Arkansas PBS > Engage > Blog > Producing “Dream Land” – Getting the Story Right

Producing “Dream Land” – Getting the Story Right

  • Posted by
  • Tanisha Joe Conway
  • on

Oh, my! This was the day of the screening of “Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street” with the people we interviewed for the film. For days leading up to the event, I was nervous and anxious. The people who had given of themselves and their time to enlighten us about West 9th Street would be gathered in one room for one purpose: to screen this film and let us know if we had gotten it right, be it halfway, not at all, maybe a bit, okay.

I was, as I like to say, “pressured.” Pressured in the sense of nerves that threatened to overtake my balance of emotion, of equilibrium, of mental stability. We hadn’t seen most of the attendees since our interviews but Gabe Mayhan (Director/Cinematographer), Lucas Mireles (Editor) and I had lived with pieces of them, since those meetings. Each of them was larger than life and had been more than gracious in sharing of themselves and parts of their lives.  Although some had been reluctant to meet with us initially, they had generously allowed us to share their time, their spaces and their stories. They took us with them on trips down memory lane and through research into historical events. We listened, watched and learned. And, now, it was the time to share to see if we had done a decent job in the retelling.

Gabe Mayhan and Tanisha Joe Conway Share Dream Land with Interviewees

As the people featured in the film filed in, smiles, hugs and handshakes flowed freely. The conversations started and the anticipation grew. I exhaled with excitement at seeing them together and at getting the chance to be with them again. I also quickly inhaled with fear and exhilaration as I thought, “This is happening. They are here to see this film.” After brief remarks, it was time to begin. So many stories are waiting to be told. Only so many can be in the film. Have we done the story justice?  Have we done these people justice? We gathered at the back of the room while they settled.

Out go the lights. On comes the film. And there are the rumbles in my belly. Should I stay in the room or just wait outside? I stay. I watch. There went a pat on the back, there. Did I see a tap of a foot on the side of me?  Quiet … A chuckle …  A face swipe …  54 minutes …  55 minutes ... Credits ... Lights up … Screen off … Silence … And, then, applause followed by serious stares. I hear, “Fantastic … how did they do that?” from a sweet voice at the front of the room. I can finally breathe freely.

Afterwards, a brief but animated conversation ensued, followed by lunch and some continued conversations that lasted two to three more hours.

There was a deep satisfaction knowing that we did well at telling a part of the story, because there is so much more to tell. So much more remains that deserves to be shared and archived. I am left with this feeling of gratitude: gratitude for being a part of this process with Gabe and the AETN staff; gratitude for being in this room with such amazing, interesting people; gratitude at having rich stories to share; and gratitude for the people who lived this history and for attempts to keep the history alive and to share it.  I am grateful to be a part of it.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

”Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street,” 7 p.m.


”Dream Land: Little Rock’s West 9th Street”