Documentary focuses on New Albany’s history, future

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 3:30 pm

Philip Collins and Daniel Frank knew about New Albany’s history before embarking on their documentary “New Albany: City by the River.” But it wasn’t until they took a tour of the Second Baptist Church, along with taking photographs at various historic buildings in the city for a calendar, that they really understood the historical role the city played in shaping Indiana history.

It is at the church where runaway slaves would hide in the basement as part of the Underground Railroad.

Collins and Frank stood in the same place as slaves and were moved by the story which is part of their documentary.

“We both had an idea of the history that was here,” Frank said. “But when we started putting the calendar together and talking to local historians, we got a better feel for it. We didn’t realize the role this area played in the Underground Railroad. The feeling of being in that basement ... I couldn’t imagine being in that situation.”

“Walking down there and being in that space made it more real,” Collins said.

The two first combined to shoot the photos for the calendar “Our Proud Heritage” which portrayed historic sites in Clark and Floyd counties and was sponsored by the Multicultural Outreach Council of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana. The calendar was given to every fourth-grader in the two counties.

But once the history bug took hold of the two, they decided to tackle a bigger project — to make a documentary featuring New Albany’s past, present and future during the bicentennial year. They presented their idea to the Bicentennial Commission and now their dream film is almost complete. They hope to make final edits by Sept. 15 and have it ready in time for the Harvest Homecoming in October. The documentary will be between 35 and 45 minutes long and much of it will be narrated by Floyd County Historian David Barksdale. The cost for the video will be $25 and excerpts and donations can be seen at the fundraising website They hope to raise $12,000 to pay for the production and other costs associated with the DVD.

They will also host a premier of the final product but have yet to pick a location. The documentary will also be part of a time capsule which will be buried by the New Albany Bicentennial Commission.

“We have been hearing from people from all over. The word is getting out,” Frank said.

“’New Albany: City by the River’ is not just about celebrating the past; it is about recording the present,” Collins said. “We are documenting these firsthand accounts from the people who are essentially rebuilding New Albany with their bare hands. We have interviewed over 20 historians, business owners, artists, and community members on location at important historical sites, businesses, galleries, and museums in historic downtown New Albany.”

The documentary film tells the story of New Albany’s past and sheds some light on the people that are breathing new life into the downtown area. For more than a year, the two have been researching and filming interviews on location, and the film is nearly complete.

“It is so professionally done,” Barksdale said. “The two guys doing it are top-notch. They did the calendar and got so excited about the history of New Albany they approached the Bicentennial Commission about doing the documentary. I think it is going to be remarkable.”

Collins and Frank both have fine arts in graphic design degrees from IU Southeast. Aside from the film, they have collaborated on many print based photography and design projects. Frank also does professional videography work for local companies; recently he completed a video for the local non-profit organization Our Place: Drug and Alcohol Education Services, Inc. in downtown New Albany.

“Most people don’t get the chance to experience New Albany’s history on such a personal level. We witnessed the stories of people who have dedicated their lives to recording the past,” Collins said. “Daniel and I feel that it is a valuable commodity that needs to be preserved. Our film is a way for us to share that personal, human element of history.”

They said they learned so much from talking to Barksdale and other historians.

“His [Barksdale] excitement about history rubs off on you,” Collins said. “He was great to work with.”

The fundraising campaign began Aug. 20. Local musicians including Ben Traughber of New Albany helped to score the film. As of Aug. 27 the film has already raised 32 percent of its $12,000 goal. The two said if everyone in New Albany could contribute 33 cents to the campaign the funding goal would be met. A $5 donation will add the donor’s name to the credits of the film as a contributor.  

“We think this will spread out beyond New Albany,” Collins said. “It’s about New Albany but there is a much bigger story behind it.”


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