All posts in Documentary

  • Documentary Blog #25 – A little something about the people of Booneville, KY

    The last couple of blogs have been about my experience in Booneville, KY and what I have observed.  Yes, I have seen some people being treated badly and I note it here because I want you, the reader, to understand everything I am seeing and experiencing.  Just as I was open about my initial feelings about making this type of documentary I need to be honest about the experiences, where we stayed, who we have met and how those people have affected me (good or bad).  I have an opinion and observations and need to point them out so that you can get an idea of what's going on in my mind since this documentary is about my journey and experiences.

    This is one of my new friends, Dave. He just loved the fact we paid attention to him. He is just a good 'ole boy with a great personality.

    That said, I DO NOT want you to get the wrong impression about my experience with the people of Booneville.  These people are the nicest, friendliest, most caring, benevolent, gracious, curious, sweet, endearing, charming, genuine and most wonderful people I have ever known.  Many of these people don't have the proverbial "pot" in which to piss but they are happy, simple (in life but not in mind) and content.  I can't tell you how many times people wanted to have us over for dinner.  It touched me in ways I have never experienced.  I couldn't imagine not having a lot of money or food and then asking someone to come and share what little I do have.  To me that is unfathomable but to people we met it is their way of life.  Sure, many of these people moved away to get work because they had to but ultimately returned here to enjoy life.  It is one of the most beautiful areas of the country.  And, while the restaurants don't cater to my (mostly) vegetarian diet I still enjoyed eating there and sitting at a table never knowing who will come up to the table and site down with Kaleb and me for lunch, dinner or just to talk about life.  The people like Linda Marcum (owned the place where we stayed) and Cleda Turner are some of the most colorful and interesting people I have met and others like some of the people I will talk about in my post tomorrow are those I genuinely care about and want to know what happens in their lives.

    The Hometown Cafe. If you ever make here make sure you order dessert and ask for "gobs" if you want a lot or "a smidgeon" if you just want a little.

    My trip to Booneville has been the most eye-opening and life-changing trip I have ever taken and all of these people have a very special place in my heart.  Sure, some people said some things to make someone cry or weren't as friendly as other people in the community but we all have different personalities and styles and you find that behavior no matter where you live.  I am not judging these people for their style but think there may be better ways to solve a problem and I merely point that out in my observations.  I will always have a piece of Booneville in my heart, have some wonderful memories and am happy to call many of the people Kaleb and I met my friends.  I would encourage anyone and everyone to get to Booneville for hiking, bike riding or just wonderful company at the local greasy spoons!  I know you will walk away with a different outlook on life and could possibly make a new friend or two.

    This woman and her family own The Hometown Cafe. She got to know Kaleb and me pretty well.

    Tomorrow I share out time at the Senior Center and our gift to the Hollan Family. See you then, Seth

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  • Docuementary Blog #24 – Monthly food program with Susie Lacefield

    Tuesday morning came quickly and Kaleb and I were excited about what the day had in store.  We were heading to Susie Lacfield's place called "The Food Place" where she distributes food and commodities and, as we learned, furniture to those in need in Booneville once a month.  Fortunately we happened to be in town when this occurred.  Ok, it wasn't fortunate.  I planned the trip to make certain we were able to film this process.  Susie is the wife of Pastor Jerry Lacefield and as you can imagine their work is like many of the others in the area.... mission work.  Susie receives donations from a variety of organizations and people to distribute to the people of Booneville.  She has two buildings that house all of her items.  The first is a converted motel that houses a lot of the food getting distributed and still serves as a hotel for the missionaries coming to the area (this is where the people from North Carolina stayed while in town distributing furniture).  Thee second is the old jail with houses loads and loads of clothing.  Apparently there are some really nice items there but I never went into the two-story jailhouse to see for myself but had heard from several people including the people from North Carolina so I will have to take their word for it. Back that "The Food Place" there is an area of the property where Susie keeps clothes available for people to just come and take or sort through.  She also allows people to bring their old clothes and exchange them for other items within those boxes.  The boxes are underneath a patio type structure and are available 24/7 for people to come and rummage through.

    This is the area in Booneville known as "The Food Place." It also serves as a motel for missionaries traveling to the area.

    So we arrived at the location about four hours early to conduct our interview with Susie, have lunch with her and her volunteers and get the food boxes put together and ready for distribution.  We wanted to talk with her about the programs and assistance she offers, how she got her start and how important this food program means to the people of Booneville.  Susie works directly with God's Pantry (which is a program of Feeding America) in Lexington, KY and has to drive up to Lexington to get the food and bring it back to Booneville to distribute it.  As you can imagine, it's a challenge to drive 1.5 hours each way to get whatever food is available and pass it out to the people of Booneville.  Here she feeds whoever she can with whatever she gets.  It's also interesting for me to see the differences between Meals on Wheels and Feeding America since I have seen Meals on Wheels in action in Los Angeles, San Francisco. Marin County and Orlando thus far and this is my first exposure to Feeding America programs.  We conducted our interview with Susie and then went to her home to have lunch.  Waiting for us at Susie's home were several people who work directly with her as volunteers.  It was a great spread of homemade delights such as chicken salad, corn casserole, potatoes, croissants and tea.  It was all very tasty and Kaleb seemed to enjoy it a little more than me since I don't anything with mayonnaise and almost everything there had mayo in it.  I stuck with potatoes and croissants.   One of the women also brought a great chocolate cake so I made up for the lack of lunch food with dessert! 🙂

    Susie Lacefield - Legally blind she runs the food distribution with the help of God's Pantry and Feeding America.

    After lunch we ventured back to "The Food Place" and started getting the boxes put together for distribution.  Susie has a system where people have to fill out forms to get their food.  I know it's something she has to do since she receives federal commodities and has to keep track of all food going in and out of her organization.  People get one box of food and anything else Susie has around her place to help these people out with their food or clothing needs.  But before all that can happen we have to food in boxes.  We have about 1.5 hours to all the boxes together.  I think there something like 60+ boxes of food that had to be assembled that day so we all took a product and using Susie's checklist we went through and began loading boxes with the canned food for the people of Booneville.  The boxes consisted of the following items:
    • Box of cereal
    • Bag of beans (Pinto,  I recall)
    • Canned sweet or creamed corn (2)
    • Crackers
    • Peanut Butter
    • Potatoes (Bag of potatoes)
    • Canned Green Beans (2)
    • Canned Cranberry Sauce (1)
    • And a choice of meat ("Cooking Meat" - that's what they called it - or Canned Tuna Fish)
    The most interesting part of the food boxes that day was the "Floor Cabbage."  When we arrived at this location on Saturday to film the furniture distribution I  noticed some plastic palettes (the kind you see bread being stored in) sitting on the floor.  These palettes were filled with heads of cabbage and I wondered when those would be getting to people and today I learned they would be going in the food boxes.  Susie asked me and the other volunteers (one of which was Melanie Thomas who I had met on our first day and had seen several times throughout our stay) to put the cabbage in the boxes.  When I went to grab the first head of cabbage I placed my hand underneath the head to pick it up.  When I did I felt this grotesque, gelatinous goo seeping onto my hand.  It was disgusting!  It was clearly the head of cabbage beginning to decay and the pieces of cabbage were turning into liquid.  It smelled worse that anything I could imagine.  But we all put them in the boxes because these people can still use this cabbage and just cut off the bad end.  I hated having to see people eating this way but that's the reality of hunger in America - you get what you can and make the most of it.  Furthermore, we all know canned vegetables have ZERO nutritional value with the exception of canned tomatoes but canned corn, green beans and cranberry sauce have little to no nutritional value and are loaded with sodium but it's what they have to eat and what they are getting that day for better or worse.

    This was shot before the food distribution took place. Most of the food you see here was given away a few hours later.

    Now, I didn't take any photos that day outside of the ones you see here.  The area was completely cramped with food, boxes and people as well as the volunteers helping to take the food out the vehicles of the people receiving the items.  I wanted to stay out of the way and just observe that day.  It is an incredibly small area so I would have been in way and I just enjoyed talking with the people about the program and what it means to them.  We did get some good interviews and video of the process so that will be included in the final project.  All in all, I think it was a good day for everyone involved.

    One of Susie's volunteers, Melanie Thomas

    OBSERVATION Susie Lacefield is a nice woman and completely different from Cleda Turner.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying one is better, more effective than the other.  They are both trying to do good things for the people of Booneville and have completely different approaches.  Susie is more of a micro-manager who seems completely disorganized and frazzled at times while Cleda is more laid back and seems more about the personal relationship and connecting with people.  Susie cannot operate without her list (again, THE LIST) and likes to boss people around and yell at them including her volunteers.  It comes across that everything could go completely wrong at any given moment.  But that's what makes this world great.  We are all different people with different approaches and styles.  I have experienced many people who operate in the same manner as Susie and are quite effective - they just get everyone else around them freaking out and running around in a crazy manner but it all works out in the end.  I just hope these two women can continue to make progress and help the people of Booneville while inspiring others to make a difference. SIDE STORY The distribution starts at 3:00pm and lasts for about an hour or until when everyone has their food boxes.  Around 2:20pm a woman pulls up in her car to drop off clothes in the clothes boxes and look for new clothes for her children.  She is between 25-30 years old.  About 2:30pm one of the volunteers comes out and tells her she is going to have to move her car.  The woman acknowledges this and says she'll be done shortly.  About five minutes later Susie Lacefiled comes out and yells at the woman to move her car.  The woman, now in tears, comes over to me and starts talking to me wondering why people are yelling at her.  She said, "All I am trying to do is drop off some nice clothes my children have grown out of and get some new ones for them.  Don't they want these nice clothes for kids?"  Again, this was all said while she was in tears because she had been yelled at for trying to do something nice and take advantage of the generosity of free clothes.  So the woman wiped away her tears and went back to looking through the boxes of clothes.  10 minutes later at 2:45pm another volunteer (not Melanie but another woman whose name escapes me at the moment) came out and yelled at this woman to move her car again (keep in mind the food distribution doesn't start for another 15 minutes and there are no other vehicles trying to get into that parking area).  At that point I had to say something.  I turned to volunteer and asked, "Don't you want people coming here and taking advantage of the clothes while dropping off come really nice children's clothing for others to use?  Why do you have to keep yelling at her?"  The volunteer turned to me and said, "Well, I have told her three times to move her car.  {The volunteer then came closer to me and in a loud whisper said) Yeah, but she's on drugs!"  It was said like a third grade student telling the teacher on a fellow student for cheating on a test or not using the right color crayon in a art assignment.  It was completely silly. Now, I don't know if the woman dropping off clothes was on drugs.  At times she seemed to talk fast but that could be contributed to the tears and emotions but I don't know about the drugs thing.  Needless to say, when the volunteer said this I was appalled!  Aren't they supposed to be Christians helping their fellow man and not judging?  The woman exchanging clothes left long before any other cars we directed into the parking area and had done her business.  But she, along with me, were left with a lasting impression of "Christians" judging and condemning people.  I guess this begs the question, "Wouldn't this world be a better place if we all stopped judging people and just tried to live our lives while helping and caring for our fellow man?  It's up to us to make changes and make this world a better place. More tomorrow. Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #23 – Hangin’ with Cleda Turner

    Monday came around and Kaleb and I were looking forward to hanging out with Cleda Turner.  We spent a little part of Sunday with her when we attended her church but today was different.  We were driving around with her and going to visit some “shut ins.”  Now, I had never heard that term before but it’s what they call people who live in their homes and cannot get out or around to get a lot of food; either they are in wheelchairs, old and frail, have no transportation or, in one case, blind.  They rely on people like Cleda to bring them food and anything else they can get.  I shutter to think what would happen to or what life would be like for these people if someone like Cleda (and many others around this world) didn’t help or care.

    Owsley County Outreach

    We started off by gathering some food at Cleda’s place of work (The Owsley County Outreach Center) commonly known as the Booneville Thrift Store.  Here Cleda not only sells clothes but she also keep food for seniors AND children.  Cleda provides clothing and food to the people of the area and her primary focus is feeding the children of the area through her “Backpack Program.”  This is similar to what you see in other cities where children are given backpacks of food on Fridays so they have enough to eat on the weekends.  Unfortunately, some of this food doesn’t get to the children because their parents or parent’s friends or rats get to the food before the children do.  But, that’s another story I can share if you are interested in knowing – just send me an email or personal note on Facebook.  She sells clothes at the thrift store and every $7 of goods sold provides one backpack for a child in the area.  So you know Kaleb and I had to buy something from the thrift store.  I bought an Owsely County shirt (as seen below) and I still have it and wear it with pride.

    Cleda Turner and me hanging out at The Outreach

    Once the car was loaded with food for the seniors we went out to meet people and distribute the food.  Our first stop was at some rent controlled apartments in Booneville just down the street from Cleda’s store.  Then again, EVERYTHING is just down the street from Cleda’s store.  Here we were visiting two people.  The first is Frank and as you can see in the picture below he lost his hands but had his two big two surgically placed where his thumbs would normally be located.  He lost his hands in a factory accident in Ohio.  Originally from Booneville, Frank moved to Ohio to get work and then moved back to his hometown.  This is not uncommon as there is really no work to be had in the area.  It was great to get to know Frank and like many people in Booneville Frank finds his strength in Jesus and seeking the glory of the kingdom of heaven.

    Frank sitting in his chair in his rent controlled apartment in Booneville, KY.

    Our second stop in the apartments was to a man named Pat.  Pat is in a wheelchair and has been for a number of years.  He is married to a sweet, wonderful woman named Ruby.  Pat is just a good ‘ole boy who has a gravelly voice combined with a southern accent.  At times it was hard to completely understand everything he was saying but he always said it with a smile.  In fact, his wife Ruby never finished a sentence without a smile on her face.  You know, it’s meeting people like Pat and Ruby that help to make this trip and my journey of discovery worthwhile.  It would be easy for me to get down, saddened or depressed with everything I am experiencing in Booneville but meeting people like Pat and Ruby or Cleda or the Hollan Family or Melanie Thomas (more about Melanie in the next blog) or the people clogging their way into my heart at Dooley’s Diner makes it so much easier for me to tell this story.  It’s amazing what a simple smile or laugh can do to a person’s psychological and emotional well being.

    Pat and Ruby.

    We left the apartment complex to visit a woman named Alfa.  Alfa is blind, rents a house and (at the time we were taping) is taking care of her grandson, his wife and their baby.  There is so much I could say here about Alfa, Frank and Pat.  I think I could devote a blog to these people but I have to keep it as an overview and you will get to know all of them a little better in the finished documentary.  We talked with Alfa for about a half hour and also spoke with her granddaughter-in-law about the situation in Booneville and what it’s like for a young person growing up in that area.  But the one thing that concerned me more than any other at Alfa’s was how much people were smoking and around a newborn.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely NOTHING against smokers and completely support your right to do whatever you want to your body.  However, when we went into Alfa’s house we were greeted by a massive cloud of smoke and all three adults (Alfa, her grandson and her granddaughter-in-law) had cigarettes in their mouths.  The two younger adults had cigarettes hanging out of their mouths while holding the baby.  I’m no doctor but I can guess that’s not completely healthy for that baby and its developing lungs and respiratory system.

    Alfa sitting at her table with some food we just brought her positioned in front of her.

    Alfa's granddaughter-in-law and her new baby sitting on a couch in Alfa's house.

    We left Alfa’s house and went to visit Martha.  Before I go any further I have to note here that, once again, I could devote an entire blog posting about Martha, her current situation, her past situations and her lack of hope.  I have to stay on target here and talk about what we were there to do that day and that was to make her life a little better by bringing her some food.  If you want to know more about Martha and her life just send me an email or a note on Facebook.  But, as my friend Cleda has said, “Martha can make you laugh and cry in the same visit.”  When we walked into her house I couldn’t help but note the smell of cat urine and how completely dark and depressing her place was.  We talked with her for about an hour and learned some horrific things about her life, the death of her youngest son and how she takes care of 5 grandchildren (they actually live with her).  It saddens me that she is not getting food because she has many other mouths to feed.  Did I mention she lives on about $700/month!

    Martha sitting on her porch. She just looks so sad.

    But what really weighed on my emotions/thoughts about these great people of Booneville was something Martha said when we were leaving.  I started asking all my interviewees “What gives you hope knowing you are in situation where people have to bring you food and your not in a financial or physical condition to improve your circumstance?” with the hopes I would get some great answers that I could sprinkle throughout the film.  Martha’s answer was (and still is) the only one of it’s kind when she replied to my question by saying, “Well, I guess when I die I will get to meet Jesus.”  It’s a short reply but a very powerful one and she conveyed to me that her only hope is meeting her maker.  That makes me sad that people of this world and in this country of overwhelming wealth and decadence have the thought that death is their only hope for a better life. On Monday I will share with you our time with Susie Lacefield and her weekly food distribution program.  See you then. Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #22 – Free Furniture, Clogging and Old-Timey Church

    Kaleb and I got up Saturday morning and went out to meet up with one of our contacts, Susie Lacefield, to check out what’s going on with the day’s events.  We were told there would be a massive furniture delivery/drop to the people of Booneville.  We left our hotel and made drove the five minutes to “The Food Place” (and, yes, that’s the name of Susie’s location) to get the camera ready and survey the situation.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect because we hadn’t been told a lot of information other than some people were coming in today to deliver furniture to those in need in Booneville.  The event was taking place in the late morning so we arrived about a half hour to an hour early to get ready.  When we arrived we noticed a massive semi-trailer already parked in its location and some people were standing around.  We learned that this furniture wasn’t something Susie had coordinated rather a church group from North Carolina had been gathering and collecting furniture for well over six months with the final destination of Booneville.  This church group from North Carolina contacted a group called the Appalachian Resource Ministry (ARM) to discover with whom they should contact to facilitate this delivery.  The ARM put them in contact with Susie (her husband is a pastor of a church in Booneville) and she organized the day by determining who would receive this free furniture.  I’m not really sure how Susie ultimately determined the people who would receive this furniture but she had her list of people and what they would receive long before Kaleb and I arrived.

    Hopefully this gives you an idea of just how much stuff was delivered to Booneville by the great people of North Carolina

    It was our second full day in Booneville so Kaleb and I just wanted to sit back and watch what happens and get to know the people of this poor but warm and friendly city.  Also, during this time I started talking with the people on site who were either from North Carolina or who work directly with Susie Lacefield.  Over time I quickly befriended and young woman named Stacy and her husband Ashley who were part of the group from North Carolina.  Stacy and I instantly bonded and had a lot to talk about.  And, just like everyone else I had met thus far, she was friendly, warm and caring.  I learned a tremendous amount about Stacy and her husband Ashley that day and genuinely like and admire them.  Moving on… I wanted to inform all the people in attendance that day that they were being filmed and were going to be part of the documentary.  With that formality out of the way, it was time to start shooting the furniture delivery and watching people graciously accepting and taking away this “new-to-them” furniture.

    Kaleb getting a shot of an elderly man loading a sofa into his truck in Booneville

    The semi trailer that was brought onto the lot was completely full of furniture and there were some items that were clearly used at scratching pads for cats but there were really nice items there as well.  They had brought everything including sofas, chairs, washers, dryers, refrigerators and other pieces and parts.  It was pretty impressive to look inside that trailer and see all the furniture that was getting ready to be placed in new homes.  The people getting the furniture started arriving around 10am that morning and the distribution of goods got underway shortly thereafter.  It was great to see all the people of Booneville eagerly wanting and needing this furniture.  This was really my first exposure to a lot of people in Booneville.  Keep in mind that on the previous days I met with our contacts, a few men at Dooley’s and the old man who owned the property of the barn I photographed.  This was really eye opening to me to see so many people in need.  And, all the people I met this day were appreciative and truly thankful.  It was a nice change of pace considering I am used to so many people in this country having an “entitlement” attitude.

    Kaleb taking a break while shooting the furniture loading

    We spent several hours watching the furniture getting handed out and then loaded on trucks/cars or whatever they had to transport this back to their homes.  I also took that time to talk with the great people of Booneville and start to get to know them.  One family I met, the Hollan Family, was so incredibly genuine and nice and I enjoyed talking with them.  The first person I met from the family was Nannie (yes, that’s her real name) and then I got to know her daughter-in-law Stormy (who was originally from San Diego) and I briefly spoke with Stormy’s husband Simon but could tell they were just great people.  But, I spent most of my time talking with the people from North Carolina and learning more about how they were helping the people of this area.  During this time we were dodging rain clouds and moving in and out of the building to get shelter and stay dry.  The group tried to cover all the furniture but the people receiving the furniture were gladly accepting the pieces regardless of their physical condition or dampness.

    Susie talking with one of recipients about the furniture. Behind the woman in the white sweater is my friend Stormy Hollan. To her right is Nannie and the man with his back to us is Simon Hollan.

    A BRIEF SIDE STORY There are some things I noticed that also perturbed me while I was there but I have to keep in mind that I am a making a documentary and have to stay neutral.  And, I am not here to judge but to convey what I am seeing.  That said, I would only point out one item I noticed that made me angry that day.  Let me put it in the form of a question – Can we please get away from LISTS and only helping or catering to the people on a “List?”  I, along with several other people, saw a woman who was not on the list of people getting the furniture.  She was in tears and waited for hours just to get something to take care of her and her children.  We learned that she only had 5 mattress pads for the children and her to sleep on and NOTHING else.  She was trying to make a new life for herself and just wanted help.  But, because she was not on Susie’s list she was told, and I quote, “You’re not on the list and won’t be able to get anything.  I think you should just go home.”  Susie’s logic was that the furniture on the truck was already allocated to the people on the list and there were no extras.  Ultimately this comment from Susie Lacefield brought that woman to utter sadness and a face full of tears.  Fortunately, Stacy (the great girl from North Carolina) heard this story and told me there was more furniture on the truck than what had been allotted to the people on the list.  So, when Susie wasn’t looking or had gone into the building for something, Stacy told the crying girl to go and get her vehicle and she would take care of her.  The crying girl went to get her vehicle and was given a sofa and other furniture so she could take care of her family and begin to start her new life.  My point in sharing this story is about getting people off LISTS and just helping our fellow human beings! BACK TO THE MAIN STORY At the end of the day Kaleb and I wanted to interview the people from North Carolina (Donald and Kathy) who organized and coordinated this event.  I asked them if I could ask a few questions of them for the film and they agreed.  They did provide a stipulation by saying, “You can ask us questions as long as we get to ask you some questions when it’s (the interview) over.”  I agreed.  We spoke about what they were doing, how the received the furniture, how long it took to make this happen and how we can do more to help our fellow man.  When the interview concluded Kaleb and I were asked the questions from Donald and Kathy.  As you can guess, the questions were about… Jesus.  We talked for about a half hour on Jesus this and Jesus that.  Now, I don’t believe in Jesus but believe in being a good person.  What I loved about our conversation was that neither party judged each other and was able to “agree to disagree” without losing respect for each other.  We also believed that we (Donald and Kathy and Kaleb and me) were not that different in our approach to living life and helping our fellow humans; we are just taking different paths to achieve this goal.  As my friend Craig Cox once said, “Agreeing to disagree while still having respect for one another is a lost art in America.”  Well said, Craig!

    This is the entire group of people from North Carolina who came to Booneville with a truck load of furniture. In this picture are Donald, Kathy, Stacy, Ashley and Shannon. I forget the rest of the names of the others here.

    Shannon with the truck he drove to Booneville. The trailer was donated by the company for which he works. Shannon is a great person.

    Later that night, Kaleb and I went to Dooley’s Diner to see the live Bluegrass band and cloggers that gather upon this place on Saturday nights.  We had such a great time meeting with people, immersing ourselves into their culture and listening to some great music and stories.  We had a great time and even got on the dance floor a couple of times to try our luck at clogging.  Needless to say, we sucked!  The following day we went to church with Cleda Turner (as I had promised her).  It is called Sugar Camp Baptist Church and, for someone who had hoped to never step into a church again, was as pleasant of an experience as I could have hoped.  The people of this area are very religious people and I completely respect their beliefs.  However, I don’t plan on going back to church any time soon. 🙂

    The Band at Dooley's Diner playing a mixture of Country, Bluegrass and Rock. The guy with the banjo told some great stories in between songs.

    Cloggers in action at Dooley's Diner on a Booneville Saturday night!

    Sugar Creek Baptist Church - Religion is very much still in style in Booneville

    Pastor Tim of Sugar Camp Baptist Church.

    See you tomorrow, Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #21 – Linda’s Victorian Rose & Applachian Assimilation

    Kaleb and I got into Booneville on a Thursday night.  It took forever to find our hotel (again, I use that term loosely and don’t really know what else to call it) since this place had no physical address.  Eventually we found our hotel and we were driving up this long, winding driveway up the side of a hill.  Initially we parked at the house where our place was located but Kaleb pointed out that the driveway continued around the house and up to another house at the top of the hill.  That was where we were staying.  So we got back in the car and continued up the rest of the driveway to our location.

    The view from Highway 11 when coming into Booneville, KY

    I am referring to the place we are staying as a hotel for lack of a better term since it’s not a “Bed & Breakfast” and it is a an old schoolhouse that was converted to a 3 bedroom house with a kitchen, a living room and an extremely small bathroom.  The bathroom is only slightly larger than most bathrooms you find in 3 star hotels in Europe but it's a bathroom with a door, toilet and hot shower - and to me, that's all we need!  This schoolhouse was built many, many years ago (I think something like over 100 years ago but am not completely certain) and hasn’t been maintained as well as one would expect.  The first thing that hits you when you walk in is the overwhelming, musty smell and then your eyes are confused as to what to focus on since there was so many confusing patterns and colors.  It looks like Cracker Barrel and Sherman Williams had a snarling “devil baby” and then that baby threw up all over the place.  It was quaint and, in some strange way, charming.  But, it was home for Kaleb and me for the next 10 days.  We are staying in the converted house while Linda lives in her home which happens to be an old, converted Church.

    This is where Kaleb and I stayed during our entire time in Booneville, KY

    Our hotel is called Linda’s Victorian Rose and is owned by Linda Marcum.  We got to officially meet her the following morning since we had arrived a little later than expected and we didn’t want to disturb her.  I instantly felt secure about our belongings and safety when Linda (a 70 year old woman who can beat the snot out of most people I know) informed Kaleb and me that we’re completely safe and if anyone comes up to the property to do any harm then she will pull out her shotguns (note – this is plural on purpose) and “take care of ‘em.”   With that piece of mind, Kaleb and I went into town to meet up with our two contacts – Cleda Turner and Susie Lacefield.  We wanted to say “HI, “ let them know we were in town and start to get a feel for the city and people.  The reason for staying Booneville for 10 days is because I believed it is important for Kaleb and me to be completely immersed into the culture and earn the trust of the people of Booneville.  I have heard people in Appalachia have a tendency to be a little leery of outsiders so the sooner we can earn their trust the more information we can gather and the better the story will be in the end.

    Linda Marcum of Lind'a Victorian Rose in Booneville. Don't cross this woman - she'll kick your ass! 🙂

    Kaleb hanging out with a mannequin in Linda's yard. Linda has some interesting and eclectic decorations throughout the property.

    We met up with our contacts and were told to just drive around the city, go to the restaurants, talk with the locals and get a feel for the area.  That process took all of 30 minutes considering the city is unbelievably small only has literally three restaurants and not much to do in the way of entertainment.  So we decided to head to a restaurant called “Dooley’s” where the men of the town get together everyday and sit at the main, long table in the middle of the restaurant.  The table is called “The Table of Truth and Knowledge” and it’s where all the men gather ‘round and solve all of the world’s problems.

    One of my contacts and now a friend for life, Cleda Turner.

    We walked in and it instantly reminded me of that scene in “Animal House” when Boone, Flounder, Pinto and Eric Stratton walk into the “Delta Lake Club.” Here there are four white guys walking into an all black nightclub and all eyes in the club immediately turn to the new people in the room.  Well, that was the feeling Kaleb and I experienced.  But, as soon as we asked the men at the table if we could join them they gladly welcomed us and started talking with us about anything and everything.  Obviously most of them wanted to know where we were from and what we were doing in Booneville.  They didn’t ask in a defensive way but more out of curiosity.  Kaleb and I could tell these people are just good people who appreciated someone taking interest in their story, area, history and culture.  We felt completely at ease around these men and enjoyed hearing their stories and learning about the area.

    Dooley's Diner in Booneville, Kentucky. I LOVE that old RC Cola Sign!

    We stayed for a while and decided to have lunch.  All of the food at this restaurant was fried and provided nothing really healthy or nutritious and about 95% of the people in that restaurant (and what we have noticed in the city so far) were smoking.  But, that’s part of this area and I am not here to judge but rather convey what I am seeing and experiencing during my time here.  After lunch, we went to the grocery store to get some food for our stay and drove around the area to see as much as we could.  It started raining that day (and this was a sign of more things to come) but we made the most of our drive around town to see and learn as much as we could.  Before stopping at the grocery store (the only one in town, has exorbitant prices and a really bad selection of fresh fruits and vegetables), I wanted to snap a picture of the barn seen below.  So, I asked the property owner if I could take a photo of his barn and he said, “knock yourself out, son.”  It was great and brought a smile to my face as it, once again, proved that these people are more friendly and welcoming than we could have ever expected.

    This is the old barn I was able to photograph while driving around and acclimating myself into the Appalachian culture and community.

    In the post tomorrow I share our first weekend in Booneville, which includes a semi load of free furniture and Kaleb and me going to an “old timey” Baptist Church (how, lightening didn’t strike that church is still perplexing to me). See you tomorrow, Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #20 – Preconceived notions about Appalachian people

    I flew from Orlando to Indianapolis to pick up my videographer (Kaleb G.).  I had one night to stay in Indy before making the four and a half hour drive from Indy to Booneville.  While I was in Indy I was able to attend the funeral viewing of a someone I truly enjoyed and liked and someone who had been a part of my extended family for as long as I can remember.  I absolutely hate funerals and viewings because I hate seeing the person laying in the casket and think funerals are more about the people living than the person who died.  Wanting to not approach the casket, I saw son of the woman who had died and spoke with him for some time to offer my condolences and inform him how much I thought of his mother.  She had fought a courageous battle with cancer but ultimately lost this fight.

    From Indianapolis, IN to Booneville, KY

    While at the viewing I ran into some family members and I got to explain what I am currently working on with the film.  When asked where I was off to next, I let everyone know about my upcoming trip to Appalachia.  (I should note here that while on my way to Appalachia I was able to stop at the funeral home with Kaleb in tow and he was patiently waiting out in the car while I was talking with people about Appalachia.)  I wanted to keep my explanations brief since I had Kaleb waiting and wanted to get moving and arrive in Booneville, KY before nightfall so I didn’t have to drive through the mountains at night.  I also have to mention that the place we were staying didn’t really have a physical address so I needed to be able to see where I was going to arrive safely.  Keeping that in mind I wanted to keep my conversations short with the family but everyone wanted to catch up with me and impart me with their “knowledge” of Appalachia and the people of the area.

    Owsley County, Kentucky - Home to the city of Booneville, KY

    I started hearing horror stories about the people of that area and to make certain I was always aware of people trying to steal my things.  One relative warned me to not take any drink (beer, I think was mentioned) from someone that has already been opened because they are going to try to drug me.  Thankfully I was traveling to a “Dry County” so I didn’t have to worry about that.  I was told to not tell people how much our gear costs or to make certain we always have our doors locked because you don’t know what people are capable of doing.  Furthermore, I think someone mentioned something about the possibility of disappearing if people thought I wanted their drugs.  Frankly, I had not really thought about the people of Appalachia in this manner but their warnings started to get me a little nervous.  I knew the area was the poorest area in the country based on my research and is an integral part of my story since I am juxtaposing the area with Marin County.  There was really no turning back now.  Our hotel (and I use that word loosely) was paid for and I have a documentary to make so Kaleb and I departed the funeral home and made our way to Booneville.  While I was driving I was replaying every warning just given to me and then realized something… all the warnings people just gave me are no different than how I live(d) my normal life in Los Angeles, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, San Francisco or Orlando.  I started to laugh and just focus on the documentary because, after all, there is crime and theft and debauchery in every city in the world and I cannot let come preconceived notions scare me from getting to know the people of Booneville and find a great story for the documentary. Tomorrow – My first two days in Booneville and meeting some of the greatest people to date. See you then, Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #19 – Every Documentary Needs “Hope”

    If you truly know me, the real Seth Hancock, (and I’m not referring to some of my friends on Facebook who think I am the same person they knew from high school or have an idealized perspective of me from my days as a television personality), then you know I am a complete optimist.  My wife even says that I trust people too much and always look for the good in people.  Some may think it’s a weakness but I think it’s a strength to have this quality.  I am always looking for the good in people.  Unfortunately, this outlook leaves me fairly disappointed with people and businesses at times. That said, I am compelled to provide hope in this documentary because I truly do believe this Senior Hunger issue is one we can remedy or at least move in the proper direction to remedy.  As I have stated before, the United States is the wealthiest and 9th fattest country in the world so money and food are NOT an issue in America.  So, why can’t we feed our fellow citizens?  As I traveled to Orlando, FL and spent time with Seniors First I started to get really excited that there is hope for our seniors.  While Seniors First tries to take care of all the seniors in the Orlando area we all know they can’t take care of everyone.  However, they have a great business model in place to successfully work hand-in-hand with the city, county and community leaders to get funding and services needed to provide seniors with the resources to maintain a dignified and product life.  WOW!  Did I just sound like their spokesperson or what?!?!?  That was a little frightening. I have chosen to make Seniors First my “HOPE” element for this documentary because of what they provide and how they do it.  I think all documentaries need a solution or at least an idea of a solution.  Sure their model may not work in Des Moines but I bet the people of Des Moines can learn a thing or two from Seniors First considering the state of Florida has, as we all know, the largest senior population in America.  By the way, I have no idea why I singled out the state of Iowa it's just a simple, random location I pulled out of the air.  Since I am not a “doom and gloom” type of person I really want to show that we CAN take care of our seniors by providing some of the simplest of services and by just giving our seniors some attention. Tomorrow starts my life-changing trip into Booneville, KY.  I am writing this blog as a recollection of my journey while making a documentary.  Therefore, I have already experienced everything I am stating here so I hope to can successfully recall and re-tell everything I experienced in Booneville and I hope my writing will do this part of the journey justice because it truly is a life-changing period for me and I hope it can be for you as well. See you tomorrow, Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #18 – Checking Out Seniors First in Orlando, FL

    First off, I want to apologize for taking a break for the last week.  I have been really focused on getting additional funding, sending information off to major groups and emphatically promoting my Kickstarter.com page.  Plus, I needed a week off from writing and being tied to my computer to start capturing the footage from what has been shot so far.  The faster I get organized the more efficient I can be at editing.  That said, back to the story… Hanging out in LA was getting pretty boring to me.  I was so pumped to get out on the road and start getting more footage for the documentary.  After meeting Carla Laemmle and being in Marin County, I had started to become more and more interested in this story.  It was all coming together and I couldn’t wait to get out and see more, hear more stories and meet some great people.  The next group on the list is “Seniors First” in Orlando.  I had spent a lot of time on the phone with this group as well as sending several emails to the organization.  I really had work on this organization to establish trust but that didn’t bother me.  This organization has been around for 45 years and takes their commitment and responsibility to seniors very seriously.  I don’t have a problem with that at all.  I actually admire the fact that they are guarded and protective of their seniors.

    Seniors First in Orlando, Florida

    I found them to be interested and receptive to what I am creating and that they are going to be the “shining star” of the documentary.  However, before I could anoint them as the “shining star” of the documentary I had to check them out and make certain the story I was going to tell about their organization was true.  Basically, I had to make certain that everything they told me and what I read on their site was actually happening.  We all know people can make themselves look incredible on an internet page.  It’s like dating or finding someone on Match.com.  You can read their profile, look at their picture and converse over the phone or email but until you actually meet that person there is some uncertainty.  If you cannot tell, before meeting my wife, I have had my share of meeting some women on Match.com who had not lived up to their profiles or pictures (and, I am sure the same could be said about me).  We all love to make ourselves out to be great when trying to “sell” ourselves to someone else.  I digress… I finally made my way to Orlando and had my first meeting with the good people at Seniors First.  My contact, Jan Ingrando, was waiting for me and wanted to take me out to some of the community lunch programs.  I have to stop here and tell you all why I wanted to feature Seniors First.  While researching them I noticed they offer and provide home delivered meals (meals on wheels) but since I was already covering that with Carla in LA and Victor in Marin County, I wanted to find a different angle from Seniors First that would allow me to tell a different story and one that shows how seniors can be helped in a variety of ways.  That’s when I noticed their Community Lunch Program.  This is where seniors can meet at county or city community centers and interact with other seniors, get lunch, play games, workout, swim and just feel like a social human being.  Seniors First also provides transportation for those seniors needing it.  They seem to be a well-oiled machine.

    Helping to pass out lunch at one of the community centers for seniors

    So, I get there and meet up with Jan.  She, along with Lisa McCrystal, took me around to several community centers/gathering places.  During this process, I watched the way people interacted with Jan and Lisa.  You can tell a lot about organizations and their involvement with the people who benefit from their services just by sitting back and watching the interaction.  I thought, if I see the seniors benefiting from the services not knowing who these women were or the leaders at the community centers had no idea who these people were then it would be abundantly clear they had little to no involvement in the lives of these seniors and they were just, well, posers.  However, to my relief, Jan and Lisa were well respected, accepted and welcomed into each community.  The reason I say “relief” is solely selfish.  I wanted Seniors First to be a great organization and I didn’t want to have to go back to the drawing board and find another shining star of the documentary.

    Standing outside the Community Center in Christmas, Florida

    I will talk a little more about Seniors First tomorrow and will explain what I mean by  “Shining Star.”  See ya then. Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #17 – Overall costs and why I’m asking for $.

    As many of you know I have been asking (repeatedly) for money to be donated to this project.  And, I can openly admit that it has been hard to raise additional funds for this project.  A friend of mine warned me that it would be difficult to raise funds for this project because most of society doesn't find anything remotely related to senior citizens to be "sexy."  At first, I thought he was wrong and I was going to prove him wrong.  After several attempts to raise money and failing I am starting to see that he is right about it.  I guess this topic isn't as appealing to the masses as I had thought and must seen more as a niche project even though this topic is one that will affect ALL of us.  This confounds me. Recently, I have been really trying to promote my donation page on Kickstarter.com in an effort to raise money to tell this entire story of Senior Hunger and Ageism in America.  With any documentary, one needs money for travel, production, post production, food, etc.  So, I want to share the cost of a trip I am trying to make to Washington, DC just to show how the costs break down and why getting additional funds is so important.  Please understand that really good documentaries FIND the story and don't just TELL the story.  That's the difference between a news program and a documentary.  Most news programs just tell the story, travel to a city and are gone the next day.  With a documentary it's important to stay in an area, talk with the people, discover what's happening and determine what is the best story to share with the viewer.  You can't do that with a phone call or an email.  One has to immerse his/her self into that area or situation to find the story. That said, I just want to show what the breakdown of costs will be for a videographer and me to travel from Los Angeles (me) and Indianapolis (videopgrapher) to Washington, DC for a three day interview with the Administration on Aging and the United States Department of Agriculture.  We will not use a rental car or have parking and gas costs.  But we will have other expenses like taxis and subway tickets.  Here is the breakdown of costs and this is just a snapshot for going to 1 of 6 cities in my overall film:
    • Videographer Day Rate: $500/day x 3 days = $1,500
    • Roundtrip Airfare for Seth to DC = $330.10
    • Roundtrip Airfare for videographer to DC = $246.30
    • Hotel in DC (3 nights) = $1.267.51
    • Per diem for Videographer: $50/day x 3 = $150
    • Taxi to/from airport, baggage fees for all gear, subway tickets, food for Seth = $400
    • Total Cost = $3,893.91
    The money I am scheduled to get from Kickstarter.com (as of today) is $2,671.00 (minus 5% fee from Amazon - about $131.00).  That leaves a difference of $1,400 that I need to come up with to actually get to DC and I have no idea where I am going to get those additional funds.  These costs listed above are minimal  and I am working very lightly.  Most documentaries/film productions have much larger crews than just two people (as I am using here).  So I am already working as efficiently and frugally as possible.  Also, please keep in mind that I have given up my photography business until this documentary is made, therefore, I have no income and have already spent around $3000 of my own money on this project. Lastly, I am wearing many, many hats to make this documentary.  I am the producer, director, editor, audio engineer, photographer, on-camera guide, voice-over and researcher.  I don't have a production staff working on this with me and need all the help I can get.  Those of you reading this blog - if you know anyone who can help then please pass along my website, email address and kickstarter.com page (as of today there are only 10 days left to donate). I just don't want this great documentary fall short in sharing this incredibly important message because of a lack of funding.  PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN! Kickstarter.com - http://kck.st/hof7M7 Seth

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  • Documentary Blog #16 – Back in LA and then leaving for a month

    Once back in LA I had to start digesting everything I just saw and learned in Marin County and how I was going to incorporate it into the overall story.  Honestly, I think I will worry about that once all the footage is collected.  I know I got some great interviews and stories in Marin and now have to focus on the what’s next.  And, since I am making a documentary about seniors I can’t leave out the great state of Florida.  I had been researching several organizations in Florida over the last month or so but hadn’t picked a location or organization.  Then my wife informed me that she was going to Orlando for a conference and asked if I wanted to tag along.  Since no organization had really grabbed my attention thus far I thought I might as well start researching Orlando and I am certainly glad I did.
    Condominium Los Angeles

    Back home in LA

    In my first look at Orlando I came across an organization called “Seniors First.”  They have been serving seniors in Florida for around 46 years and once I started looking at everything they provide I knew I had to have them as part of the story.  You know, every documentary has a “shining star” or at least one area of hope.  In a lot of docs I have seen there is always one great example of someone doing something right and I knew I had found it in Seniors First.  Now, I just had to talk with them and convince them to let me come down and film them for the documentary.  This can be harder than you think.
    Seniors First, Orlando Florida, Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Disneyworld

    Seniors First in Orlando, FL

    Don’t get me wrong, Victor with Meals on Wheels in Marin County is doing some wonderful things but is limited by his budget and services and a government that doesn’t seem as if it wants to support his efforts.  But with Seniors First they really have a tremendous amount of services and would be the ideal addition to the documentary.  Also, please understand there is a considerable amount of research involved and I just didn’t read their web page and get all “gaga’ over them.  I am paraphrasing and condensing this blog in order to make it short but thorough and keep you informed without boring you with the minutiae of my everyday acts and thoughts.  Unless you really want to know all the explicit details then I can start including them.  Like now, for instance, I have to pee! 🙂
    Owsley County Kentucky, Booneville, Poorest Place in America, Town, Appalachia

    Owsley County, Kentucky - The poorest place in America

    Anyway, I am still working on securing my additional trip to the poorest place in America.  As I said before, since we were at one of the wealthiest areas in the country I then have to go to the poorest and see how the stories are similar or different.  That place is Booneville, Kentucky and I have already made a couple of contacts there as well.  So, once I talk with Seniors First then I should be able to make the trip to Orlando and Booneville before coming back to LA and seeing where I have the money to venture off to next.   Tomorrow – Costs are adding up and why I am asking for $ donations!

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