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VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO / NPR
Thursday, 10/13/11 • By Nina Keck
A documentary film about Rutland's annual record setting blood drive will be shown tonight in Washington, DC at the visitor's center of the U.S. Capitol. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the plight and promise of America's small towns. As VPR's Nina Keck reports the film is gaining traction outside Vermont as a teaching tool for grassroots community development.
(Film) "We're going for a thousand pints of blood. Last year we broke the New England record. I don't know what the national record is but I bet if Rutland found out about it we'd try to break it."
(Keck) When he first drove to Rutland, New York City filmmaker Art Jones expected to make a five-minute movie about a blood drive.
(Jones) "We didn't' really realize until we got to the edit room that there was a very strong palpable story of reinvention and renewal here. "
(Film) "People say, 'Ah, this place is dead, I'm getting out of here. Never gone to work.' Never say that. you gotta say I'm gonna fix the damn thing one way or the other and I'm gonna get it on track and I'm gonna do it."
(Keck) Jones' film highlights efforts by local residents to create an award-winning farmers' market, launch a series of city block parties and carve out biking and recreational trails. It's a message of activism and renewal that Jones is now taking on the road to community forums outside Vermont, like this one in Lake Placid. Here's Steve Costello, one of the blood drive organizers, speaking at that event.
(Costello) "We certainly had no idea that this blood drive would become what it has become. And this past December after Art made the film we did 1400 pints in a day. The point is, whether you're in a little dinky town like Rutland or a beautiful town like Lake Placid or anywhere in between, setting goals and really focusing on those goals is one of the keys to getting things done."
(Keck) For Gail Brill of Saranac Lake, N.Y., it was a powerful message.
(Brill) "I think this film was really inspiring on so many levels. And it just goes to show that there is this effort that we are not alone in our effort to keep our smallcommunities thriving and healthy and sustainable and this is really kind of a revolution that's happening all across the country."
(Keck) In places like Williamsburg, Pennsylvania - population 1,300 - Carlee Ranalli, a local official says they showed The Blood in This Town last month at a community development meeting and it spurred them to host a fall festival this Saturday.
(Ranalli) "And then we talked about trying to actually have some type of activity every month in our community if we can. So I really think it did jump start some motivation."
(Keck) Ranalli says Williamsburg, like Rutland, has a long way to go. But she says the lesson she and others took away from the film was that it was up to them to make their town better.
Colleen Cain is with a nonprofit organization that develops policy research on economic and environmental issues for states from Minnesota to Maine.
Her organization is one of the hosts of tonight's screening in Washington, DC. Cain believes the film can be an important wake up call for policy makers who she says often focus too much on big cities and regulations, while overlooking the needs and potential of small towns and the power of their local residents.