I started a project two years ago about a decommissioned army base in Massachusetts. I want to make a documentary film about it and decided to use this project to create a pitch tool to try to get funding. So this project will be a teaser and include a bit of everything. That will be the most difficult part for me as I have so much information.
Dr. Schrum suggested I use my personal story in the piece. When I was telling her about it she said she felt ghosts all over the place. And that is how I feel when I am there. Not in a creepy or bad way but there are so many clues, feelings and things left over from the base that exude this feeling of a bustling life that is no longer there. It does have business and some residential dwellings now but it is not what it was before.
I have about an hour of film footage and tons of photographs. I do not have any interviews, although I would like to. I have a guy in MA who agreed to an interview but I am not sure I have the funding to go. I will probably have to make do with that I have.
The project centers on how the base brought diversity to a primarily white community. I focus on the years 1917-WWII as that was the most interesting time of the base. As I did research, it also became a story about civil rights for African Americans and women. Here is a breakdown of what I can present:
Immigrants living in Boston help build the base
Immigrants serve in the Army
Between War Years:
A powerful Congresswoman in the 1930s turns the base into a permanent fixture and fights for women to serve in the armed forces.
African American men
African American women (including en “experiment” that paved the way for African American nurses to take care of white soldiers and also a court-martial)
German and a few Italian POWs (this is a big part of the story) Fort Devens was one of the largest non-Nazi POW camps in the U.S.
Project Paperclip which brought over German scientists to the U.S.
My personal story is I worked as a bartender on a course in Devens. One day I was the beverage cart driver and I saw a bunch of buildings in disarray. I drove the cart down there and start thinking about the life that used to be there. I thought it would make a great story. Obviously I have more details about the base but that is how I thought of the idea. Everywhere you look there are remnants of the base, from buildings to small plaques or downed utility wires.
I located some film footage at the Archives. I need to find out if this is something I can get a copy of. Since I will be showing this to potential grantors, I need to be careful about copyright. I have a bunch of images and shots in my head already. I thought about showing before and after pictures but in an interesting context. My biggest drawback is not having an interview. If I can get some old film footage I think that will help but still a problem. I could hit some VFW’s or whatever they have around here to see if anyone served at Devens around that time. Might be a long shot but it might be worth it. Skype will be a tough option as the man is in his 80s and legally blind. And I just feel I should be there for something that personal.
My group pointed out my biggest dilemma is going for breadth or depth. If I go for breath, I will highlight one main story from each category of people or time period. If I go for depth, I will do the German POW camp as it is the lesser known story.