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Black Fiddlers: When the budget increases and you can still get it done on time.

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

I’m way behind the curve. Keeping up and grooming a blog takes time and substance. Not that my current life lacks either but managing both while fundraising can be challenging. I can’t say that I never had to beat the drum to pull off getting a documentary across the finish line, but frankly most have resulted from commissioned work, a commission with a budget attached. But what if the project grown beyond the plan to require a greater effort. Well, that happens to be just the case of Black Fiddlers.

Rhiannon Giddens

I was originally supposed to document the lives of Easton, Madison and Beverly, three of Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved children with Sally Hemings, all musicians and fiddlers. However, it did not take long to figure out that they were just three brush strokes in a very complex and intricate canvas of Black fiddlers from Maine to Virginia, from Ohio to Appalachia and across the extensive network of southern plantations. Freemen and the enslave, almost no women to account for, playing European as well as folk music. from colonial times through Emancipation. During that period the fiddle and the banjo became the basic molecular structure of America’s folk music tradition. Much has been said about the latter, but close to nothing about the former. We heard of the close relationship of Solomon Northup and his violin in Twelve Years a Slave, but the fact is that black fiddlers in America at that time were in the thousands and Northup was in no way an isolated event.

Benjamin Harper

I knew then I had to tell the big story, the complete story of Black men and their fiddles, and by then the budget had nearly allow longer time for research, new talent, distant locations. I’m not complaining, the story is simply put fabulous and complies with the notion that a story that’s never been told, and that must be told, will be told.

So now I also seeing myself in the role of a fundraise. I know I can do this. I made several documentaries in Central America during the Civil War coordinating part of undergrown organization meant ensure that the exposed film would make it to the lab in Los Angeles and then to the editor room in New York, and finally back to El Salvador or Managua for approval and distribution. Only in the last few years live has become somewhat more predictable, but documentary film making has never been as PBS would like you to think.

Next week I’ll we start making plans to reach out to friends and friends of friends knowing that they will be happy to hear me say: “I have a great idea for your next tax-deductible contribution. So, give me some money and let’s go out for a drink, I’m buying”.

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