Young filmmaker hopes to highlight McDowell people
Elaine McMillion l Filmmaker/Media Artist
May 2, 2012 ·
Twenty-four-year-old Elaine McMillion, a graduate of WVU and native of Logan County, is hoping to help McDowell County residents document their own history, and possibly direct a course for their future.
Jessica Y. Lilly: "So tell us more about this project you’re pursuing."
Elaine McMillion: "Hollow is an interactive documentary that aims to allow the McDowell County community to tell their own story. I came up with this idea after reading a book in 2009 called Hollowing Out the Middle."
"The book examines what’s happening in rural America with the young people leaving and what’s known as rural grain drain and what that means for our national economy."
"What we want to do is involve the community in the film making process by giving them cameras and allowing them to shoot their own environments and create representation of this new identity for themselves."
"Because if you Google McDowell County, it’s very frustrating that the images you get are people without shoes and dirty faces and you know there’s coal mining, there’s severe flooding and but you don’t see anything about the community spirit and there’s still a community fighting there and three’s still a lot of people trying to make changes in their local community."
"So what we’re trying to do is highlight those people and get everyone involved so that they can start communicating about the issues and start to work together to make changes. Because the issues in McDowell County are too severe for one project."
Lilly: "How important is that trust? Have you found that in meeting with the people in McDowell County or in Southern West Virginia that they sort of have a distrust of people in the media?"
McMillion: "Building trust in McDowell County has proved to be a challenge. I’m an outsider even though I grew up in Logan County I’m not from “MACdowel”
"It’s a challenge. Once you’re told so many times by the media that your community is full of people abusing drugs or you’re poor they’re poorest county in our state and nation or you have the highest unemployment rate you become distrustful to that force of media."
"So it’s a very big challenge making that trust but I’ve learned that the best way to do it is to be transparent with the people and to help them to make them understand that this is a different approach to the story. This is an old story industry leaving towns dying this story been told in documentaries in a lot of ways the ghost town story has been told but what we’re doing is telling the community you know we’re not coming in there and telling you what to say we’re asking you what you want to say."
Lilly: "The statistics of the drug abuse and the reality of the poverty in the area is still there. Do you plan to give any kind of background on that at all? How do you plan to address that or is it just completely up to the people on how they want to address it?"
McMillion: "One thing we are doing to address the long history and struggles is using data visualization on the website. So what we’re doing is we’re combining qualitative voices of the people with the qualitative voices of the people with the quantitative numbers and often times numbers are used a lone to provide shock value."
"Especially in short news articles they get the point across and they’re based on numbers and they’re easy to swallow but what’s not easy to swallow is to see the face of a person who’s dealing with the actual statistic. So the idea for hollow is that you put a face to the numbers and the numbers are what giving you the background."
Lilly: "How do you think this will make a difference? Do you think it will help to improve the stereotypes that West Virginia faces?"
McMillion: "I think this project will help to bring in a new image for Southern West Virginia . We’re going to try our best to bring a more multidimensional view to the people of that area that has been stereotyped for so long and I think the best way to do that is to share with the world the way the community sees itself and not the way an outsider sees them because the way the community sees itself is not through a stereotype."
The project is trying to raise $25,000 via the social media fundraising website Kickstarter. The money will pay for equipment and production needs. If the project reaches that goal, shooting is scheduled to start on May 14.