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Posted: February 25, 2012 8:33 p.m.

Burgess: Social Circle grows into a quintessential small town

Our Social Circle Better Hometown Program Manager, Mike Miller, recently advised the BHTP Board of Directors that Zumafilmz, a film production company in Abilene, Texas, had selected our city as one of six small towns to be included in a film which portrays small town life in America.

Naturally, we are proud and honored by this distinction. A group of us met with Executive Producer Carol Windham last week to learn more about the project. Carol told us the how's and why's involved in the selection process by which Social Circle was chosen.

Carol's husband's cousin, George Davis, and his wife, Maize, lived outside of Covington. Carol visited from time to time and during one her visits she was treated to dinner at the Blue Willow Inn.

Apparently, both the restaurant and our small town made quite an impression on Carol. She also noted a reference to Social Circle in the James Michener novel, "Texas," where one of the characters, in leading a caravan of wagons across Georgia on the way to Texas, referred to Social Circle as the "Queen of Georgia" (p. 591). Consequently, when Carol was selecting small towns to be portrayed in the film, Social Circle came immediately to mind.

Carol and producer Ricky Long, have worked in the film production industry for quite a number of years. Carol had her own media production company in the 1980s. She continued her professional involvement as an independent film consultant, specializing in special effects photography, photos for magazine covers, digital design and related film production activities.

Ricky Long had been her son's best friend in high school. He studied TV and film at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and worked for 23 years in Dallas as a motion pictures and film professional. Ricky described Carol as "one of the most creative people I have ever known."

The company name, "Zumafilmz" comes from the name of Zuma Beach, in Malibu, Calif., a former home of her daughter Amy.

Carol noted that 75 percent of the land in our country is rural in character, whereas only 17 percent of the U.S. population lives on that land. She believes that small towns are often unfairly portrayed in the media as being socially backward and their inhabitants uneducated and unsophisticated in comparison to their urban neighbors. Through her film, she wants to dispel this image and also hopes that the film may become a catalyst to inspire people to value small town life.

Carol's own roots are in Clyde, Texas, a small town of about 3,500 people. She believes "in the beauty and intelligence of Americans whether they live in metro areas or in small towns."

Other small cities Carol selected for this film, largely because of her own travels, include:
• Clark Summit, Pa., (a borough in Lackawanna County northwest of Scranton, Pennsylvania, with a population of approximately 5,000);
• Greensburg, Kan., (which experienced a devastating tornado, flattening 90 percent of the town, and which is being rebuild as a "green" community);
• Anthony, N. M., (a newly incorporated border town with Mexico);
• Port Townsend, Wash., (an historic waterfront town north of Seattle); and
• Carol's hometown of Clyde, Texas, located on Interstate 20, ten miles east of Abilene. Clyde was first settled in 1880 and gained prominence as a railroad town, similar to Social Circle. Located above an aquifer, Clyde had been nicknamed "Little California" because of its abundant crop farming, horse and cattle raising and oil production, which started around 1924.

Carol plans to enter the documentary in film festivals and hopes that might lead to presentation on the History Channel, PBS, or other educational TV outlets. "Independent films are often screened at local, national, or international film festivals before distribution" (wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent-film).

The film cannot exceed 40 minutes in length in order to qualify for a film festival screening in the short film category. Carol and the production company staff (including her grandson, Blaen) plan to visit all of the small town sites at least two or three times.

After their first introductory meeting with a number of our Social Circle residents, the film crew will conduct another visit in June when our city is in full summer bloom for better photo opportunities.

The film crew will also return to participate in and photograph our annual Friendship Festival in October. Additional interviews with city residents will also be conducted during their June and October visits.

Among those interviewed during their introductory visit were Mayor and Mrs. Hal Dally, Better Hometown Program Manager Mike Miller and Mary Cross, former Council member Anne Peppers, and Social Circle residents J.C. Sheppard, Jesse Lightfoot, Brenda Nelson and Jerry Morrow.

Carol's documentary will be financed through private resources, and she considers herself very lucky to avoid the regulations, requirements and deadlines that come with grants-in-aid, endowments, donations, contributions, and other more public funding mechanisms. Her only obligation is "to investigate the cultures of small towns." Carol and her husband currently reside on the ranch inherited from her grandfather located about seven miles north of Clyde where they raise Angus Limousine cattle. Her office is located in Abilene, some 20 miles from her ranch.

The Zumafilmz staff plans to work on their filming project throughout 2012 and intends to have it completed by the fall of 2013. Who knows - we may find ourselves previewed in the Festival de Cannes (that's the film festival in Cannes, France), or maybe at least in the Dallas International Film Festival. In which case, Social Circle may have truly reached its high watermark on the sea of small town America.

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