Documentarians Elaine McMillion, Tricia Fulks et al. crowdsource funds for interactive film “Hollow”

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Note from Editor: Guest blogger Tricia Fulks gives II readers an inside look into “Hollow,” an interactive film and HTML5 website set to launch in May of 2013, which they are currently in the funding stage using Kickstarter. As of May 1st, they have secured nearly $15,000 of their $25,000 goal with 12 days left. I encourage you to learn more about this project and help fund it if you see fit!

Growing up in West Virginia, I’ve had stereotypes hurled at me throughout my life. I’ve been asked if all my teeth are mine, whether my family and I wear shoes and own a television and if we date our cousins.

It’s embarrassing — and not true.

Anyone else who’s native to the state knows what I’m talking about. They’ve likely experienced it, too.

But a new interactive documentary, being produced by seven West Virginia natives this summer, will allow a community, where the hardships are many, to take the storytelling in its own hands.

Hollow” is an immersive online experience that will allow users to enter into the environment of McDowell County and understand the issues rural America and Southern West Virginia faces through data visualizations, documentary portraits, balloon maps and captivating soundscapes. The HTML5 website, which will launch in May 2013, aims to spark participation and encourages users to fully engage with the narrative to create their own experience.

The project is the brainchild of Elaine McMillion, a documentary filmmaker and MFA candidate and adjunct faculty member at Emerson College in Boston, who believes that interactive storytelling—both offline and online—can increase the local knowledge, develop engagement and build trust in a community.

Fifty profiles will be produced of community members in the county. Of those profiles, residents themselves will do 20 of them. We will hold three community workshops throughout the summer to teach community members storytelling concepts and participatory mapping. With the community taking part in the experience they will begin to create a new identity for themselves. With this new perspective of “self” and environment, the goal is that residents will begin to work together to make positive changes in their local community.

We’re currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, and we have the goal to raise $25,000 to cover production costs for the summer, including lodging, travel, workshop fees and cameras for the community.

But why should you care about this project and donate a dollar or two?

Because McDowell County’s story isn’t specific to that area.

At one time, McDowell County, booming from activity coming to the area from opportunities in coal, had 100,000 people inhabiting the place. Now, just over 20,000. Demographers see the area just years away from extinction.

But boom and bust situations don’t discriminate by geographic area. This is happening all over America. What the Hollow team produces in McDowell County will just be a snapshot of what is happening in other areas across the country.

So far, we have seen endorsements from a U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller; acclaimed documentary filmmaker and West Virginia native, Morgan Spurlock; and author and NASA engineer, Homer Hickam. We hope you throw your support behind Hollow, as well.

Tricia Fulks

Tricia Fulks currently is city editor at The Journal newspaper in Martinsburg, W.Va., and a freelance multimedia journalist. She is story director for “Hollow” and will go to live in the community for the summer after she completes American University’s M.A. program in interactive journalism in mid-May.

(Photo taken by Chris Jackson.)

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