Filming Colleton’s history
by The Press and Standard | July 27, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: July 25, 2018 at 10:42 am
George “Buddy” Wingard and Sabrina Shutters are reaching the end of their chronicling of Colleton County’s love affair with the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease.
Their efforts will put the love affair down on film — the documentary video should be ready for its premier this fall.
The as-yet untitled film will be Wingard’s third documentary, the second from the partnership of Wingard and Shutters.
Shutters, a broadcast journalism student at USC in Columbia, serves as the film’s editor and shares the videographer duties with Wingard. Wingard said his role is “producer, director, mop and bucket handler.”
He began his role as a documentarian with the production of “Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay.”
Wingard, program coordinator of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, said his job “is protecting the nearly 12,000 years of history” at Savannah River Site. “Federal regulations demand that.” While working the archaeological digs at the site in 2006, those probing the earth discovered broken bits of an earthenware jar. Further examination of the finds unveiled that they were bits of a Dave jar, a slave potter who gained renown for his distinctive work.
“That was the catalyst of my first film, Wingard said.
“Right after the film came out, one of the first persons to call me was Gary Brightwell, at the time the museum director,” Wingard explained. “They had a Dave jar in the museum, so she invited me to come down and show the film at the museum.”
While he was in Colleton County to show the film, he met Dr. Sarah Miller, a history professor at USC-Salkehatchie and a mainstay of the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society. “She said ‘I want to show you some of our cultural resources’,” Wingard said.
One of those local treasures was the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. “I was just floored when I saw it. I didn’t know Pon Pon history; I didn’t know that it existed in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
“Here was this amazing structure, far removed from Walterboro but with such an amazing history.”
As a child, Wingard explained, his family made regular trips to Beaufort. “Of course going to Beaufort, we would stop by Sheldon Church and the ruins there.”
Getting his first look at Pon Pon, he said, “I was awestruck by what I saw.”
About a year after Miller introduced Wingard to revered ruins, he and a group of volunteers returned to do “a bit of archeology. We did ground-penetrating radar.”
He hoped to return and do some more archeology work at the site, “but Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma kind of pushed that off.”
Late last year, after Wingard and Shutters finished another film, he was on the telephone with Miller. She asked him what they would be doing next. I said, “I don’t know. What about something on Pon Pon?”
“It was just that quick,” Wingard said. Last October, Wingard was at a historical and preservation society meeting, announcing he and Shutters would be doing the film.
Wingard and Shutters were back in Colleton County the afternoon of July 20 — the goal of this visit being to film an interview with Brightwell, the last of the 12 interviews conducted for the film.
“This is my ninth or tenth trip down since October,” Wingard said.
In addition to the dozen interviews, he said, he and Shutters have amassed “hundreds of images, hours of ‘B-roll’ film. Some of those interviewed have photos,” Shutters explained.
“You look for historic documents,” Wingard said. “I have spent the last two weeks combing through Colonial newspapers on anything about Pon Pon.”
Shutters task is to weave the film from those interviews with portions of the B-roll: film shot at and above Pon Pon, images of historical documents and archival video footage.
When blending clips from the interviews and the B-roll, Shutters said, “I do a lot of visualizing of what it could have been like. It is almost like re-enacting what it would have been like for the people,” hearing the stories and memories from people and showing where it all happened.
Shutters’ efforts in editing ensure the story keeps the viewers attention focused. “You don’t want a talking head on the screen for 20 minutes,” Wingard said.
Wingard doesn’t discount the value of the interviews. To film history, he said, “you get good speakers.”
In his conversations with a cross-section of people, he said, he asked a few questions and got “so much meat in return. They bring up something that is just extraordinary.”
The problem is, he said, the film gets bigger and bigger, sometimes they have to cut some of that meat.”
With the assistance of Shutters, Wingard said, “the story really is rolling and telling itself.”
Wingard said Pon Pon’s story has three parts.
The first third of the film is going to be a contextual history of Pon Pon of Jacksonboro.
Second third looks at the historic preservation efforts that have been undertaken so far: everything known from after 1830 in regard to the protection of the church ruins.
The film will put those efforts “in context to let people see that even though what you have there are ruins, Colleton County is very proud of these ruins and has done a lot over the years to maintain them, to keep the integrity as is and to showcase state and American history.”
In the third part of the film, those interviewed will “tell us why it is important to you, important to the community.”
His hope is “folks see this and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know about that. What else is out there?’ The idea is for folks see this and wonder what can they can do to help,” Wingard said.