Documentary filmmaking is expensive. There’s research, equipment, personnel, travel, usage fees; and the list goes on and on.
Unless you are independently wealthy – and I’m not, you need some one to help out financially.
There aren’t many patrons for documentary filmmaking in general or historical documentary filmmaking, in particular.
That brings me to the Ohio Humanities Council.
Anyone, who works in the humanities in Ohio, knows about this organization.
The Ohio Humanities Council helped underwrite this documentary. Without OHC’s assistance, “Rebels on Lake Erie” could not have been made.
The Ohio Humanities Council hasn’t been around long – only since 1972, which means it’s celebrating its 40th birthday this year. That means OHC is younger than I am.
In a sense, OHC is a product of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative of the 1960s. In 1965, bending to the will of the White House, Congress passed the act that made the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts possible. The Washington Post called the creation of the endowments “a momentous step.” President Richard Nixon must have agreed because he greatly expanded the funding for both NEH and NEA.
The state humanities and arts councils followed. The state agencies – including the Ohio Humanities Council – were set up to bring the humanities down to the state and local levels — to the neighborhood, if you will. According to its website, the OHC’s mission is “to increase Ohioans’ appreciation and understanding of the humanities….”
Former OHC director Gail Peterson once observed that the council brought the humanities to a wider audience and bridged the gap between scholars and the general public. If you look at the work of the OHC recently, you see that the organization has been true to that mission. OHC sponsors summer institutes for K-12 teachers. It sponsors the annual Ohio Chautauqua. It arranges the Museum on Main Street.
It also supports media projects.
“Rebels on Lake Erie” isn’t the typical story of the Civil War. It doesn’t deal with generals and battles directly. It deals with what remains one of the most controversial elements of the Civil War – prisoner of war camps. It deals with a college-educated Virginia pirate who tried to liberate Confederate officers imprisoned at Johnson’s Island. It’s also a story about the subterfuge that came to be known as the Northwestern Conspiracy.
The OHC always endorses presenting both sides of a story. We think we’ve done that. This documentary doesn’t provide simple questions or simple answers. But war is like that.
So thank you, OHC, for giving us an opportunity to tell this story and we hope that the thousands of Ohioans who watch this on April 23 at 10 p.m. on WNEO/WEAO and later on other stations in the state will enjoy the program.