Anytown, USA is a class at the Center for Documentary Studies offered annually through our Continuing Education program, in which students produce and edit videos related to a small town in North Carolina. This year’s class, taught by filmmaker Randolph Benson, focused on the town of Scotland Neck, and each of the students created a short film on a topic of their choice. This May, town citizens set up lawn chairs and blankets and enjoyed an outdoor screening in Scotland Neck; later that month, the films were screened in the new Full Frame Theater on the historic American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham.
View all of this year’s Anytown, USA student films:
Martha Weeks Daniel | The Story of Scout Pond
Dug with hand tools by Scotland Neck boy scouts and local farmers during the Depression, the Scout Pond was a center of activity every summer for hundreds of area citizens for nearly forty years. A wonderful place for swimming, socializing, and connecting with others, it’s a very fond memory for many to this day.
Martha Weeks Daniel received her Certificate in Documentary Arts in 2007. In 2009, she directed and produced the documentary Miss Nancy Minds Their Manners. She is from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and runs a small advertising agency specializing in graphic and website design.
Susan Barco | Regeneration Development Group
Phyllis Chavis and the Regeneration Development Group offer career counseling, support, and training to residents of Scotland Neck. How does their “personal touch” help job seekers struggling to find their way up in a town with one of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in North Carolina?
Susan Barco lives in Durham, North Carolina, and loves hearing people’s stories in her work as a documentary filmmaker (Streamside Media LLC) and in her volunteer work as a community mediator in district court and at the Conflict Resolution Center.
Vann Dwiggins | Moratuck
The Roanoke River’s original Algonquin name meant “river of death.” Moratuck is a glimpse of the people and fauna that make their home along this river of life.
Vann Dwiggins is a wildlife enthusiast and aspiring documentary filmmaker. He works at a small video production company in Raleigh, North Carolina, and divides his free time between walking in the woods and creating videos for local nonprofits.
Tom Adams | School Days: Education in Halifax County Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
This film focuses on the opportunities and challenges of schools in Halifax County, North Carolina. It traces their evolution from segregation through desegregation and up to the present day, and also looks to the future.
Tom Adams grew up in rural Wake County, North Carolina, and attended the U.S. Naval Academy. After service in the Navy, he held positions in engineering and R&D with major chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Now retired, he has been taking courses at CDS. This is his second Anytown project.
Christine Ryan Harland | Sylvan Heights of Scotland Neck
Sylvan Heights Bird Park and Breeding Center is the largest waterfowl park in the United States. It gives visitors an unforgettable, up-close experience with over 2,000 ducks, geese, swans, and other exotic birds from around the world. It opened in 2006 primarily due to the efforts of one man—Mike Lubbock, affectionately known as the Waterfowl Man.
Christine Ryan Harland was born in New York City and now lives in Greenville, North Carolina. After many years working in the film industry, she now pursues her own creative vision of filmmaking as a way of provoking social change.
Lisa Sorg | Winged Invasion: The Blackbirds of Scotland Neck
They shot firecrackers, banged pots and pans, even doused the offenders with soap and water dropped from airplanes: With help from the federal government, Scotland Neck residents tried to shoo away an estimated 6 million blackbirds that had invaded the town in 1969 and 1970—and had made life quite miserable.
Lisa Sorg received her Certificate in Documentary Arts from CDS in December 2010. By day, she is the editor of INDY Week. She lives in Durham, North Carolina. She has been attacked by a blue jay and chased by a goose.
Jon Ricker | 1280
A portrait of local business owner Leroy Powell. Alongside his son Duane, Leroy owns and manages a barbershop and a gospel radio station.
Jon Ricker, a Durham, North Carolina, native, is a certificate student at CDS. An enthusiastic new filmmaker, 1280 is his debut film.
Michelle Lotker | Growing Peanuts in Halifax County
With the 2002 Farm Bill, advances in technology, and development of disease-resistant crop varieties, some things about peanut farming have changed, but there are even more that have stayed the same, including the families and farms that grow peanuts.
Michelle Lotker is a photographer, filmmaker, and scientist who recently moved back to North Carolina. She loves telling people’s stories and getting people excited about science in new and innovative ways through multimedia. She recently caught the farming bug and is excited to continue to work on documenting the people and science behind the food we eat!