Shane Simmons and Jason Barton were tired of all of negative media attention southern Appalachia constantly receives, so they decided to change that by creating The Appalachian Project (TAP).
TAP is committed to promoting and preserving the heritage and culture of the Southern Appalachians. The project began with the idea of a documentary film in search of the true heart of this area — the people — and to preserve those memories and stories of days gone by.
Simmons says the idea came to them during an impromptu road trip to New Orleans.
“We stopped at a convenience store in Chattanooga, Tenn.,” Simmons said. “There was this old man who was working. When we left, we started trying to think about what his story would be. By the end we had this wild backstory, ex-military and all that. And we got to talking and said, ya know, his real story is probably so much cooler than this.”
The founders of the page and producers of the documentary are dedicated to the idea of sharing Appalachian culture — not only with families within the Appalachians but also with the world.
“We hope that in creating this documentary it will illustrate an accurate depiction for those outside our area and help understand our way of life. We have launched our mission, our crusade, our adventure, to uncover the true spirit of the area we call home.”
Both men have lived in the Appalachians for their entire lives, originating in Virginia. Simmons has lived everywhere from Northwestern North Carolina to western Virginia, from eastern Kentucky to southern West Virginia. He has even held jobs in Bluefield and Matewan.
The men want to include all of these various states and cultures in TAP.
“We really want to hear some stories from Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell in W.Va.,” Simmons said. “That’s the heart of Appalachia.”
TAP is looking for interesting local people, 80 years or older, to share their stories and wisdom with the rest of the world, to show Appalachia’s positive side — strong work ethic, family values, patriotism, etc.
The men, along with their crew, travel to different areas to get the stories, and Simmons said he is excited to hear stories of their future participants.
“The longer we film, the better these stories keep getting,” Simmons said.
Simmons said they are especially looking for old coal miners, war veterans, and homemakers within the age group.
“”When my grandparents were alive I didn’t really appreciate the advice they could give,” Simmons said. “These people have so much wisdom and it needs to be documented.”
As for production, the men have high hopes of finishing within the year.
“We’re hoping to have to documentary finished by the end of the year,” Simmons said. “That way we can enter it in film festivals next year.”
For those interested in participating, TAP can be contacted on their Facebook page, The Appalachian Project, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org