Group of filmmakers plan stops in Miss. Delta

Published 5:24 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Group of filmmakers plan stops in Miss. Delta

GREENWOOD (AP) — More than a dozen filmmakers from across the nation are visiting Mississippi this week with a goal of creating original projects about the Delta.

The visit, part of the National Black Programming Consortium’s 2007 New Media Institute, will include 28 filmmakers and involve projects covering a variety of media, including location footage and interviews.

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Organizers say the trip will include three sites on the Mississippi Blues Commission’s Blues Trail — the WGRM studio building on Howard Street in Greenwood, the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale and Hickory Street in Canton.

While exact schedules for production were left up to the filmmakers, they plan to film Tuesday and Wednesday and do post-production work Thursday.

Also on Tuesday, two filmmakers from Ghana will meet with the group at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena and show some short films — “kind of a cultural exchange,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, director of programming for the National Black Programming Consortium.

This is the second year for the institute. The first was held in Boston, and organizers said people there recommended Mississippi as a good place for this year’s event.

Fields-Cruz said she had never been to Jackson before traveling there in March to scout locations. The state’s rich African-American heritage made it a good choice, she said.

“What we really want to try to capture is the African influence in the Delta and the blues,” she said. “We’ve also opened it up to other cultures.”

Another theme of the event is the cross-generational nature of blues music and its influence on young people.

“In addition, I think we’re just trying to support and create media for cultural institutions that are celebrating the music of Mississippi,” Fields-Cruz said.

She said the organizers had had met with designers of the B.B. King museum in Indianola, which will open Sept. 13, 2008. Allan Hammons, the museum’s marketing director, said the collaboration had been in the works for months.

The filmmakers will develop digital content for the museum or the blues trail — two economic-development entities that will have an impact on the Delta, Hammons said.

“It’s really kind of an experimental thing, but it intrigued us,” Hammons said.

Steve LaVere, who owns the WGRM building, said that while he had not been contacted about the filming, the project should have a positive impact if the films reach a significant audience.

“If there’s even one well-known filmmaker among the 28 that are making this trip, I think it’ll be a good thing for everybody,” he said.

Fields-Cruz said the filmmakers were selected through online applications. She said 36 or 37 submissions were sent in, almost triple the number they had last year. Some of the participants have received money from the consortium before, and others have submitted material to it. Notices also were sent to public television stations to encourage more submissions.

She said some of the filmmakers are just starting out, and others have been working for 15 to 20 years but wanted more training in new media. The films will be in a variety of formats suitable for Web sites, cell phones, podcasts or a combination of those.