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Small town USA on film

Staff writer

It’s tough on a small town and its residents when businesses close and families move away.

That’s the underlying message in the documentary, “Small Town, USA: The Race to Renovate Rural America.”

A film crew from IMG Pictures LLC of Wichita was in Peabody Sunday afternoon, to film scenes and promotional pieces. A professional photographer also was on hand to take photographs for promotional advertising of the documentary.

Director Wynn Ponder explained the project.

Around the first of July, he and his crew started calling around the area, looking for small town Fourth of July celebrations. They saw Peabody’s web site and spent July 4 in Peabody.

“We saw all of the beautiful things a small town offers,” Ponder said, including Peabody’s “beautiful downtown.”

The documentary chronicles the struggles and advantages of small towns through the eyes of business owners and residents.

Ponder said Peabody will be the “poster city” for the project, featuring shots of the downtown area and some local residents.

“It’s more of a social experiment,” Ponder said.

The full-length documentary film will include roundtable discussions with representatives of area cities and counties, economic development professionals, and Kansas Department of Commerce.

Ponder said small towns in rural America have experienced declining populations since the 1950s.

The film asks the question, “Are rural communities going to survive?”

Intertwined with information about development and reasons people move to small towns, the film will include human interest stories about a family moving to the city after a factory closes and a business owner trying to hang on with increased costs and fewer customers.

During Sunday’s shoot, Gary Jones was filmed “opening” his downtown antique store, Mayesville Mercantile. Another scene was filmed at Jones Sheep Farm Bed & Breakfast. In that scene, a mother watched her children safely play in the front yard of their home.

Families who volunteered to be filmed were Preston and Lisa Hodges and children Embry, Brooks, and Sydney; Tom and Tina Spencer and children Sarah, Lukas, and Christopher; and Chris and Jennifer Young and children Mackenzie, Bryant, Philip, and Alex.

Filming will continue for several months, followed by several months of editing. The final film will be 90 to 120 minutes in length.

IMG already has made its mark in the film industry by doing 3D animation and computer graphics for films that include “Get Smart,” “Iron Man,” “Transformers,” “Spiderman 3,” “I Am Legend,” and “Hancock.”

Last modified July 31, 2008

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