Summer student volunteers advance production

By Kate Chatman

Team Gullah is expanding significantly this summer with our largest group of students in history. Ten students from diverse backgrounds get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Gullah Gone: Preserving the Land, Water and Culture of the Sea Islands. Some students are volunteering to enhance their interest in media careers, while others want a chance to learn about Gullah culture. Ranging from sophomores to graduate students, the group has been trained to log and transcribe video footage at the University of South Carolina. They help sort through the backlog of imagery, sifting through interviews and organizing B-roll while highlighting the most pertinent quotes.

“Students are making a real contribution,” says Denise McGill, director of the film. “Plus, they add a lot of energy over the summer. It’s never dull around here.” The volunteer and work study program is speeding the process up tremendously, allowing the rest of the team to focus on story planning and editing. In addition to logging footage with Adobe Premier software, students share extra duties based on their experience and fields of study.

The volunteers include Alex Wyatt, a second-year student studying visual communications and marketing; Hannah Clingman is a third-year anthropology major; Valencia Abraham is a fourth-year student studying visual communications; Teleshia Toney is a fourth-year student majoring in media arts.

Anthropology major Kate Chatman works as production secretary, keeping the office organized this summer. John “Spud” McCullough, a doctoral student studying sociolinguistics, researches Gullah images in online library archives. Tiffany Jones, a doctoral student in anthropology, is a researcher. She also logs interviews with the most difficult Gullah dialects.

In addition, three student volunteers aren’t even from the University of South Carolina. Ashli White, a second-year student at Queens University of Charlotte studying business administration, is volunteering while at home in Columbia for the summer. Phoebe Johnson is a third-year mass communications major at Benedict College.

Maura Estes, a senior at Bandy’s High School in Catawba, N.C., even came for a few days to help work behind the scenes. She and the director met when they both screened short films at Myrtle Beach International Film Festival in April.

In addition to providing hands-on training, Team Gullah leaders host weekly workshops. These meetings allow volunteers to get to know one another better, and receive further training. Topics have ranged from interview techniques to a discussion of movies by filmmaker Pare Lorentz. “I feel like it provides good anthropological experience and exposure,” says Clingman, who volunteers about 20 hours per week. “You learn so many new things about Gullah culture.”

Volunteers realized their significance to the project when the footage they had logged was used in a trailer for the film. As of August 3rd, the trailer has received over 15,000 views. Several volunteers plan to stay on through the fall, and the team is looking forward to a productive rest of the year. For opportunities with The Gullah Project contact Production Manager Alex Cone at conealexb@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Gullah Project goes to Charleston

2016-chsiff-laurel-filmWe are proud to announce our film has been accepted to the 9th annual Charleston International Film Festival. The Gullah Project will screen Saturday, November 5th in the 2 PM block of short films at Charleston Music Hall. 

The entire film festival takes place November 2 – 6 in downtown Charleston.

It’s an honor to be invited to such a prestigious festival. We hope many of the stars of the film will be able to join us. St. Helena Island is 45 miles down the coastline, but it’s a 78 mile trip by car.

To find a complete list of screenings for this documentary film please visit the Screenings section of our webpage.

 

 

Profiles of the Gullah: Brandon and Jordan Johnson

Profiles of the Gullah: Brandon and Jordan Johnson from Denise McGill on Vimeo.

Siblings Brandon, left, and Jordan Johnson have lived on St. Helena Island their whole lives. Each year they work to raise collards, sweet potatoes and sugar cane with their grandfather, Ben Johnson Jr. Then the whole family helps to sell the produce at Heritage Days Celebration in November, and they all share the profits.

SCETV program explains connection between Gullah and African coastlines

I’m expanding my knowledge base by finding films and books about Gullah culture that I’ve previously missed. I’ll share some of them as I make my way through. Many thanks to Amy Shumaker @shu2833, executive producer at #SCETV, for providing links to some of these hard-to-find programs!

Recently I saw Family Across the Sea, a 57-minute documentary film by Tim Carrier that originally ran on South Carolina public television (SCETV) in 1990. Carrier follows a group of Gullah people from the United States as they travel to Sierra Leone to visit the lands of their ancestors. It’s a moving story with some surprising connections between the two cultures.

The film explores the similarities in geography, culture and language between the Sea Islands of the United States and the west coast of Sierra Leone, Africa. The first connections were discovered by Lorenzo Dow Turner, an African-American linguist who made  hundreds of recordings of Gullah speakers and songs in the 1930s. He discovered some of the exact same songs in Sierra Leone.

Gullah delegation experiences highs and lows on their trip. The most  painful event is the visit to Bunce Island, where most of their ancestors were loaded onto boats for America. Another moving scene is an interview with villagers in Sierra Leone. They knew many of their people were kidnapped years ago, but never knew what became of them. The high point is easily the reunion between the Americans and the villagers, who welcome them as long lost relatives.

The plot moves back to South Carolina where Joseph Momoh, President of Sierra Leone, visits the Penn Center in 1988. His visit solidifies recognition of the ties between Gullah and Sierra Leone cultures. As a result Gullah speakers, often ridiculed for their “uneducated” dialect, have a new pride in their heritage. Their language becomes an important link to their motherland that is worthy of preservation and academic study. That pride continues to this day, where Gullah continues to gain appreciation as a rare piece of the American experience.

Family Across the Sea SCETV program http://www.folkstreams.net/film,166

Film festival screenings bring awareness to Gullah/Geechee culture

Our team created a seven-minute overview of The Gullah Project to mark our progress. We entered the overview into film festivals as a short documentary. We are excited to report that out of nine entries, The Gullah Project overview was accepted into five festivals. It screened in five cities this spring.

The screenings have raised awareness about Gullah culture for audiences all over North America. There is little knowledge of Gullah history outside of the Southeast United States. At Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival, few people in the international community had ever heard of the Gullah. Festivals hold a Q&A after each screening so viewers can learn how the film was made. Director/Producer Denise McGill was able to attend four of the festivals.

Film festivals are valuable because they provide feedback. Just to be accepted at so many venues is a very positive sign. Met professionals in the industry who take an interest in our project, offer good advice about further contacts, possible team members, next steps and distribution. Share ideas with other filmmakers and bond. Learn from their previous mistakes and successes. Spread the word about Gullah history and St. Helena Island. Learned what elements of our film are most engaging to the audience. How the film industry works. Set realistic goals. Join network of filmmakers with similar passion and causes.

Currently working on one-hour film with the goal of airing on public television. Since getting feedback, our team has made changes to the script, and continue editing. Nearly all the filming and field work is complete. Now we are fundraising. Funds will allow us to add major talent to our team, top professionals who can polish the visuals, audio, graphics, and soundtrack for the film.

Unfortunately, the overview is not available for the public online while it is at festivals. We’ll let you know when there is a way to see it.

 

 

The Gullah Project accepted to the 14th Annual Female Eye Film Festival

The Gullah Project has been accepted to the 14th Annual Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto, Canada.

The Gullah Project will screen in an International Documentary Program block on Wednesday, June 15th. Among the films in this block are The Nike Chariot Earring directed by Karen Audette and feature film Following Kina directed by Sonia Goldenberg followed by a Filmmaker Q & A session.

Female Eye Film Festival is an international film festival dedicated to women directors uniting film enthusiast, international women directors, celebrities, and industry professionals such as film and television screenwriters and producers. Their goal is to not only support the advancement of women directors but to promote equality and empowerment for women everywhere through cinema.

To learn more about the Female Eye Film Festival please visit their official webpage at http://www.femaleeyefilmfestival.com/

To learn more about future screens of The Gullah Project please visit our Screenings page found in our main menu.

The Gullah Project nominated for Best Documentary at Cape Fear Independent Film Festival

The Gullah Project was nominated for Best Documentary at Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in March. The winner for Best Documentary went to Lee’s 88 Keys, directed by Susan Robbins. She also won the award for Best Female Director.

Despite not taking home the award, Cape Fear Independent Film Festival was a huge success for our team. The small venue provided an intimate setting to meet like-minded individuals with a wide variety of experience. Through them, we learned a lot about the art of filmmaking.

It was useful to get feedback from festival-goers about our project. Viewers confirmed that the strongest element of our film is the people of St. Helena Island. We are truly gratified that viewers responded this way. People were very generous with helpful comments. It was a great affirmation for our work.

The Gullah Project will screen at Charlotte Black Film Festival this Saturday, April 9th at 10:00am. Make sure to visit our Screenings page for other listings.

 

 

The Gullah Project selected for two prestigious film festivals

The Gullah Project has been officially selected for two prestigious film festivals.

Cape Fear Independent Film Festival will be held in Wilmington, N.C., a destination located in the Gullah/Geechee Corridor, March 10th – 12th 2016.

Festival dates for the 6th Annual Charlotte Black Film Festival are April 6th – 10th, 2016 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

We look forward to attending both festivals and seeing the official 2016 selections.

School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Research Roundtable Series Presentation

On Tuesday, January 26th Director Denise McGill presented an update and discussed the process of making The Gullah Project at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Research Roundtable Series.

In attendance were fifty students and faculty members, all who have been following the progress of this documentary film. Also in attendance were two of The Gullah Project’s production assistances Ali O’Hara and Michael Tolbert. Both of which commented on their involvement with the film. O’Hara discussed the process of selecting the appropriate music that would resonate with Gullah/Geechee culture. Tolbert discussed obtaining a Magellan Grant, which allowed him to travel to the island to film as well as his involvement with building the multimedia site for the film.

McGill has been working on this documentary film since 2013 and has been employing students in order to give them real world and on location experience outside of the classroom.