Summer volunteers pitch in

Tariq Edwards, left, and Maddie Hilliard

The Gullah Gone documentary film is not on summer break. Four young volunteers are making critical contributions by transcribing interviews, posting online and helping edit footage. The big goal this summer is to emphasize our message: the goal of our movie is to help preserve Gullah land and culture.

In return, volunteers attend weekly Film School meetings to learn the Gullah Geechee heritage, its origin, and how the Gullah Project is advocating for the preservation of the Gullah Geechee community on Saint Helena Island.

Our two new students are Madison Hilliard, a Public Relations major at the University of South Carolina and Tariq E. Edwards, a Mass Communications major at Claflin University. Both are part of University of South Carolina’s SMART program in which USC faculty mentor minority undergraduate students through summer research projects. They are working with Associate Professor Denise McGill to create strategies to bring awareness to local communities, build relationships with our audience and learn about film production.

We sat down with the student researchers to talk about why they are giving up summer time and get involved:

Hilliard, a native of Anderson, S.C. states, “Gullah heritage is so close to home and so relevant in this day and age that I couldn’t help but be interested as soon as I heard about it.”

Edwards, from Dumfries, V.A. says, “I decided to become an intern so that I could get an in-depth behind the scenes look at an actual documentary that regards black life and culture.”

In addition, two recent graduates and returning volunteers, Jai-Anna Carter and Steven Tapia, have shown their passion and commitment to the project through numerous hours and in many capacities. The Gullah Project family appreciates all of our students for their interest and engagement.

The Gullah Project is passionate about its pursuits and love you to be a part of a great team.  For more information on how to get involved, reach out to us the info@thegullahproject.org

 

Summer volunteers bond while learning about Gullah culture

When you make a difference in the life of one, it creates a ripple effect. As we continue to put our creative minds to work and discuss the need for land preservation on St. Helena Island, seven students from USC and Columbia College collaborate with us each week and assist with creating a change.

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The Gullah Project’s summer volunteers are, from left, Rose Steptoe, Jai-Anna Carter, Xavier Parker, Demetri Kotsinis; seated, Melvonia Taylor, Brianna Morales; and not pictured, Steven Tapia-Macias. photo by Denise McGill

These students make up The Gullah Project’s summer volunteer team. They do a wide range of tasks that are essential behind the scenes of the film. As they transcribe footage, create posts for social media, assist our director, write blog posts, and do production research, our volunteers gain valuable, first-hand experience to help them in their careers and learn more about the importance of the project.

They also acquire knowledge from the film’s director Denise McGill and producer Sherard Duvall, when they attend Film School on Tuesdays. Here they learn more about visual communication, public relations, media arts, and Gullah/Geechee culture. We sat down with the interns and asked them a few questions about the internship.

Why were you interested in becoming a volunteer for The Gullah Project?

  • Jai: I am interested in the art of film and how it impacts the viewer.
  • Brianna: I love documentaries and appreciate the work put into creating them. I was also interested in learning more about Gullah culture.
  • Steven: I am interested in The Gullah Project because I believe documentaries have the power to educate the public and be a catalyst for meaningful change and participation. I am looking forward to learning technical aspects of production as well as post-production. Getting to learn more about the Gullah people is also a major reason for joining the project.
  • Demetri: I wanted to learn more about the Gullah culture as well as the process of making a documentary.

As a volunteer, what are your responsibilities?

  • Brianna: I am responsible for viewing and logging footage.
  • Jai: I am responsible for assisting with social media platforms, gathering visuals, and writing blog posts. I also monitor Gullah/Geechee upcoming events and happenings.
  • Steven: My responsibilities are to log and tag footage in order to make the editing process easier.
  • Xavier: My responsibilities are to be an assistant to the director and producer and log clips.
  • Rose: My responsibilities are to help with production research and logging footage.
  • Mel: I’m responsible for logging footage, writing blog posts, creating character keys, and assisting Jai with social media.
  • Demetri: My responsibilities are logging, tagging, and editing footage.

What have you valued most from this experience so far?

  • Rose: So far, being on a team with multiple backgrounds, goals, and responsibilities has been valuable and insightful to me. I usually don’t have the chance to interact with other majors in a setting like this during the semester. It’s helped me see how important interdisciplinary work and working with a team can be.
  • Xavier: I’ve valued learning from others and being around like-minded individuals who want to work in or are working in media-related fields. Creative people feed off of one another, and that’s how we grow.
  • Mel: I have valued the opportunity to learn from a photojournalist, since I would like to be one in the near future. Also, I’ve enjoyed attending Film School each Tuesday and hearing what each of the interns and volunteers have learned from the footage they’ve logged or transcribed. Knowing the film may impact many lives, including mine, is empowering because, as a person who’s interested in social justice journalism, I feel the message behind the film, preserving land in St. Helena Island, is a relevant topic and the film could create conversations that can lead to change.

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.