Anytown, USA is a documentary video production and editing class at the Center for Documentary Studies taught by Randy Benson, in which students produce and edit a short documentary video on a topic of choice related to a small town in North Carolina. This year, students focused on the town of Smithfield, and created six short films.
Randolph Benson is a graduate of Wake Forest University and of the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. His films have garnered numerous awards, most notably a Gold Medal in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Student Academy Awards and a Kodak Excellence in Filmmaking Award at the Cannes Film Festival. His work has been featured on the Bravo Network, the Independent Film Channel, Canal Plus (France), UNC-TV and Telewizja Polska (Poland).
Post 518: Johnston County, NC
In many small towns in North Carolina, there are two American Legion Posts: one for the whites, and one for the blacks. Featuring veterans from the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf wars, this film explores how military service affects race relations, and how small-town veterans cope with the reality of racism in America.
Jessie Landerman fell in love with filmmaking while studying oral history as an undergraduate anthropology student. Since then, she has produced documentaries in the U.S. and Argentina. She is eternally grateful to the people who allow her to make her films by sharing their life stories.
The Banks of Smithfield
The historic local bank is a reliable feature of many North Carolina towns. As banks have accommodated such modern conveniences as ATMs, drive-through lanes, and on-line banking, many of these magnificent structures no longer serve their original purpose, and yet retain intrinsic cultural value. This film tells the story of the Bank of Smithfield (currently First Citizens Bank) and the roles its historic buildings have played in Smithfield and in five neighboring communities.
Wendy Redfield has lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, since 1998. She is a registered architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at North Carolina State University. Her interests include architecture’s ability to nurture relationships between people and the places they call home through maintaining continuity. Wendy is currently pursuing a Certificate in Documentary Arts at the Center for Documentary Studies. Through the medium of documentary film, she plans to promote architectural and urban discourse between and among design professionals and the general public.
Mr. Joshua Percy Flowers is second only to Ava Gardner in notoriety anywhere near Johnston County, North Carolina. The Saturday Evening Post declared Flowers “King of the Moonshiners” in 1958, when it is estimated he was earning one million dollars annually in untaxed revenue from the sale of white liquor up and down the East Coast. He was also one “helluva fox hunter.” This film attempts to cover the ground between the two pursuits and reveal a picture of the man apart from the legends.
D.L. Anderson is a photographer and filmmaker raised in Galva, Illinois (population 2,700). Though quite eager to leave Galva when it came time, he still prefers dirt roads to traffic jams and late-night catfishing to being anywhere else at all. He also loves hearing and sharing stories that matter to the people he’s fortunate to meet along the way. Anderson works mostly for The Independent Weekly, a newspaper worth reading if you’re ever around Durham, Raleigh, or Chapel Hill. You can also view his work online anytime at dlanderson.com.
The Red Dog
Since 1941 Carolina Packers has made what many would describe as “the best hotdogs in eastern North Carolina.” This short documentary takes a look at the people who work hard to make the hotdogs North Carolinians have enjoyed for generations.
Sara Washington was born in San Francisco, California, and is currently a senior at the University of California in Santa Cruz. In June 2011 she will graduate with a B.A. in Community Studies, a program that brought her to North Carolina for a six-month field study at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She hopes to pursue a career in photojournalism after earning her degree.
The Smithfield Rescue Mission
Today 250 people in Johnston County, North Carolina, are homeless. Paul and Margie Olsen maintain the only rescue mission in the county, offering shelter and support based on Christian teachings for men and families without a home. This short film shows a typical day at the Smithfield Rescue Mission men’s division with words from current residents.
Brooke Darrah Shuman is studying film and audio at the Center for Documentary Studies. She is from West Virginia but, after her first plate of real BBQ, is happy to call North Carolina her current home.
Tobacco Culture in Smithfield
Residents share their memories and thoughts on the importance of tobacco culture in Smithfield, and how things have changed over time.
Maggie Smith is a recent graduate from the University of Tennessee with a major in Comparative Religion. She is currently working as the Publishing Intern at the Center for Documentary Studies while taking courses in documentary photography and video.
Most people in Smithfield never knew Cool Breeze’s real name. This film takes a deeper look into one of Smithfield’s most colorful characters, George Bridges, to show how a simple man with a big heart can earn a place in small town history forever.
Beth Geglia is currently pursuing a Certificate in Documentary Arts at the Center for Documentary Studies focusing on documentary film. She is originally from Washington DC and has appreciated this project greatly for providing her with the opportunity to get to know the town of Smithfield and with the honor of meeting the Bridges and hearing their story.