Tag Archives: cumberland county college

On Tour: David E. Simpson reports back from Vineland, NJ

30 Apr

I had modest expectations rolling into the town of Vineland, in a somewhat run-down-looking part of southern New Jersey. The fact that the road leading into Cumberland County College was laced with strip malls and trailer homes did little to raise those expectations. I have nothing against trailer homes; they just don’t generally coincide with my core audience.

The road in to Cumberland County College

In addition, my prior communication with Greg, my host at CCC, was not encouraging: because of a scheduling conflict he had re-booked my show an hour earlier (which tends to cause half the audience to arrive half way through the film). On top of that, Greg said that the turnout for most shows in the film series had been so dismal that he wasn’t planning to re-up next year.

Not a good omen…

From the moment I arrived at the college, those expectations crashed up against a stranger-than-fiction reality that surprised me happily at every turn. The first shock was the campus: lushly landscaped and idyllic, and boasting a handsome, state-of-the-art performing arts center.

The campus

My excitement faded a bit when I learned that because this great theater was booked that night for Fiddler on the Roof, my film had been relegated to a lecture hall across the way.

No matter. As people started filtering in I soon found that this lecture hall was just where I wanted to be. The pic below was snapped when I first entered the room. The 14-year old girl on the right opined that this was the crowd that was too hip to go to Fiddler on the Roof. I couldn’t disagree. Before we got even close to screening time the audience barraged me with questions about technique, content, funding, you name it… I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more engaged audience.

The beginnings of a great audience

In the end, Gary said that my modest crowd of some 25 people was the largest in his series. I’m not sure my film can take the credit. I was the last of six films on this season’s tour, and I am guessing that awareness of the series spreads in the course of the year. I’m a veteran of three trips on the Southern Circuit Film Tour (which I take it that OSIP was partly modeled on). I have noticed that venues that have been part of the circuit for many years do the best with audiences, and I suspect that the cause-effect here is circular.

Anyway, we had a great old time at this screening. Afterwards, I talked for a long while with the couple in the center of the above pic. They were Vegans and Quakers. They sang in a choir. And they organized monthly gatherings with friends on their own to watch independent documentaries. The revamping of my preconceptions about this backwater-looking corner of southern New Jersey was now complete. Or so I thought. I had one more surprise in store.….

My screening over, I wandered over to check out Fiddler. This being a community college performance, my expectations were, well, you know…. Fiddler had started at 8; it was now 9:30 so I figured I’d catch the end. I ran into Greg in the lobby and he told me they were still an hour away from intermission (surprise #1). Then he told me he’d find me a seat because the 500-seat house was sold out (surprise #2). Then I walked in to the theater. There was a 30-piece orchestra that sounded GREAT. The cast was at least 40-strong. I arrived just before the scene in which Tevye recounts his nightmare. In the midst of swelling, dark chords from the orchestra and billowing smoke against a now-blood-red backdrop, a hideous figure soared into the air from behind the bed-board and screeched at Tevye while flying speedily around the stage. … I’m not much for traditional theater, but let’s just say I was blown away! The cast, music, staging, wardrobe… all were top notch! This is the last time I will judge any school, town or part of the country by its cover.

Exhausted from a long drive and from having my mind blown so many times in one night, I left at intermission, found myself a milkshake and went to bed, sans-nightmares.

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, David E. Simpson

To read more posts by this filmmaker, please click here.


On Tour: Finding an audience in Vineland, NJ

28 Mar

This screening at Cumberland County College has been, by far, the most diverse audience that this film has ever had in terms of age. I think every decade was represented in this audience up through 80. Maybe even 90, but I didn’t want to be rude and ask.

Then a family came into the theater: a mother, 3 teenagers and a 10 yr old. I was immediately convinced that they would leave halfway through the film out of boredom or because of the intensity and controversial material in the film. I told Greg, the amazing theater manager, my thoughts and halfway through the film, he came out of the theater and said, “It’s at the Nappygrams part and they haven’t left yet…”

Greg and Judith

Still I worried about offending this young person, the teenagers and the mom, and apparently so did, Greg, because before the really offending scene where Patrick Welch, the British creator of the Micromentalist Movement, intensely studies one of documentary subject, Amos Paul Kennedy Jr’.s, letterpress printed posters which boldly says, “Fuck You, I’ll Fuck Myself” Greg slipped into the theater and whispered to the mother that there was a questionable scene coming up in the film for the 10 year old sitting next to her. She smiled at him and said, “I’m a mother! I’ve already talked to them about it. It’s okay.” Greg left the theater and thankfully told me, because I was pacing back and forth outside the theater ready to intercept what I was worried would be a fleeing family so I could profusely apologize. I sighed in relief and parked myself in a chair and waited for the film to finish, so I could go in and engage the audience in what turned out to be a vibrant and engaging Q&A session about the film.

Everyone wanted to know the normal things like how does a “normal” person like me ever meet a person like Amos? Did I seek him out or run into him a mall? Or at a poster fair?  (For the record, I met him in College after the head librarian at the library I worked at told me his artist books were the best books in the library’s entire collection.)

 The one and only Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.

Then they commented on interviewee, Karen Weeks, one of Amos’ only young printing apprentices that had know Amos when he taught at Indiana University and had also learned from him when he lived in York and Akron, AL, because she was on a large exercise ball holding her baby and bouncing up and down. Apparently, by the 4th or 5th time that Karen came on screen, they could no longer focus on what she was saying, they could only laugh at the ridiculousness of her bouncing on screen, which made me realize how important it is to get feedback on a film from ALL AGE GROUPS, not just a group that is similar to your own temperaments.

They also asked about the use of the animation in the film, and I answered, “Look this was my first film, I was a newbie. I only had the original vision of animation for the introduction, because I wanted to open the film with the force of what I feel Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. to be. The rest of the animation was just because we had talking heads on screen for too long.”

Opening Title Sequence of Proceed and Be Bold!

I was so impressed with this audience, because they were so engaged and we talked for a good while. Vineland, NJ is a small town of about 70,000 people, and is in rural southern New Jersey. There are only buses along the main drag, and I couldn’t walk anywhere. I had to drive everywhere unfortunately, because my walking paths were all busy streets that were not walking friendly. From what I can tell, there is not a lot of access to art or art programming here, so people are really hungry for it and really appreciate it when they get it.

 Southern, rural Jersey ain’t so bad!

After the screening, I pulled out some of Amos’ posters that he sent me to sell for him on the tour, and some DVDs, and I think everyone at the screening bought at least one poster and I sold 4 DVDs. INCLUDING ONE TO THE FAMILY I WAS SO CONCERNED ABOUT!! I was so floored and touched. The mother told me that she loved the film and thought the message was great, and had to borrow $10 from her son to pay for the film. It was one of the sweetest, most touching things I’ve ever seen at a screening. None of the children looked traumatized either! It’s no secret that after each screening, Kennedy ALWAYS sells way more posters than we do DVDs of the film, because you can hang his posters on your wall and look at them everyday. But at this screening, in this small, rural, Southern New Jersey town, I sold the most DVDs I’ve ever sold at a screening. The other purchasers of the DVDs included a white woman in her 70s or 80s, an African-American mother who had brought her teenage daughter to the screening, and Skye, a friend I made on Goodreads, a social networking site for book readers, a few months back.

About 4 months ago when I was pretty new to Goodreads, Skye friend requested me because we had similar taste in books. I thought that was great, and immediately accepted her friend request.

A few months later, I got my final itinerary for the On Screen/In Person tour from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and saw that I was going to be in Vineland, NJ where my new GoodReads friend is from! So I wrote her that I was coming to her town and invited her to the screening. After the screening, she told me that she didn’t even know that Cumberland County College had a screening series! And I know that Greg has advertised the series like crazy and posted information about the series everywhere. How does one communicate with a community that is so spread out and unaware of events like this in their town?  My answer: the local Denny’s.

Denny’s is where to find the local community.

I know that sounds like an insane proposition, but after the screening, Skye and I went to the only place open at 11pm on a Friday night in Vineland so we could get some food, a stiff drink and geek out and talk about books The only place open that fit all of this criteria was the local Denny’s, and it was HOPPING!

There were families, high school kids who were coming out after some school dance, there was a security guard, because apparently this Denny’s can get a little out of control around 2am in the morning. We missed that action, unfortunately, but the security guard told us where we could go to see some action if we really wanted to. We really didn’t want to.

But the most amazing thing was how alive this Denny’s was with community and families. I told the woman who seated us that we don’t have security guards at the Denny’s where I’m from and I’m from Chicago! And she laughed and asked why I was in town. I told her that I was a filmmaker, and that I had showed my film at Cumberland County College that night. She asked me the name and I told her and assured it was okay that she hadn’t heard of it. She asked me if I had a copy so she could see it. And I said no, I didn’t, but in that moment, I so wish I had. I would have given it to her and asked her to call me to tell me what she thought of it. I wish I’d had 30 copies so I could have just given it away to everyone in the restaurant. I think when I can afford to, I’m going to print up a thousand copies and drive around to rural towns and just give the DVD away to people for free with a promise from them that they will call, email or text me what they thought about the film, and I’ll post all of the reviews on the website.

I still believe that the best way to reach people, to truly reach them is to show up in front of them, put your face in front of their face, get right in front of their eyes and put your words out right into their personal space, so they can experience your message right in front of them. That’s why the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation’s On Screen/In Person program is so incredible to me, and why I think it is one of the best, if not the best grant program for independent filmmakers that I have ever heard of or had the extreme pleasure to be a part of. I’ve only been to two screening locations so far, and I’ve already completely reworked my notions about what the audience for Proceed and Be Bold! is. Proceed and Be Bold! and the messages of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. can and does speak to anyone: rural, urban, old, young, any color, any gender, any political persuasion. He is a man unafraid of what he loves in life, and goes for it. Who doesn’t relate to that or want to do that as well?

Kennedy talking after screening of Proceed and Be Bold! at the Hamilton Woodtype Museum.

Back to my Denny’s idea: Presidential candidates tour the country and meet people in diners and coffee shops and hospitals (Do they do this? They should, because then maybe they’d see how dire our public health system is and how much we need National Health Care.) because that is where the community is, where the community breathes, exists, and lives.

In communities where there is no known or accepted center for the arts, you have to go to the local Denny’s to tell people about it, because that may be where the town hangs out and congregate. Based on my observations at this Denny’s for the short time that I was there, this is a town that likes to talk to each other and spend time together. There were families with young kids up at 11pm and midnight talking and enjoying each other’s company while Skye and I enjoyed our conversation. It was a beautiful thing to see, and I think if someone just walked in there and told them about the film series or hung up posters there and invited the community to come see a film and then go to Denny’s afterwards to talk about it, I really believe they would.

And here’s a photo of Jean Luc-Goddard, because everyone should watch his infamous film, Breathless, at least once in their life. My favorite line in the film is, “Live forever, then die.” So contrary and so Kennedy.

Special thanks to Greg and Judith at Cumberland County College, to all of the amazing audience members I had the pleasure to meet and talk to, and to Skye you tells me what good books to read and is the most avid and incredible reader I have EVER MET. And she’s only 24! You inspire me to become a better reader, Skye!

Post by Laura Zinger, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: Tony Heriza asks, “Where is the audience?”

22 Feb

Where is the audience for independent documentaries?

What brings people out of their homes to a public space to watch a documentary and talk with the filmmaker?  That is the mystery.

On our two recent tours with Concrete, Steel & Paint (through the South last fall and through the Mid-Atlantic states more recently) my co-producer Cindy Burstein and I have visited venues that have cracked that mystery — and ones that are still struggling with it.

Unfortunately, the last two stops on my On Screen/In Person tour – Wilmington, Delaware and Vineland, NJ – fell into the latter category. Despite efforts to promote the events, attendance at both screenings was disappointing.

When we were ready to dim the lights in the beautifully renovated Theatre N in the heart of downtown Wilmington, fewer than ten people had settled into the 200 comfortable red seats.

There were bright spots nevertheless. The film looked and sounded great and the discussion following the film was complex and personal. Several of the audience members worked in fields related to criminal justice. Another had a close family member who is currently incarcerated. Others in the audience had direct involvement in community mural making. Nearly every person contributed actively to the discussion.

And yet it seemed like a missed opportunity.  With a hundred people in those seats, the dialogue could have been even richer and the impact of the screening could have been much greater.

I am moved to write about this now because two nights later, I drove to South Jersey for a screening at Cumberland County College.  I was prepared for a small turnout, having heard that the venue had been having difficulty attracting an audience to the series.  This time 12 people were seated in an impressive 500 seat performance space. Again, great projection in a beautiful space… followed by an animated discussion. I do appreciate these things and I don’t mean to minimize the importance of having even a dozen people see and respond to the film and then wrestle with the political and creative issues.

But sitting among all those empty seats, I had to ask the question: Is this the best we can do?

I don’t pretend to have the answers for these particular venues. Each environment presents its own challenges. It does seem that conventional promotion – calendar listings and email invitations – are often insufficient to draw an audience to see a documentary film (whether the director is in attendance or not).

One successful approach with our film, Concrete, Steel & Paint, has been to partner with local organizations involved in either criminal justice or community arts, invite local experts to participate in the post film discussion – and then promote the event as an opportunity not only to see a documentary, but also to discuss local aspects of the issues.  On college campuses, professors have assigned attendance at the screenings. In some venues, advance radio or newspaper interviews have helped build interest.  These are not one-size fits all solutions, but they suggest the kind of additional steps that can help build an audience for documentary films, where it doesn’t already exist.

In the last few decades, the awareness and appreciation of the documentary form has grown dramatically, especially in large cities, but building audiences in small and medium sized towns still requires some creativity and determination.

I do think it’s a worthwhile goal and I’d like to thank the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and the local venues for supporting the effort.

Post by Tony Heriza, OSIP touring filmmaker

BEATBOXING heads to Vineland, NJ

2 Nov

This is my 6th movie series and it has been so exciting.While traveling to Cumberland County College, Vineland, NJ, amongst the wonderful colors of the foliage, I had time to reflect on the past 5 screenings.  It is such an amazing experience to meet all the people behind the scenes who have worked hard to organize and support these film screening events.

It’s a random call as to how many people take the initiative to show up at these screenings, but I do believe that every little bit helps to inspire and educate the public.  I met local seniors who attended the screening and they loved the documentary, which confirms that music is ageless.

From the foliage straight into the snow which hit the east coast hard.  As they say on Broadway ‘THE SHOW MUST GO ON’, and it did.

Mr. Gregory Hambleton, Director of Fine Arts, Mrs. Hambleton, staff and local volunteers, dedicated to the performing arts, could not do enough to make this successful.

There was a photo contest competition held for the community with prizes of $100 $75 $50. Abstract or realistic photo that in some way represents one of the 5 elements of HIP HOP: graffiti, DJing, breakdancing, beatboxing, rapping. The Photo entries were displayed in lobby and were judged by beatbox artists, Masai Electro and YoYoBeats.

Mr. Hambleton also had a local artist paint a graffiti wall to represent this event.

There was a live performance after the viewing of BEATBOXING-THE FIFTH ELEMENT OF HIP HOP, by two of the artists from the documentary, who entertained the crowd and even inspired tow of the audience to go up on stage and perform Beatboxing with them.  Masai and YoYo are both true, professional and extremely talented entertainers.  What a treat to have them.  Thanks fo Mr. Hambleton.

Masai ‘Electro’ Green who has performed on MTV and BET’s 106 & Park, intro’ed for Missy Elliot at the MTV music awards, performed for the Neptunes.

Yo Yo Beats, and is one of the artists featured in the movie.

George ‘YoYoBeats’ De Hoyos born in Manhattan ,of Puerto Rican descent. YoyoBeats developed his own style of Beatboxing by emulating baselines and snares from the Chic’s hit single “Good Times”. As a part of Combination Force crew, which was the first group to introduce Hip Hop in the some areas on the Island of Puerto Rico. In the mid 1980s YoYoBeats began performing in Puerto Rico with Lisa, Lisa Cult Jam and Nolan Thomas and appeared on some Spanish channels like Juventud 84 Channel 2 with the Ita Medina Dancers, Show de el Medio Dia in Channel 4 with los hermanos Vigoraux.  George De Hoyos was also the co-producer of the soundtrack on the documentary.

A big thank you to these guys. Terrific!

To contact these artists see: http://www.beatboxdocumentary.com/theartists/index.html

A little about Vineland – Vineland is a city in Cumberland County, New Jersey, United States. Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton are the three principal New Jersey cities of  Cumberland County.

After determining that the Vineland soil was well-suited for growing grapes (hence the name), Landis started advertising to attract Italian grape growers to Vineland. Thomas Bramwell Welch founded Welch’s Grape Juice, and purchased the locally grown grapes to make “unfermented wine” (or grape juice).  The fertile ground also attracted the glass-making industry and was home to theProgresso soup company. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, most of the city was involved in the poultryindustry, which led to the city being dubbed “The Egg Basket of America.  Millville’s recorded history goes back to the early 18th century. A sawmill was believed to have existed at Leaming’s Mill at around 1720.

Post and photos by Angela Viscido, OSIP touring filmmaker

On Tour: What’s ‘Organic’ About Organic? visits Vineland, NJ

17 Oct

As I rolled by the agrarian landscape of Southern New Jersey, I was delighted to see signs for a rodeo. I was super close to the metropolises of Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York; yet here were fields being cultivated, farm stands selling pumpkins, and cowboys gathering their lassos.

I had to keep driving though, in order to meet my host at Cumberland County College. When we met for dinner, Greg Hambleton told me he had attempted to organize an “organic day” on campus with activities like bobbing organic apples and selling organic apple pies as a fundraiser for the theater department to coincide with my screening, but unfortunately he confronted a major challenge that the industrial food system poses—any adaptation to the status quo menu or modification to the mechanized system of distribution they have created is avoided. Indeed, the company that holds the foodservice contract for the college told him it would be impossible for them to order the organic apples he was requesting. While his story was painfully illustrative of the shortcomings of the industrial system, we ended up enjoying a nice meal anyway and I was heartened to hear about his efforts.

At the end of the screening, as we talked about local food systems, one audience member talked about his appreciation for the relationships that develop when supporting local businesses. He told a story about his local hardware store owner who offers real advice on projects and has become a trusted source to help pick out the most affordable equipment. I told him that relationships with local farmers are similarly fruitful; when you buy direct from farmers, they tell you which herbs to use with which vegetables, how to properly cook pasture-raised meats, and introduce you to interesting new foods. Indeed, a more functional local food system might result in a local farmer having a college market for his/her produce, and maybe even organic/ecologically grown apples!

Of course, I mentioned that “local” isn’t the “end all be all” concept to think about when attempting to eat with an ecological conscience, though. I mean, chemicals bought and used locally that lead to local groundwater contamination and local cancers/health issues aren’t really what people want to support. Thus, the environmental elements of the equation need to be discussed with local farmers.

I find, though, that it’s best to simply engage in a conversation with local farmers about their farms. What the challenges do they face with regard to pests and diseases? How do they deal with them? Avoid putting them on the defensive, simply by expressing your interest in the way your food is grown and showing your empathy toward their process. You can let them know that you care about the ecological consequences of food production and that you value organic methods.

We also talked about the challenges that low-income folks face in seeking healthy food. I talked about the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model and how affordable it can be.  In NYC, my roommate and I ended up paying $15/person/week for an abundant share of fresh, local, organic food. We could have never eaten that cheaply shopping at grocery stores in the city. In addition, CSAs often have work shares and payment plans available to accommodate different household budgets.

Finally, I mentioned my pet peeve phrase: “vote with your dollar.” This notion bothers me on several levels. The idea that our rights and responsibilities as citizens are degraded to a fundamentally consumer behavior—shopping—is insulting to our democracy. However, I understand the sentiment behind the phrase; the choices we make in the marketplace do have an impact one way or another.

In my opinion, though, the concept of becoming a “food citizen” is important. This way, we consider the nourishment that we ingest not just as products that we buy, but as part of a whole system that has a place for our responsibility in it.

A food citizen thinks not just about what’s going into his or her own body; a food citizen thinks about who grew it, how it was grown, what type of seed propagated it, what types of exchanges were made along the supply chain—were they fair and equitable? It’s my hope that people who view What’s Organic About Organic? will begin to ask themselves these types of questions more often. If we can all become better “food citizens,” then maybe we have a fighting chance to change the system.

 Post by Shelley Rogers, OSIP Touring Filmmaker. Look for more from Shelley in December, when she wraps up her tour in the US Virgin Islands.

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