VIDEO: Surprising Miss Francis
NOTES: Sometimes, the most mundane stories are the ones that resonate with a public hungry for a little—just a little!—respite from the drumbeat of awful, disheartening news in the world that day. So, it was that we got word a local elementary school in Belle, W.Va., was going to spring a surprise on a beloved custodian named Frances Buzzard, a k a ‘Miss Francis.’ The odd thing was, Miss Francis had never in her life had a birthday party. Could this be? And what would her reaction be to her first surprise party and a big one at that? To quote the credit card commercial: Priceless.
NUMBERS: You’ll notice I do not list social media view counts for most videos on TheWebTheater, except for when they are unusual. This is because sometimes a video may have only a couple hundred views, but that’s just fine as the business or persons or organization that needed to see the video saw it. But the ‘Miss Francis’ video went modestly viral on Facebook, wracking up more than 91,500 at last count, with about 1,000 shares and more than 200 comments, with an additional 89,000-plus views on YouTube (which is unusual since the Gazette-Mail’s channel is hardly promoted and we are happy to get 200 views for a video there). More significant still— last I looked, not a single comment was negative or snarky from among those 200 comments. Now, that’s news.
RELATED: Here is the companion Charleston Gazette-Mail story to the above video.
VIDEO: The Curious Case of the Nicholas County, W.Va., Mystery Paintings
NOTES: I was going to phone this story in—literally. It was a freezing December day and I was just going to do a phone interview to check up on a Facebook tip on some supposedly intriguing paintings in a 19th century farmhouse in the West Virginia outback. Am dearly glad I went out on this one, as encountering these amazing works made the story. Plus, the iPhone video I shot to go with the story went modestly viral on the newspaper’s Facebook page, with nearly 45,000 views as of January 2017, more than 500 shares and hundreds of comments. A fascinating backstory that resonated with readers and viewers. Did a Dalton Gang brother on the run paint these remarkable works and then flee? And if not, who did? And who will preserve them now?
SOUNDTRACK: “I Can Feel It Coming” by Kevin MacLeod
RELATED STORY: Read it here.
PS: Here’s a family video shot years ago about the mysterious paintings, uploaded because interest in this story was so intense.
PSS: The cinema verite handshake of the iPhone B-roll is not the greatest. Time for one of these!
VIDEO: A start-to-finish look at a chocolate-covered cherry cottage industry.
NOTES: In a tiny quilt shop in Barboursville, W.Va., a woman has perfected the chocolate covered cherry. No, you can’t have the recipe, even for $100,000. Co-produced by Maria Young and Douglas Imbrogno
SOUNDTRACK: “Brightly Fancy” by Kevin Macleod
LENGTH: 2 min 23 sec
VIDEO: Crowdsourcing Appalachian imagery
NOTES: ‘Looking at Appalachia’ is a crowd-sourced project that aims to depict life in the 420-county Appalachian region through user-submitted photographs, in an attempt to counter the “visual narrative” imposed on the region by the War on Poverty and other sources.
LENGTH: 2 min 30 sec
SOUNDTRACK: “Against All Odds (ft. Zack Markham)” by Lucas the Flow
VIDEO: The Great Gitmo Cat Rescue
NOTES: When the Meades decided to retire from life as government contractors at the Guantanamo Naval Air Base — better known as ‘Gitmo’ — they had a problem. Well, 25 problems. What to do with their cats? An airlift ensued.
SOUNDTRACK: “Expressive PHNK VP” by Lucas the Flow
LENGTH: 2 min 58 sec
VIDEO: City and rural kids write themselves a song.
NOTES: This mini-doc tracks from start to finish how city kids and rural kids came together at a summer music camp at Big Ugly Community Center in Big Ugly, W.Va., (yes, that’s what it’s called), to craft an original song. With help from singer-songwriters Chuck Costa and Mira Stanley, of the award-winning group The Sea The Sea and other teachers, the summer campers wrote the music and lyrics to the songs then performed it with a little help from their friends.
LENGTH: 4 min 25 sec
VIDEO: The Making of an Elephant, Part 2
NOTES: It is not just that often that elephants wander about West Virginia. But where do you get one and how do you get it here? The people behind the parade that concluded the 2011 All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia on April 3, 2011, had always dearly desired an elephant for the event. Then, they manifested one. Not without a whole lot of work. Elephants, it must be remembered, are rather on the chunky side. It was a very special elephant – and this is her story, the concluding video in a special two-part WestVirginiaVille.com video report from our Large Animal Bureau. Part 2 of a two-part series. View Part 1 here.
LENGTH: 3 min 21 sec
VIDEO: How do you make an elephant — and why?
NOTES: They had dreamed of an elephant for the parade that capped off All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia. But where do you get an elephant? A group of artists and elephant enablers decided they must do what they had to do: manifest an elephant all by themselves. This special two-part video takes to the street and the elephant works of The Room Upstairs in Princeton, West Virginia, to investigate how an elephant came to walk a street in WestVirginiaVille one fine sunny Spring day in 2011. Part 1 of a two-part series. View Part 2 here.
LENGTH: 3 min 5 sec
VIDEO: An historic overview of how West Virginia’s population went from lean to not-so-lean, with a corresponding rise in chronic health issues.
NOTES: “The Shape We’re In” was a powerful year-long series of articles in the Charleston Gazette by Kate Long, that delved deep into the chronic health problems in West Virginia and the many people and programs focusing on improving the shape of the state’s population. I was the video feature producer for the series. The series won the 2013 top award for public service reporting from the National Association of Health Care Journalists.
VIDEO: “Elizabeth & George: Two Sides of One Life”
NOTES: A companion video to a three-part Charleston Gazette series (June 2, 3 and 4, 2013) about a street person named ‘Elizabeth,’ who was often seen in downtown Charleston, W.Va. Her past turned out be a surprise. She had grown up in the Bible belt and was such a promising singer, Ric Ocasek of The Cars sought out George through mentions in Rolling Stone magazine. But George had since become Elizabeth, and showed up on the streets of the West Virginia’s capital city. Read the tale of how George became Elizabeth, losing touch with some beloved sisters and a mother and the reunion that eventually ensued. Read the award-winning three part series, “Elizabeth & George” here.
SOUNDTRACK: “Marathon Man” by George Bartlett
LENGTH: 5 min 31 sec