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Vermont Movie’ portrays the complex history, society of the Green Mountain State

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County residents will have an opportunity to bask in their state’s greatness during the upcoming airing of “Freedom & Unity: The Vermont Movie,” a six-segment film that pays homage to the Green Mountain State’s compelling history of patriotism, inventiveness, independence, creativity and environmentalism.
The film represents the combined work of more than 30 Vermont filmmakers — including Addison County residents Jill Vickers and Katherine Wheatley — and showcases some local places, people and things.
“It was very empowering and welcoming,” Vickers, a Bridport resident, said of her role in the project, which involved capturing the stories of some Vermont-based inventors. “It has given me the confidence to continue in video production.”
It was around five years ago, while at the Green Mountain Film Festival, that Vickers first heard about a budding effort to produce “The Vermont Movie.” Vickers and other aspiring filmmakers met with a few of the movie’s producers to learn more about the exciting project.
She learned that organizers were seeking multiple Vermont filmmakers to shoot and submit footage on a variety of themes. At the time Vickers was winding down editing on her own film, “Once in Afghanistan,” and decided, “maybe I can do something for this film.”
She and Wheatley, owner of Middlebury Video Productions, decided to join forces on a “Vermont Movie” segment about inventors. They began what would become several months of involvement in the project by shooting some footage at the American Precision Museum in Windsor. The museum holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.
From there, they branched out to profile some solo inventors, including two in Addison County. They included:
• Gail Bush, CEO of Algepower Inc. Bush conducted tests at the Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport of her algae oil production system. The system is designed to extract oil from the diluted effluent in anaerobic “Cow Power” digesters that are making methane energy out of cow manure. The algae oil could be used as biodiesel.
• Paul McMahon, inventor of the ElecTrike, a single-passenger, 3-wheeled commuter vehicle powered by electricity. The prototype was built from an Arctic Cat ZL snowmobile frame and Yamaha R6 wheels, brakes and swing arm.
• Richard Travers, whose Waitsfield-based company Freeaire Refrigeration’s technology harnesses cold air from the outdoors to help lower the temperature in refrigeration units and walk-in coolers, thereby saving money and energy.
Another Addison County angle is the Ferrisburgh-based Rokeby Museum, which is featured in the film as a vital part of the story of fugitive slaves in Vermont.
Wheatley and Vickers spent hundreds of hours shooting film for their portion of “The Vermont Movie.” They realize that a small fraction of what they submitted will probably be used.
“You always shoot at least 10 times more than what you use,” said Vickers, owner of Dirt Road Documentaries. “We were asked to winnow it down to around 20 minutes.” Vickers explained that the filmmakers would have liked to condense the entire production into a 90-minute film, but “that format just didn’t fit.”
Vickers believes the solo inventors footage will be well-represented in the third segment of the movie, titled “Refuge, Reinvention and Revolution.”
Wheatley and Vickers will get their first look at the final product, along with everyone else, at the Middlebury screenings. Part One, titled “A Very New Idea,” will be screened at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater as part of a gala reception beginning at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7.
Parts Two through Six will be screened at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society worship hall off Charles Avenue in Middlebury. They will include:
• Tuesday, Oct. 8, Part Two, “Under the Surface.”
• Monday, Oct. 14, Part Three, “Refuge, Reinvention and Revolution.”
• Tuesday, Oct. 15, Part Four, “Doers and Shapers.”
• Monday, Oct. 21, Part Five, “Ceres’ Children.”
• Tuesday, Oct. 22, Part Six, “People’s Power.”
Tickets for the CVUUS presentations, which begin at 7:30 p.m., are $8. The Town Hall Theater gala tickets are $15.
The movie’s many sponsors include individual donors, the Bay and Paul Foundation, John M. Bissell Foundation, Green Valley Media, National Life of Vermont Foundation, Vermont Arts Council, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Humanities Council, and the Vermont Country Store. The movie tour is being sponsored by the Vermont Arts & Humanities councils, the Vermont Historical Society, and the Vermont Folklife Center.
“The Vermont Movie” will be available in its entirety on DVD. In the meantime, producers are selling a condensed classroom version aimed at teachers. The film’s producers say the material can be a tool to help educators impart important facts and anecdotes about Vermont’s history and culture. Around 150 of the classroom sets have been sold to date, according to Vickers.
“It’s very popular,” she said. “I’m processing the orders and shipping them out.”
Vickers and Wheatley are very proud of their contributions.
Wheatley has fond recollections of the picture-perfect days she and Vickers spent carrying out their various assignments. She enjoyed being able to focus on the videography, bouncing ideas off of Vickers and contributing to such a major work.
“I was getting to do something I really love to do, for a purpose,” Wheatley said. “It’s wonderful to see your pictures turned into something surprising.”
Vickers said Vermonters of all walks of life will enjoy the movie.
“It’s a story that will be of interest to people who have been (in Vermont) a long time and to people who are part of the story,” Vickers said, adding, “In my mind, it’s the story of being newcomers.”
More information about “The Vermont Movie” can be found at thevermontmovie.com.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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