Twinsburg -- Carla Carter, a 1999 Twinsburg High School graduate, is realizing a decade-long dream to capture the rich history of Twinsburg Heights' historic black community through the eyes of a new generation.
The youth-directed film, the Twinsburg Heights Community Oral History Project, will focus on the elders who established the Heights area of the township. The film is set for a 2016 release as Carter nears a fundraising goal of $3,000.
"I hope this project will bring a community together and give them something to feel proud of," Carter said May 20. "I want this documentary to highlight how special and unique this neighborhood is and for that uniqueness to be celebrated. I want elders to feel a sense of nostalgia as they hear stories of this area's history."
"I think that there's a long, local history of the Heights and there's been many significant residents over the years," Twinsburg Township Trustee Tom Schmidt said. "There's just so many people who have contributed who have lived in the Heights neighborhood for many years and I am glad that those stories are finally being documented."
Carter moved back to the Twinsburg area just two years ago from Garfield Heights, settling on Oxford Street with her family. She soon decided to commit to the oral history idea that formed at Temple University while she was in graduate school -- to tell the story of the people in the Twinsburg Heights community with an eye toward past and present.
"Years and years ago, when I was in graduate school, I wrote an outline for the film," Carter said. "I knew the Heights was a unique area."
Carter said the area is close-knit and family-oriented.
"A community like this raises a certain type of young person surrounded by so much family," Carter said. "There's a different sense of community and well-being living here."
Perhaps what's most interesting about the oral history project itself are the young voices of Twinsburg High School students who will tell these stories.
A workshop will be taught by college students at the Twinsburg Heights pavilion at 8776 Harvard Road June 8 through 19 to assist with research, as well offer guidance on ACT prep, the college application process and deciphering financial aid.
"I think this is important to youth for so many reasons other than just creating a film, but in helping them to find their own voice, build self-esteem and confidence and to be able to engage with their audiences in dialogues about topics important in their lives," Carter said.
Carter, a professional filmmaker who majored in Cinema Studies at the University of Chicago and received a master's degree in film and media arts from Temple, has produced several documentaries including The Art's Seafood Oral History Project.
She is also the creator of FAMe, or "focused arts media education," a platform that allows young people in the Greater Cleveland Area to engage in the filmmaking process, and the platform that will be used in the Heights project.
"FAMe is an organization that trains youth in making media that matters to them," Carter said. "Through various programming in and out of school, I teach young people that they have a voice and opinion that deserves to heard and I teach them the necessary technical skills to produce media to tell their own stories."
Money raised via kickstarter.com will be used to compensate college mentors who will assist high school students with their research for the documentary. With guidance from professional filmmakers and college students, high school students will ultimately direct the film.
Fundraising ends May 29.
Once a majority of filming has been completed June 19, Carter will conduct a screening to show a rough cut and extended trailer to the community. Following the screening, there will be a discussion to gather additional information or stories.
"There has been a lot of interest and a lot of excitement about the film," Carter said. "I have been talking it up for about the last year and I have already picked out some of the key families who will be interviewed.
"I felt it was important to tell the story of a black community that the media seldom shows, a black suburban neighborhood that has its own unique qualities, issues, and history ... to give a different perspective," Carter added. "I also felt that it was important to promote inter-generational engagement and communication so that young people can learn from the stories and experiences from their elders."
Carter's seven-year-old daughter Aaryn has already played a key role in a kickstarter campaign video, deftly interviewing her mother for the promotion.
"It's important and you really need to learn about it," Aaryn Carter says in the video.