What is the identity of Jacksonville? The creators of “Us: A Story of Connection in Jacksonville” hope by producing a collaborative documentary they can answer just that.
The idea for the documentary came about a couple of years ago at the hands of Sarah Clarke Stuart’s students. An English professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus, Stuart became inspired by her students’ various accounts of Jacksonville.
“A couple of years ago, I had a lot of students with stories, I heard all kinds of different stories, all kinds of different perspectives of Jacksonville, perspectives I had never heard before,” Stuart said. “I felt like there was this disconnect.”
Urban sprawl, technology booms, education disparities, land mass size and poverty are just some of the factors that play into the disconnect on which Stuart picked up.
Playing the role of writer and director for the film, and with her original inspiration in mind, Stuart connected with Justen Mann, who will act as director of cinematography, and Jessie Shternshus, who will play the role of producer. The three decided to enter their project into One Spark 2014.
The creators said they believe by telling the many narratives existing in Jacksonville that they can aid in the overall health of the city’s cultural ties, connect the dots of identity that seem to be absent in this modern age and reveal where Jacksonville is going as a city.
After all, they explained, the soul of a community comes from the ties its members share. The trio sees themselves as anthropologists unearthing Jacksonville’s unique identity through the eyes of its residents.
“We want to make Jacksonville one huge community,” Mann said. Shternshus added, “We want to make Jacksonville the new place to be.”
They will have an interactive exhibit, making One Spark part of the production. One Spark attendees will have the opportunity to participate in the making of the film. They plan to set-up a staging area where visitors will be encouraged to give their unique point-of-view on camera. By sharing their stories, interview participants can walk away knowing they are actively helping in improving Jacksonville’s synergy.
“We are open to finding new themes that appear and want to avoid pushing our own agenda on what we think the story is,” Shternshus said. “One Spark is a great testing ground for ideas to validate whether this is something we should do and go forward with.”
They hope to raise $50,000 for software, cameras, lighting and sound equipment. They also plan to compensate the technical crew and pay for the rights to music and art with the money.
For more information about the “Us: A Story of Connection in Jacksonville” creator project visit their One Spark webpage or check out their documentary trailer.
This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.