On Tour: Newport News, VA

28 Oct

October 17th, 2013  |  FUREVER |  Newport News, VA

I’ve never been to Newport News before, though I have a friend who goes frequently and needs high-level security clearance (and he doesn’t work for DARPA or the military). As a result, I’ve always been extraordinarly intrigued by the city. With its rich Civil War history, I was hoping that my trip might coincide with some sort of war reenactment, but it turns out I’d missed the local extravaganza by a few months (which is a shame because it looked magical). I love that the VA tourism site for war reenactments proudly displays their tagline, “Virginia is for Lovers.”

I had to settle for some interesting roadside oddities, and, of course, most importantly, my screening/visit to Christopher Newport University.

I started the day at CNU doing a workshop with some aspiring student filmmakers and their amazing professor, Dr. John Nichols. We watched a clip from FUREVER and then discussed interview methods, the many things that go into making a film, the myriad equipment options, and how it all comes together in the end (essentially). They were attentive and curious and totally fun to hang out with.

10.17 FilmClubStudents

After leaving the absolutely gorgeous (and totally new) CNU campus, I was on my own until the screening at 7pm. I’d done a little research and my first stop was the Virginia War Museum, home to a number of strange exhibits, but, most intriguing to me, one of the world’s first (and last) atomic cannons! There were only 20 of these made (only eight left in the US). It was the only nuclear warhead ever fired from an artillery piece. I found an odd promotional video that the US Army made while they were testing it in the Nevada desert in 1954. The mushroom cloud, only 7 miles away (and the ensuing radiation), is pretty alarming; you can see why they retired it less than a decade later.

10.17 AtomicCannon110.17 AtomicCannon_firing_195410.17 war_museum_man_w_gun

Also on display: a segment of fence from Dachau that I found to be particularly disturbing, as well as a helmet worn by Harry S. Truman, the largest arsenal of combat gear, guns and ammo than I’ve ever seen, and a letter signed by Hitler (and far too much SS paraphernalia for my taste).

I was eager to continue my adventure. Next stop: The Muffler Man! I’ve visited many Muffler Men in various states (to me they’re up there with dinosaur parks), but Newport News hosts the best I’ve seen to date. And he’s actually holding a muffler (they’re often holding hamburgers these days). This one was also accompanied by one of the nicest muffler men around, Keven, whose grandfather constructed the attraction in 1965. My grandfather was a muffler salesman in Texas, so that may explain the allure.

10.17 MufflerMan3 10.17 muffler_man_w_namesake

We had a nice turnout for the screening, and Dr. Sherman Lee, a scientist, and Dr. Joy Cole, a veterinarian, accompanied me on the panel. They shared wonderful insights about grief, from psychological and scientific perspectives. Joy also talked a lot about her work with at-home and in-clinic euthanasia. She’s an amazing vet! And her daughter, Zenith, is the president of the student film club!

10.17 JoyAmyJohn10.17 DrShermanLee

Dr. John Nichols was the consummate host and moderator. He even passed along a gift from Barbara King, the author of “How Animals Grieve,” who wasn’t able to attend the panel. Thank you, Virginia, for the warm welcome and great screening!

10.17 book_BarbaraKing

10.17 ASPCA_Students

10.17 Arches_CNU

Post by OSIP Touring Filmmaker, Amy Finkel


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