Fiscal Sponsors



Champan University
The National Endowment For The Humanities
The Southern Documentry Fund
The West Virginia Humanities Council


Synopsis




this movie is for anyone who is a hillbilly or anyone who knows one


Appalachia is as old as it is complex. Made up of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, the region and its people are home to a mountain range and a history that make it an undeniably special - and even quintessentially "American" - place. Due to a century-and-a-half of reliance on coal as its core industry, one of its defining characteristics has been a "boom and bust" economy that has also made Appalachia a region of poverty and a frequent focus of national attention. From these mountains and circumstances have emerged a complicated, often problematic, and enduring American archetype: the hillbilly.

Hillbilly: Appalachia in film and television is a documentary film that examines the iconic hillbilly stereotype in film and television. The film explores more than a hundred years of media representation of mountain and rural people, reveals how the hillbilly icon reflects America's aspirational self-image over the decades, and offers an urgent exploration of how we see and think about poor, white, rural America.

The Production Team



Ashley York

Ashley York

Co-Director

Ashley is a Kentucky-born mediamaker and film producer who is interested in documentaries, socially conscious media, and emerging modes of storytelling. She has worked on Academy Award® nominated teams and as a producer on projects that have premiered at the Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW film festivals as well as on Oprah Winfrey's Network, A&E, IFC, HBO, Discovery, and the Sundance Channel.

She co-directed and produced Tig, an Official Selection of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Ashley was one of nine women debuting a feature film at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Ashley is committed to a feminist approach and intrigued by work that intersects the emotional and ideological. She is inspired greatly by the work of bell hooks, the late Aimé J. Ellis and Susan Sontag, and Silas House. She produced two 2011 Sundance Film Festival Official selections: Becoming Chaz, about Chaz Bono's gender transition; and GRAB, about the Laguna Pueblo tribe in New Mexico.

She is a member of Women in Film, the International Documentary Association, and a founding member of the Los Angeles-based design collective, Take Action Games, which has been recognized for its commitment to highlighting issues that affect women and girls and partnered with various social justice and mission-based organizations to make digital activist projects, including the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the International Crisis Group, the Independent Television Service, and the Center for Asian American Media. Take Action Games received an Emmy Award nomination in the category of New Approaches to News and Documentary Film as well as the prestigious Governors' Award from the Academy of Arts & Sciences (the Emmy's highest honor) for a campaign co-produced by mtvU to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

Ashley received her BA in journalism from the University of Kentucky and her MFA from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts where she currently teaches.


Sally Rubin

Sally Rubin

Co-Director

Sally is a documentary filmmaker and editor who has worked in the field for more than 15 years. Her mother is from Calderwood, Tennessee, a hollow in the Smoky mountains. She grew up visiting Appalachia and has been spending time with family and friends in the region for many years. Sally recently completed Life on the Line, a documentary about a teenage girl living on the border of the US and Mexico -- a Fledgling Fund recipient that premiered in 2014 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and across the country on PBS.

Her previous film, Deep Down (co-directed by Jen Gilomen), was an ITVS, MacArthur, Chicken and Egg, and Fledgling-funded feature-length documentary about two friends in eastern Kentucky who find themselves divided over mountaintop removal coal mining near their homes. The film was part of the 2010-2011 Independent Lens Emmy-winning PBS series, and has reached almost 1.5 million people through its broadcast, distribution, and outreach campaign. It was nominated for an Emmy for its Virtual Mine outreach project, in the category of New Approaches to News and Documentary.

Sally's other credits include The Last Mountain, a film about her father's death in a hiking accident that was broadcast on PBS, Robert Greenwald's Iraq for Sale: the War Profiteers, (Editor), and the television series "The Freedom Files" (Editor), as well as David Sutherland's 6-hour Frontline special Country Boys, about two boys in Floyd County, Kentucky (Associate Producer), and "Riverwebs" (Editor), which broadcast nationally on PBS.

She recently completed a short that aired in conjunction with David Sutherland's Kind Hearted Woman on Frontline in 2013. In 2004, Sally founded the groundbreaking Straight Outta Grrrlville Film Festival in San Francisco, and continues to produce local events and benefits for artists and filmmakers, in conjunction with her own continued work.

Sally is also full-time documentary professor at Chapman University and a graduate of the M.A. program in Documentary at Stanford University.


Silas House

Silas House

Executive Producer

Silas, an Appalachian author, was born and grew up in Lily, Kentucky. He has degrees from Sue Bennett College, Eastern Kentucky University and Spalding University. House was chosen as one of the ten emerging talents in the South by the Millennial Gathering of Writers at Vanderbilt University. House's first novel, Clay's Quilt, was published in 2001. It appeared briefly on the New York Times Best Seller List and became a success throughout the South. It was a finalist for both the Southeast Booksellers' Association fiction award and the Appalachian Writers' Association Book of the Year Award.

He followed with A Parchment of Leaves (2003), which became a national bestseller and was nominated for several major awards. The book was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics' Circle Prize and won the Award for Special Achievement from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Chaffin Award for Literature, the Kentucky Novel of the Year Award, and many others. House served as a writer-in-residence at Eastern Kentucky University and at Lincoln Memorial University from 2005 to 2010. At LMU he directed the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival.

In 2010 House became the NEH Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.


Jonathan Matthews

Jonathan Matthews

Co-Producer

Jon grew up in Alum Creek, West Virginia. He practiced civil rights law for seven years and was legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut, before deciding to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker.

In 2009, Jon was accepted -- with a full scholarship -- to NYU's graduate film program. At NYU, Jon worked as Spike Lee's teaching assistant and was awarded a film production grant from Mr. Lee.

Jon's thesis film, "Surviving Cliffside," premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival and screened in a dozen festivals around the world. Jon's next film, a narrative feature called "Black Dog, Red Dog," was co-directed by James Franco and stars Mr. Franco, Olivia Wilde, and Whoopi Goldberg. It premiered in 2015.

He is currently in post on a narrative feature that he wrote and directed, called "Khali the Killer," a crime drama which is set to be released by Millennium Films in 2016.

Jon lives in Los Angeles and is an adjunct professor at Columbia College Hollywood.


Bryan Donnell

Bryan Donnell

Co-Producer & Cinematographer

Bryan is an award-winning director of photography who has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his verité work on an episode of "Intervention," which won the 2009 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program. He won the Palme d'Or for best short at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, and one of his rare feature narratives won best cinematography at the Melbourne Underground Festival as well as best feature.

One of his first documentaries, the short Undesirables, won both an Emmy and Oscar in the student categories. He regularly works on Academy-Award nominated teams, including with Lucy Walker and Morgan Spurlock on his award-winning CNN series "Inside Man."

He has worked on projects all across the globe for ESPN, HBO, National Geographic, A&E, History, Discovery, OWN, Fox, MSNBC, Sundance, Lifetime, and Animal Planet. He earned his MFA at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, and a BA in Fine Art at UNC Chapel Hill.


Kayla Velloso

Kayla Velloso

Associate Producer

Kayla Summer Velloso is a full time college student and an emerging documentary filmmaker graduating from Chapman University this May. In January of 2014 she produced her first documentary, Lots of Love, which screened at the European Union Film Festival. Since then Kayla has interned for documentarians Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles, 2012) and Robert Kenner (Food Inc., 2008), as well as continued to work on her own films.

Kayla co-produced, co-directed, and shot a short documentary, Phyllis, a film about the remarkable life of 91 year old Phyllis Sues, which will soon be on the festival circuit. She also worked in conjunction with the Orange County District Attorney to create a documentary film about human trafficking in Orange County. Most recently, she was cinematographer in the field and co-editor of a film about access to education in rural Laos; additionally, she co-directed a film about a multigenerational bespoke tailoring business in Thailand.

After graduation, Kayla plans to continue her career working in documentary film.


Film Advisors

Barbara Ellen Smith

Barbara Ellen Smith

Professor

Barbara Ellen Smith is professor of Women's and Gender Studies in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. Her interdisciplinary scholarship addresses social inequality and movements for social justice in Appalachia and the U.S. South. The Aspen Institute, U.S. Department of Labor, and the Ford, Rockefeller, and Charles Stewart Mott Foundations, among other sources, have supported her research. Her books include Digging Our Own Graves: Coal Miners and the Struggle over Black Lung Disease (Temple University Press, 1987), and Transforming Places: Lessons from Appalachia (University of Illinois Press, 2012), which she co-edited with Steve Fisher.


Tony Harkins

Tony Harkins

Professor

Dr. Tony Harkins is an Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Popular Culture Studies major at Western Kentucky University. He is the author of Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon (Oxford University Press, 2004) and the co-editor of the Media section of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (University of Tennessee Press, 2006). His current research explores the concept of "flyover country" and the changing ways Americans in the postwar era have envisioned the cultural and geographic boundaries and intersections of the nation.


Anne Lewis

Anne Lewis

Filmmaker

Anne Lewis lived in Appalachia for decades, making documentary films about social action, human rights, labor, environmental justice, and cultural democracy - films that create opportunity for social change. She has made documentary films since 1970 and was associate director and assistant camerawoman for the Academy Award® winning documentary, Harlan County USA (1976). Her work includes Morristown: in the air and sun, a working class response to globalization; Shelter, institutional response to domestic violence through the stories of four survivors; To Save the Land and People, history of the citizen's movement to abolish strip mining; Justice in the Coalfields, about the UMWA strike against Pittston and what justice means to workers; Belinda, AIDS activist who fought against homophobia and prejudice; and Fast Food Women about the working poor. Her intent is to create meaningful work, tell the truth about working class Americans, and contribute to the vitality of independent filmmaking. She is a senior lecturer in editing and documentary filmmaking at the University of Texas at Austin.


Emily Satterwhite

Emily Satterwhite

Professor

Emily Satterwhite teaches Appalachian studies, American Studies, and Pop Culture, and coordinates the American Studies and Pop Culture minors at Virginia Tech. Satterwhite's research fields include critical regionalism, reception studies, and the politics of culture. Satterwhite analyzes fan mail and online customer reviews to understand why certain readers have romanticized images of the Appalachian region. Her research centers on the politics of culture, especially in relation to imagined geographies and identity formation. Her first book, "Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878," was published by the University Press of Kentucky and recently won the Weatherford Award for best nonfiction work illuminating the Appalachian South. Satterwhite suggests that upwardly and geographically mobile white readers have sought to identify and embrace Appalachia as a rooted, rural, communal, and simple place apart from mainstream America. Appalachian-set bestsellers helped stimulate the formation of a regional identity movement that has critiqued the emotional costs of upward mobility, soothed white readers' concerns about lack of identity and belonging, and fostered readers' attachments to place in a society that belittles rural locales.


Anna Creadick

Anna Creadick

Professor

Anna Creadick is an Associate Professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, where she teaches courses in twentieth-century American literature and culture, and contributes to the American Studies and Women's Studies programs. Author of the monograph "Perfectly Average: The Pursuit of Normality in Postwar America" (UMass Press, 2010), she has also published essays on popular fiction, film, and other subjects in such journals as "Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature", "The Southern Literary Journal", and "Appalachian Journal". Her current research project investigates the relationship between reading and middle-class identity at mid-century. Creadick grew up in Boone, NC, but drifted north for graduate school, and now finds herself teaching about Appalachia and the South at a small liberal arts college in western New York state.


Jerry Williamson

Jerry Williamson

Film Historian

Jerry Williamson is a retired professor of Appalachian Studies and English at Appalachian State University. He was the founding editor of the Appalachian Journal in 1972 and edited that quarterly publication for 28 years until his retirement in 2000. He was honored with the Laurel Leaves Award from the Appalachian Consortium and a special Weatherford Award from Berea College in 2000. Jerry and his wife, Pam, received the Helen M. Lewis Community Service Award from the Appalachian Studies Association in 2005. He is author of Interviewing Appalachia (with Edwin T. Arnold, University of Tennessee Press, 1994), Southern Mountaineers in Silent Films (McFarland, 1994), and Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies (University of North Carolina Press, 1995), as well as numerous articles, book reviews, and interviews with Appalachian authors, filmmakers, and activists.


Lora Smith

Lora Smith

Community Advocate

Lora Smith serves as the Network Officer for Central Appalachia at the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation where she manages the foundation's strategic grantmaking in the region. A native of Southeastern Kentucky, Lora comes from a background of social justice engagement in Appalachia. She is a former staff person with the grassroots group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, where her media and storytelling work supported environmental and economic justice organizing. After leaving her post there, she served as the National Outreach Director for Deep Down (2010). As Outreach Director she coordinated screenings that connected diverse communities directly affected by coal's cradle to grave cycle. Through her work with Deep Down, Lora participated in Working Films' Reel Power project and served as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the series. Lora holds a B.A. in Individualized Studies from New York University where she graduated magna cum laude and received the Founders' Day Award. She also studied folklore and documentary studies as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is a Southeast Council of Foundations (SECF) Hull Fellow, a fellowship program for young leaders in philanthropy, and serves on the board of Working Films.


About The Film



Directors' Statement

For millions of Americans, the word "Appalachia" evokes a remote and mountainous region that is home to folks who are poor, isolated, uneducated, and who are at risk of teen pregnancy, alcoholism, domestic violence, and welfare dependency -- in short, everything associated with the terms "hillbilly," "hick," "redneck," and "poor white trash."

"We're probably one of the last few groups that it's still politically correct to make fun of," argues Terry Heaton, an Appalachian blogger. "It's still okay to tell hillbilly, redneck jokes. It would be easier for me to laugh at this kind of humor, if the concept were universally applied to all groups. Unfortunately, that's not the case."

Our intention in making this film is to introduce a new perception of Appalachia and its people into American public discourse, to increase awareness and sensitivity around the use of two-dimensional language and humor used to depict rural people, to remind viewers of the power of film and television to play a critical role in shaping the public's perception of rural people, and to provide solutions for counteracting negative stereotypes on a broad level.

Featuring bell hooks, Ashley Judd, and Jennifer Garner, Hillbilly: Appalachia in film and television comes at a crucial moment, confronting depictions of Appalachian and other rural people on a broad, national level. It introduces audiences to a nuanced, authentic Appalachia that is quite conscious of how it has been portrayed and the impacts of those portrayals. The documentary deconstructs mainstream representations while asking crucial questions: Where did the hillbilly archetype come from and why has it endured on-screen for more than a hundred years? How does it relate to the exploitation of the land and people who live there? How do Appalachian and rural people view themselves as a result of these negative portrayals, and what is the impact on the rest of America? And, how does the rest of America's treatment of the rural working poor mirror middle and upper class fears about who they are, and who they may become?


The Filmmakers: Ashley York and Sally Rubin

Why We Are Making The Film

We are Appalachian-American filmmakers who are committed to making this film in order to offer the world a rich and varied point of view of this historically misunderstood region.

Ashley York grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. She left the region to go to college where she experienced harsh ridicule and criticism due to her distinct regional accent. She later moved to Los Angeles to pursue a degree in documentary storytelling at the University of Southern California where she became inspired by Appalachian filmmakers Anne Lewis and Barbara Kopple, and began producing a body of work about the culture and experiences of rural people. Having personally experienced the media's negative portrayals over and over throughout her life, she has long been eager to make a film like Hillbilly: Appalachia in film and television. Ashley's most recent film, Tig, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015.

Sally Rubin's mother was raised in the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee, and Sally spent substantial time growing up visiting relatives, scattered throughout the Tennessee and North Carolinian Appalachian mountains. As a young filmmaker, Sally associate produced David Sutherland's Country Boys, a Frontline film about two teenage boys growing up in eastern Kentucky, and then made her own film (with Jen Gilomen), Deep Down, about mountaintop-removal coal mining in a small eastern Kentucky town. Deep Down was nominated for an Emmy Award for its outreach component, the Virtual Mine, and broadcast nationally on PBS' Independent Lens. The time Sally spent in Tennessee growing up contrasted with her experience making films in the region as an adult has sharpened her sensitivity to both insider and outsider gazes on Appalachia, and ignited her passion for telling the tragic, comedic, and poignant story of Hillbilly: Appalachia in film and television.

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