News Column

Our story, our community

August 2, 2014

By C.J. Marshall, The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa.

Aug. 02--The people, businesses and organizations throughout Towanda/Wysox will soon have a unique opportunity to create a television production highlighting the many positive aspects of their communities.

Public television station WVIA out of Scranton, in cooperation with the Central Bradford County Chamber of Commerce, has announced it will showcase Towanda/Wysox as part of its "Our Town" series. People are being encouraged to submit videos and still photographs to WVIA about the various positive aspects of the area.

"It's a grass roots project about the best ways to gather the best kept secrets of an area," explained Lisa Mazzarella, Production Manager of WVIA Public Media, who is overseeing the project. She emphasized that by "best kept secrets," they are not looking for anything scandal-related. Instead, Lisa continued, they are interested in communities like Towanda/Wysox talking about things such as their unsung heroes, as well as what makes the area a wonderful place to live.

The project, Lisa said, involves residents submitting still photographs and videos of points of interest -- people and places -- throughout the area. She said WVIA will accept any type of submission, even reel-to-reel tape, as part of the project.

According to information obtained from WVIA's website, the Our Town project directly involves communities in the station's 22-county coverage area, including Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Central Susquehanna Valley.

"Our Town adapts to television the 'day-in-the-life' picture books that profile the people, places and happenings within a specific community or locale," according to the website information. "But instead of representing these stories through still photographs, the program employs the medium of video -- as shot by residents of the town or locale that is being profiled. And instead of printed captions providing narrative context, the residents who shoot the footage also serve as the program's narrators.

"A town's people know what makes their town tick," the information continued. "They know what makes it special. They experience their town as a home, at all times of the day, and all days of the year. With this in mind, WVIA is seeking residents within the communities selected for presentation to participate in determining the content of their Our Town Program. Through their camera lenses, a perspective of their town's character and culture is envisioned for the viewer."

Lisa explained that she recently traveled from Scranton to the Towanda/Wysox area, and was "simply amazed" at the beauty of the location, as well as the friendliness of the people who live here. Lisa said she was impressed with the "old fashioned values" projected by the people she spoke with, combined with their progressive way of looking at the future. She said she is really looking forward to working with the participants as they put the project together.

As part of the project, WVIA will hold two community meetings to obtain input from those wishing to participate. The first -- scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at the Towanda Country Club, is a "curiosity session" in which people will be encouraged to ask whatever questions they may have about the "Our Town" project, according to Lisa. The second meeting, she continued, will be a "White Board Session" in which the participants report on what they intend to submit. This meeting is scheduled from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Towanda Fire Department, 101 Elm St., Towanda.

"To call WVIA the producer (of the project) is actually a misnomer," Lisa explained. "The people will let us know what they are going to do. They are, in essence, the producers."

Lisa explained that WVIA has worked with communities who have emphasized their past history; others which focus on the present; while others look to the future.

"It gives you a good idea of the pulse and rhythm of a community," Lisa explained about "Our Town." "Where they have come from, where they are, and where they are headed."

A third meeting, planned for Sept. 27, with a location to be announced, will involve 12 hours of interviews conducted by WVIA of those who are submitting photographs and videos. Each interview of each participant is expected to take about 15 minutes, Lisa said, and will allow WVIA to coordinate each "piece of the puzzle" into the final production which is scheduled to premier on the public television station on Nov. 13. Lisa explained they are looking forward to gathering many different presentations from people of the Towanda/Wysox area -- such as restaurants, businesses, local leaders and community organizations -- to give the viewers a positive look at what the area is all about.

Sue Williams, president of the Central Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said the organization will be working alongside WVIA in encouraging people to attend the community meetings -- particularly the first one on Aug. 13. When the Towanda/Wysox edition of "Our Town" premieres on Nov. 13, she said, chamber members will be manning the telephones at the television station in Pittston, because WVIA is holding a fundraiser on that day. In addition, Sue said, the Central Bradford Chamber is going to provide the entertainment at the station, and any local talent wishing to volunteer their efforts is encouraged to contact them by calling (570) 268-2732.

"In particular, we're looking for things related to Stephen Foster -- like his songs -- to promote the historical part of the aspect of his music," the chamber president explained.

"The main thing is for people and businesses to go to the first community meeting (on Aug. 13)," Sue said. "We're really encouraging people to attend this."

Additional information obtained from WVIA's website indicated that residents will discuss which landmarks, events and local stories the program should tell about their town. WVIA will answer questions about the project during the meeting and ask volunteers to brainstorm a list of subjects and events to videotape.

Anyone interested in being a videographer and/or storyteller for the documentary may contact WVIA "Our Town" producer, Lisa Mazzarella, at (570) 602-1164 or by emailing lisamazzarella@wvia.org.

C.J. Marshall is a staff writer and columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at (570) 265-1630; or email: cjmarshall@thedailyreview.com.

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(c)2014 The Daily Review (Towanda, Pa.)

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