November 29, 2011

A Thousand Little Cuts

Chad Stevens is working on a film and needs help. They've set up a print auction fundraiser, selling some really fine prints shot by some really fine artists. Proceeds will be used to complete the film A Thousand Little Cuts, a six-year documentary project exploring the grassroots movement to stop the highly-destructive mining process, mountaintop removal. The main character, Lorelei Scarbro, a tenacious grandmother of two, fights for green jobs and renewable energy projects in her community; but with a brother working on a mountaintop removal mine and a son-in-law working for Massey Energy, the risks are grave. In a place where blood and coal tie families together, Lorelei’s campaign to save a mountain could destroy the very thing she’s fighting for: her family.

Find more here:

From Chad:

The road to Cumberland, Kentucky is all switchbacks, the asphalt snaking up and down Pine Mountain. My students and I had driven this road many times during the weeks we traveled to the small coal-mining town to make photographs, but this time we stopped near the peak. And we watched.

In the valley below us, great machines were moving earth and stone – building more access roads for the coal trucks. To the west we saw a barren bulge in the landscape – once a great mountain, now it was shaved flattop by dynamite. As we began to roll on toward our destination, the sun rose, lighting the ridgeline and the morning fog boiling in the valleys.

I realize now, six years later, that was the moment. Anti-mountaintop removal activists have a saying: “We all have THE moment – the moment when we knew we had to do everything in our power to stop the most destructive assault on Appalachia in history.” They started making protest signs and organizing rallies. Others brought chains and locked themselves to bulldozers. Some marched to Washington to lobby legislators. I started taking pictures.

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky on the far western edge of Appalachia. I stumbled into a photojournalism class in college and discovered that I was in the top school for documentary photography in the country and that I loved telling stories with the camera. I interned at newspapers, then at National Geographic Magazine. I lived in Uganda creating my first multimedia projects on rural education programs and AIDS orphanages. I used the camera to fight what I found wrong in the world, letting the characters in the projects voice their own stories, empowering them and informing others.

Now six years after my “moment,” I have transitioned from a documentary photographer to a documentary filmmaker. As I made those first images and began exploring the hills and hollows of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, I realized the stories here were complex, perhaps even beyond what can be captured in a 35 mm frame. I began recording audio. HD video soon followed, then the new HDSLR system. Simultaneously, I began editing short documentary films at MediaStorm, a social advocacy documentary production studio in New York in 2007. I produced and edited projects that were nominated for two News and Documentary Emmys, won one Webby for Documentary, won a Silver Baton in the Alfred I. DuPont Journalism Awards, and the Online News Association Award for Video Journalism.

I moved back to southern Appalachia so I would be able shoot as the story continued to unfold, and now, 250 hours of footage later, I’m nearing the summit: the completion of my first documentary film, A Thousand Little Cuts. I’m in the final stages of production and have completed several trailers, extended teasers and am now assembling scenes. It is absolutely the most challenging project I have ever attempted. It’s a dynamic process layered with excitement and fear, hope and loss, connection and empowerment. But it was never a choice to be made. I have to do it. I had to take the first steps on this journey. It’s who I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment