Christine O’Malley, Producer, If You Build It
It is always rewarding to screen If You Build It with a young audience. High school students seem to relate to the subjects in the film no matter how different their life may be from life in small town rural North Carolina. The first screening we had on our trip to Pennsylvania was with the students of the Captial Area School for the Arts (CASA) in Harrisburg. This school was an amazing hub of media creativity. After screening the film we had an interesting discussion about the craft and process of documentary filmmaking with local filmmaker Adrian Selkowitz. The discussion ranged from identifying a subject to music rights and clearances. It was inspiring to spend the morning with such a bright and accomplished group of young artists who are gaining an incredible amount of exposure to the filmmaking process through their talented instructor Caleb Smith.
Later that day we were taken on a private tour of the Pennsylvania State Library prior to a lovely reception and the evening screening at the Forum Auditorium, which was breathtaking. It felt like being in a grand old theater where you would hear an orchestra or experience classical theater. It was intimidating to imagine a small documentary screened in such a cavernous room, but the film looked wonderful against such an impressive backdrop. The audience was made up of a number of educators and librarians. The discussion after the film was engaging and I think the film resonated with many of the educators who could identify with the struggles endured by the teachers in our film. They were a wonderfully hospitable group and many of them were documentary enthusiasts who had seen other projects that I have had the pleasure of working on. One woman even pitched a reality series to me. So you never know where you may meet your next creative partner…
We traveled a couple of hours to Philipsburg to screen the film at the historic Rowland Theater for a group of high school students. This classic old movie house was a wonderful place to seek refuge during a cold, rainy afternoon. As soon as we arrived in town I could see the parallels between Philipsburg and Windsor, the town in our film. The audience was comprised of students and teachers who seemed to really connect with many of the issues and themes that are raised in If You Build It. While the Q&A began by asking questions specifically relating to the subjects in the film, the discussion evolved into a discussion about film and television and the opportunities for a career in the world of entertainment. One particularly enterprising young man already has a television series idea that he is ready to bring to a network. He wisely used the opportunity to gain a few pointers on how to take an idea from script to screen.
At the end of the event, the theater manager gave me a memento to remember the occasion: an ornament with a quote from Charles H. Rowland, the “father” of that theater. The quote, which is dated 1917 says, “I have felt that we should have a theater…that would anticipate the future, maintain our best past traditions, and reflect a progressive spirit.” I was struck by how timeless that quote actually is. It seems very much in line with the spirit of Film Forward and the value of bringing the community screening experience to all those who share in the appreciation of the art of storytelling.