February 1, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Jason Brown Receives Grant for Documentary Project

VALDOSTA — Jason Brown, an assistant professor in Valdosta State University’s Department of Communication Arts and a West Virginia native, was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council for his work on Hollow: An Interactive Documentary.

Focused on the community of McDowell County, W.Va., Hollow, shared Brown, is a hybrid community participatory project and interactive documentary where content is created “for the community, by the community.” The project combines personal documentary video portraits, user-generated content, photography, soundscapes, interactive data, and grassroots mapping to discuss the many stereotypes associated with the area, population loss, and potential for the future.  The project, spearheaded by Elaine McMillion of Emerson University in Boston, Mass., who was raised in West Virginia, has drawn participation from media professionals nationwide.

In the summer of 2012, members of the McDowell County, W.Va., community took part in the filmmaking process by creating short documentaries centered on building engagement and social trust, as well as empowering the community to work together for a better future, noted Brown.

According to the Hollow team, “Demographers studying population in West Virginia estimate that the 10 communities that make up McDowell County, W.Va., are just years away from extinction. From 1950 to 2010, the population of the county seat of Welch has diminished to 2,600; only 22,000 people remain in the county. Located in the southern coalfields, the area has experienced the effects of a boom and bust economy, but its experience is similar to many rural towns. Over the past 25 years, more than 700 rural counties, from the Plains to the Texas Panhandle to Appalachia, lost 10 percent or more of their population. Population loss has many negative effects on the economy, education system, and overall quality of life for people who choose to stay. The project will examine the many community-led ideas that could change the current economic landscape and bring people home.”

The Tribeca Film Institute named Hollow a New Media Grantee.

Brown earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication arts from Concord University in West Virginia in 1997, a Master of Arts in screenwriting and film studies from Hollins University in Virginia in 2004, and a Master of Fine Arts in film and video production from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008. His teaching experience includes positions at Lander University, Bowling Green State University, McNeese State University, West Virginia State University, and his alma maters. He has worked as a producer, director, writer, and/or editor on more than a dozen productions and served in various capacities at a number of film festivals. He joined the VSU Mass Media faculty in the fall of 2012. His area of professional focus is on growing indigenous filmmakers in underdeveloped areas.

“While many states and countries have instituted incentives to bring Hollywood productions to town, some communities are using their resources to support local filmmakers to tell local stories,” he said.

Brown’s most recent film, “Miracle Boy,” celebrated its world premier at the Venice Film Festival in Italy in September, followed by screenings in Lewisburg, W.Va., and Charleston, W.Va., in December. The 17-minute film tells the story of a teenage boy who is injured in a farming accident and then subsequently bullied by other boys. Before long, one of the “mean” boys realizes the error of his ways and risks his life to try to right the wrong. It was adapted for the screen by Jake Mahaffy from a short story written by West Virginia native Pinckney Benedict.

“It tells a good story and looks good,” Brown, the film’s producer, told West Virginia’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel. “The film is about the good values of young people. People will want to see it.”    

Contact Jason Brown at (229) 333-5820 or jasonebrown@valdosta.edu for more information. His office is located in the Mass Media Building, Room 1211.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities.

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals:

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