Tuesday, February 16, 2016

West Warwick and Westerly Are OUR TOWN Sites for 2016

When Rhode Island PBS put out the call in December for the next Our Town locations, residents from towns across the state stepped up. By the time the January 31 deadline arrived, it was clear that two towns had equally enthusiastic support.

"We are proud to announce that by popular decision, West Warwick and Westerly are the next locations for Our Town in 2016," said David W. Piccerelli, president of WSBE Rhode Island PBS. "We sincerely thank all those who submitted entries - community pride was clear - and we are thrilled about the winners." West Warwick will be featured in a documentary televised in September 2016, and Westerly will be featured in December 2016.

Piccerelli said enthusiasm has grown for the Our Town project - now in its third cycle - thanks to the fun and success of the first three projects. Our Town: Glocester, the first documentary in the series, debuted in December 2014, followed by Our Town: North Kingstown in September 2015 and Our Town: Portsmouth in December 2015. "The comments that we and the participants received in relation to each of these projects have been very inspiring. We're looking forward to building on that energy as we take the project now to West Warwick and Westerly."

Our Town is a community project wherein neighbors become filmmakers and tell the stories of Our Town. Part fund-raiser, part community builder, part historical and cultural documentary, and part "day-in-the-life" video scrapbook, Our Town shares with viewers the local legends, historical happenings, and backyard secrets of the particular town and its villages - untold or uncelebrated stories that capture the essence of the town.

"Our Town gives the community a platform to share stories and perspectives on the town in their own voices," Piccerelli said. "It's also a meaningful way for us to connect with our community."

Residents of West Warwick and Westerly are especially urged to participate, but one need not be a resident of the particular town - just have a great town story to tell. Planning meetings and a workshop lead up to two days allocated for filming. During the planning meetings, participants discuss and choose the subjects and locations they want to include in the documentary about their town.

"This kind of collaborative group project invites residents to be more involved with Rhode Island PBS, and with each other," said Jodi Mesolella, project director for Our Town, and director of membership and special projects at Rhode Island PBS. "The content is decided exclusively by the participants. They pick what will be in the film. If someone has an idea for a story, please come to the planning meeting and share it. We're looking forward to seeing what West Warwick and Westerly decide to do."

In each town, Rhode Island PBS recruits up to 20 to 25 volunteers with video cameras. For this project, there are no restrictions as to age or experience and there is no cost or compensation to participate. For those with a story to tell but no camera to capture it, Rhode Island PBS has a camera to lend by appointment and with a security deposit, which is fully refunded when the camera is returned.

"We will offer guidance, technical advice and support to our volunteers, but this is definitely their story as told by them in the community," said Nicole Muri, Our Town project producer. Video recorded by the volunteers will be edited together by Rhode Island PBS to create a one-hour film of each town.

The first planning meeting in West Warwick will be in March, with the technical workshop for the volunteer filmmakers planned for early April. The deadline for video submission will be mid-June.

Westerly's first town planning meeting will be in August, with the technical workshop and filming deadline expected in September.

Although dates for shooting footage will be set, videographers need not wait, and are encouraged to shoot footage of any relevant event or storyline anytime up to the deadline for video submission.

For information about joining the Rhode Island PBS Our Town project, and for details about meetings as the dates approach, visit ripbs.org/our-town/home, or call Jodi Mesolella (project director) at 401-222-3636, extension 209, Nicole Muri (producer) at extension 225, or email ourtown @ ripbs.org.