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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