Professor debuts three-year-long project

English and film professor Jerod Hollyfield directed and filmed a documentary web series about members of senior communities living in the south. “I’m a big fan of telling whatever story needs to be told,” Hollyfield said. Tyger Williams/HERALD

Elisabeth Moore

As students prepared themselves for summer, WKU English and film professor Jerod Hollyfield prepared himself for the debut of a project he’d been working on for three years. With the help of students, staff and the residents of three different senior communities in the Bowling Green area, Hollyfield created “The Assisted Stories Project,” a 12-part series of stories given by senior citizens of the South.

“My general idea for the project is to showcase a side of the South that is not often seen,” said Hollyfield. “I really wanted to show how dynamic the South is, and I thought the best way to do that was to interview people that were alive through a lot of those early events.”

While working on the project, Hollyfield visited and filmed at three different assisted living centers: Village Manor, Chandler Park and Bowling Green Towers. With the help of residents of each assisted living facility, Hollyfield was able to find a wide range of subjects from different living quarters with different lifestyles.

Hollyfield included twelve subjects ranging in age from 60 to 96, though by the time the documentary premiered, the oldest subject had turned 97.

“I used to live near Chandler Park and there was this guy, who is actually the subject in movie nine, and he would just sit outside all day and wave at people,” Hollyfield said. “I thought, this guy, I have just got to make a movie about this guy, there is just something here. He was really the reason I started making the movie and I really wanted to dig into it.”

For the project, Hollyfield employed the help of two former WKU students, Caleb Peyman and Cody Duncum, who graduated in December 2015 with Film degrees. Peyman worked as the Production Sound Mixer. Duncum, who is now a freelance cinematographer and videographer in Nashville, was the director of photography for the documentary.

“It took us all summer in 2015 and some of the fall semester of 2015 to completely shoot the first season,” Duncum said. “It was a great experience, not only professionally, but also it was a privilege getting to know these people who have experienced so much and who possess so much wisdom.”

The series as a whole is also being used for science. Jason Crandall, who is an assistant professor of exercise science, will be using some of the footage and information they gained from the project to describe the exercise and physical activity history of older adults.

“I was interested in the project because I study exercise and aging,” Crandall said. “I wanted to know how older adults’ views of exercise have changed throughout their lives and what they think about it now.”

The footage and information gained by Crandall will be used in future classes, presentations and possibly in future publications. Crandall also helped with the technical aspects of the grant as well as making connections at some of the senior communities where he has worked.

“I think it is a wonderful project,” said Robert Hale, English department head. “It is a great way to give film students an opportunity to work on a documentary and to get hands-on experience.”

Hale said he also appreciated the way people in their twenties get to interact with and learn about the lives of those in their sixties and seventies.

Hollyfield said his plans are to present the film in a web series.

“In the future, what I am hoping to do is to find a new city and another filmmaker that lives in the region and have them do twelve episodes and I will produce it and sort of facilitate,” Hollyfield said. “I am hoping to collaborate on an external grant with a filmmaker. They will be fully creatively in charge and they will pick the twelve subjects.”

Each episode of “The Assisted Stories Project,” is available for free on the WKU English department webpage. The next episode will premier Friday, Aug. 26 at noon.

Reporter Elisabeth Moore can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emoore938.