identity in the 21st century. Practice pieces like “Sad Bunny”, the story of a bunny who can’t catch a break in his small town life, took issues that students were dealing with in their own lives and translated them into evocative short narrative films. When the time came to choose final topics for their documentaries, the newly-trained media makers wasted no time settling on three incredible themes and diving right into the filmmaking process for the first time.
Just a few weeks later, after many long days and late nights of scouring the region for interview subjects, scheduling shoots, and editing together countless hours of footage, AMI interns emerged with their final pieces. The excitement was palpable as these new filmmakers stepped on stage at their premiere screening and introduced their work. From films highlighting the incredible range of “mountain music,” to celebrating regional diversity in light of the recent marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court, to tackling the question of whether or not all cultures in the region feel “Appalachian,” this summer’s interns gave us three evocative stories that we couldn’t be prouder to share with you. Without further ado, here are the final pieces from AMI’s 2015 Summer Documentary Institute.
Dos Patrias: Living Latino in Appalachia
Produced by Brandon Sun Eagle Jent, Shannel Arellano, Courtney Johnson, and Kyra Higgins.
In Appalachia, the Latino community is the region’s second largest minority group. This documentary explores Latino communities and identity in Appalachia and asks whether this group feels further marginalized in an area that many already consider isolated.
Produced by Dominick Spangler, Kevin Swiney, and Andrea Williams.
This film focuses on the lives of LGBTQ community members living in Eastern Kentucky and why they choose to stay in the mountains. With the new supreme court decision to recognize same-sex marriage, this film focuses on how this monumental ruling changes the way these couples think about their futures in the region.
Pickin’ and Screamin’
Produced by Tristin Cunniff, Cody Riddle, Skylar Griffith, and Trenon Barnette.
When people think of Appalachian music, they often think of banjos and bluegrass, but this film shows that the music in the region is much more diverse than that. This film focuses on the range of styles, from old-time to punk music, that is often played and sometimes overlooked here in the mountains.