1 of 2
Wendell Powell Studio
"Virginia Voices" participants with Bob Noll and Jeff Boedeker of Boston Productions Inc.
2 of 2
Wendell Powell Studio
Jeff Boedeker, Taylor Noll, Paul Levengood and BobNoll at the "Virginia Voices" premiere.
Rolling out the red carpet, the Virginia Historical Society held a VIP premiere Tuesday for an upcoming documentary that will be screened regularly at the VHS starting in July. Present were Virginians whose stories were featured in the film, invited guests, news reporters and representatives from Boston Productions Inc. (the production company for the film). Light hors d’oeuvres were served, along with traditional movie theater treats: popcorn in a variety of flavors, and candy such as Mike and Ike, Milk Duds and Raisinets.
The film, Virginia Voices, is a mesh of stories and perspectives from people all across the state. A year and a half in the making, the film incorporates crowd-sourced footage that was submitted through the documentary’s website (virginiavoices.org), professionally filmed pieces, and segments filmed by Virginians who were given a camera to capture their own homes and lives.
“We had no idea what we were getting. We had no idea who the person was. I’d open it up, I’d go through the footage with the editor [Taylor Noll], and it was an amazing thing … there’s plenty of surprises that we got from that,” says Jeff Boedeker, the film’s producer and director. “This is truly Virginians through the lens — a person’s life is what they’re recording, and so it’s very sincere, and I think the viewer will get that and understand that, too.”
The VHS, located at 428 N. Boulevard, sent out a request to production companies after visiting several other museums, such as the Smithsonian in Washington, and deciding that the films they had seen during their visits were compelling and a great way to convey emotion and inspiration. The Boston-based production company, BPI was chosen (Boedeker is a senior producer with the company and also now director of the Richmond satellite office, as he relocated to Richmond from Boston during the filming process).
“What we intended to do and what I hope and believe we have achieved, is not a survey of Virginia’s rich history — that’s difficult to do in something as brief as what we’re going to show you,” says Paul Levengood, VHS president and chief executive officer. “Instead we opted to make history, to help preserve, really, a moment in time, a moment in the existence of the commonwealth.”
Among the personal narratives featured from around Virginia is that of Dontrel Johnson, 23, who talks about his life growing up in Henrico County and watching his neighborhood become more dangerous over time, then joining the military and wanting to give back to his community.
“I want to put Richmond in a better light,” Johnson says of his appearance in the film. “I feel like it has a stereotype as far as crime rates, but the city has so much more to offer that people don’t realize [such as the thriving arts scene]. The film is a good opportunity to hear other people’s experiences and lives. Mine isn’t like everybody else’s and others will have different experiences than me. It will be very interesting to see everybody else’s.”
A couple of other Richmonders, artist Ed Trask and Patrick Murtaugh, co-founder of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, also have cameos in the film. The Virginia Voices website also has additional crowd-sourced footage that didn’t make it into the 35-minute documentary.
On Thursday at 5:30 p.m., a members-only preview event will be held at the VHS. A free screening of the film is also set for The Grandin Theatre Film Festival in Roanoke on May 2 at 1 p.m.