RISING FROM RECESSION

THE ALTOONA MIRROR

By Beth Ann Downey • September 14, 2011

WILLIAMSBURG, PA - Filmmaker Art Jones said there are many different towns where his latest documentary could've been set.

Though  "The Blood in This Town" chronicles the small town struggles of Rutland, Vt., in its fight against the recession, Jones said the same feats of a community bonded by the goal of keeping their town afloat can be found in places like Akron, Ohio, Pensacola, Fla., or even the local town of Williamsburg.
To test his theory, Jones will visit Williamsburg for a screening of the feature-length film and to participate in a panel discussion on community building.

 Rutland, a former quarry town filled with abandoned manufacturing facilities and empty store fronts, can serve as a model for towns across America looking to pull themselves "out of the bad spot" the recession has left them, Jones said. "There was a larger picture of a town trying to re-envision a new path forward for the future and create a new, sustainable future," Jones said of both Rutland and the grassroots organizations and leaders who helped the town's economy get back on its feet without waiting for the stimulation of a new factory or corporation. "But looking at Rutland, other towns can take stock in their own potential and ability to remake themselves."

Discussing potential is exactly what Carlee Ranalli, president of the Williamsburg Borough Council, hopes to do with residents throughout the event. She heard about  "The Blood in This Town" after reading a newspaper article and immediately ordered a copy of the movie and got in touch with Jones. "I thought, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great if we could learn something from them,'" Ranalli said.

Ranalli said Williamsburg has experienced similar effects of the recession to Rutland, as well as similar grassroots efforts from groups working to counteract them. She hopes people come to the panel discussion with the problems that still need solving in order to brainstorm ideas that will address them. "I want to see if there's anything we can learn through this to help us work together better," she said.

Ranalli does not wish to recreate Rutland's exact initiatives — including the one-day blood drive that raised more than 1,000 pints of blood, and fostered the documentary's

title. Rather, she hopes the inspiration from the movie and the results of the panel will grow into economy-boosting initiatives that use Williamsburg's own resources. "If we can do some of these things that help our people and businesses and attract new people to the community, everyone wins," she said.

From what he learned in Rutland, Jones has no doubt that this would be possible. "If you look around, every town has something special," he said. "Every town has something to rally around."

Working on this documentary also gave Jones something to rally around. Now that it has been released, he wants to work more on turning the inspiration from Rutland into nationwide action. This includes taking the film to Capitol Hill in order to show policy makers they shouldn't only be directing their efforts to help city dwellers.

"It's time for those folks in power to remember they came from small towns," he said. "They're what America is built on, and it's time to redirect the resources." In the meantime, Jones also plans to continue telling the "vital stories" that shed a spotlight on the places and people sometimes neglected by mainstream media.

"It became very clear with the deep recession that film making had the power to tell the story that wasn't being told," Jones said.

If You Go:

What: Screening of "The Blood in This Town" and panel discussion with writer, producer and director Art Jones.
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williamsburg Community Farm Show Building, 1019 Recreation Drive, Williamsburg
Details: The event is free and open to the public. Sponsorship was provided by Martin General Stores and The Crossroad youth group.

Date added: September 25, 2011