Storytellers wanted: City of Elkhart focus of WNIT documentary

WNIT, the region's public television station, will produce a documentary on the city of Elkhart and is seeking volunteers for the project.
Posted on April 6, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 6, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.

ELKHART — WNIT will feature the city of Elkhart this summer in a one-hour documentary, but will be depending on local folks to help tell the story.

The Elkhart installment will mark the fourth in a series that has included Warsaw, Goshen and Mishawaka in previous years for the public broadcasting station.

WNIT’s coverage area spans 22 counties in northern Indiana and southern Michigan, but officials chose Elkhart in part for what they believe are a vast number of stories to be told.

The role of the recreational van industry, which has brought some ups and downs economically to the city over the years, makes for a good backdrop for story telling.

Given the breadth of Elkhart’s history, the documentary could easily be two hours, said Roger Chrastil, spokesman for WNIT.

“The progression of this city has been amazing,” Chrastil said. “The mayor has done an incredible job.”

Chrastil said communities featured previously have seen an immediate economic boost shortly after the documentaries are broadcast.

No doubt, local leaders are eager to take advantage of the free publicity. Production costs alone for such an endeavor would typically run nearly $80,000, Chrastil said.

The documentary is a welcomed event from the perspective of city hall and the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.

Kyle Hannon, president of the chamber, said that while local residents might have a good understanding of the community, a documentary can be an eye opener for viewers outside of Elkhart County, in particular the 20,000 workers who commute to the county every day.

“We have been shaking off the clutches of bad news that came during the recession when we led the nation in jobs lost, so every positive story about our community helps,” Hannon said.

Development of the documentary will work under fairly tight deadlines beginning in June.

In the second week of June, WNIT will host classes for volunteer videographers who will then set out to tell individual stories. The videographers will get some basic tips and determine what subjects will be highlighted.

Choosing topics will be up to the videographers and deciding who gets to do what will be based primarily on first come, first served.

Videographers will then have about nine days to tape segments and will then be interviewed by producers to help explain the significance of the subjects.

The station hopes to have 17 different videographers capturing different aspects of the city.

Afterward, a half dozen editors will begin paring down the video and overlaying it with the videographer’s narrative.

The range of topics are wide open and up to the videographers. Subject matter could include restaurants, churches, parks and historical aspects of the city.

However, the station doesn’t want to overtly promote a business. That means they’ll avoid allowing a store owner to focus on his or her own business.

In addition, the station wants to steer away from partisan politics.

WNIT is also looking for a photographer to capture images.

On Aug. 7, the documentary will be showcased in a private showing for videographers, family, WNIT and local dignitaries.

The Lerner Theater is expected to provide a big role in the production.

The documentary is a big part of the station’s annual pledge drive.

In exchange for the chance to tell their stories, though, the videographers will be expected to participate in the station’s annual fund drive by helping answer phones.

WNIT featured Elkhart in a similar documentary about 10 years ago.

Anyone purchasing a WNIT membership will receive a DVD copy of the film.

For more information, call 675-9648 or send an email to wnit@wnit.org

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