Monday, April 30, 2012

Support surges for Agnes flood film

Support surges for Agnes flood film; let's keep it flowing


The Times Leader
January 24, 2011

The Times Leader - January 24, 2011

By Alan K. Stout
Commentary

    SIX MONTHS ago, I wrote a commentary for The Times Leader's editorial page to commemorate the 38th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes and the ensuing flooding that destroyed much of the Wyoming Valley.

At the time, I expressed a desire to make a definitive, all-encompassing film on Agnes that would document exactly what our residents went through in June 1972 and how gallantly they fought to overcome what was then called the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

    Today, plans for The Agnes Anniversary Project, as we have named it, are in motion. And at its center is that film, which we have simply titled "Agnes." It is our feeling that the word - at least here in Northeastern Pennsylvania - needs no further explanation or subtitles. The project team includes Richard Briggs, producer/director; Tony Brooks, historical consultant; Anthony Mussari, consultant/narrator; and Frank J. Pasquini, funding consultant. Their respective biographies can be viewed at www.agnes1972.com.

    I am proud to be working with these men on this important endeavor.

    Since we first proposed the idea, much work has been done. We have worked with news archivists at the CBS, NBC and ABC networks and have unearthed some remarkable footage of Agnes that probably hasn't been seen in nearly 39 years. We have discussed the project with WNEP-TV, WVIA-TV, WBRE-TV and WYOU-TV, all of which have offered support and use of archived material.

    We have reached out to the original publishers of four pictorial books on Agnes and all have granted us permission to use photos from those books in the film. We have discussed the project with state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, state Sen. Lisa Baker and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton. All have been supportive.

    We spoke before members of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, which immediately voted to make a donation to the project. The Luzerne County Historical Society did the same. The Times Leader published an article two weeks ago on the goals of the "Agnes" film, and Sue Henry at WILK radio recently asked us to appear on her show to discuss the project.

    We have been encouraged by the interest and support. This has been especially evident since we unveiled the "Agnes" film trailer a few weeks ago on our Facebook page. Within days, the number of followers on the page reached several thousand. Older people expressed appreciation for the project. Younger people expressed shock at what they'd seen in the trailer. Hundreds of viewers posted comments. Some began to contact us, offering to share their photographs, home videos and stories.

    It has been inspiring.

    As the project gained momentum, I was reminded of a moment I had last summer when talks about the film first began. I'd gone for a long bike ride from my home on the West Side toward South Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township, where I had lived as a young boy at the time of Agnes. About midway through my journey, the sky opened up and a heavy rain began to fall. I took refuge, of all places, under a covering at the River Common. It was a hot day with a strong, warm breeze, and that - combined with the pouring rain - made it feel quite tropical. On my iPod was some of the timepiece music, circa 1972, that I'd hoped to include in the "Agnes" film. And as I watched the rain splash upon the river while listening to those songs, I felt as if the past was speaking to me. And I felt compelled to try and make the project a reality.

    Now, I am starting to feel as if Northeastern Pennsylvania is speaking as well. Today, we are certain that the people of this region want to see this documentary and that they share our feelings on its historical and educational value.

    It would seem time is on our side, as we hope to finish the film by June 2012 - in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Agnes. But that only applies if we can get working. And right now the project is still in great need of funding. To learn how you can help, visit www.agnes1972.com. And if you are on Facebook, consider becoming a friend of The Agnes Flood Anniversary Project.

    With the support of local officials, businesses and residents, we will make this film. And we will ensure that the legacy of Agnes and the great efforts to overcome it put forth by our parents and our grandparents will be properly documented for generations to come.

Compiling a flood of memories

Compiling a flood of memories


The Times Leader
January 9, 2011

The Times Leader - January 9, 2011

By Jerry Lynott
Times Leader Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE - So much has been written and reported about the devastating flood of Tropical Storm Agnes, yet so little has been done to put it all together as Alan K. Stout would like to do.

    It's his goal to use the books, newspaper clippings, newsreel footage, radio reports and recollections of the many people in the Wyoming Valley who remember June 23, 1972 to make the definitive documentary of what at the time was the nation's worst natural disaster. He plans to premier the work of the team he's assembled on the flood's 40th anniversary at the F.M. Kirby Center.

    "It's time to do this," he said last week.

    Personal experience drives him, as well as the desire to create something for future generations that tells the story based on the numerous, but scattered sources.

"I realized that there was great stuff all over the place," he said, adding it was never combined into a comprehensive package.

He was 4 years old and living with his mother on Carlisle Street in South Wilkes-Barre when they fled to higher ground at a nearby relative's house. His children are too young to understand the significance of the event and the documentary will ensure that they do.

    Anthony Mussari, Ph.D., was teaching at King's College and recalled sandbagging on River Street to try to contain the Susquehanna River. A maker of documentaries himself, Mussari signed on to be a consultant and narrator for the project.

    "I think it's very important it be done so that it be available for generations that are not even born right now," he said.

    Stout, who is Newspaper in Education manager at The Times Leader, presented his idea for the documentary in an op-ed piece published in the paper in June.

    He's taken on the role of executive producer and has begun collecting material for what he envisions is a 60- to 90-minute documentary. A trailer featuring some of the original national network news broadcasts is on the project's website, www.agnes1972.com.

    The project has a budget of $77,140, which he's trying to raise from public and private sources.

    One of the more than 50 documentaries made by Richard Briggs was about the flood and he's thrilled to address the subject again as producer/director of the project.

    He's embraced Stout's idea of drawing on multiple sources.

    "I have an approach," said Briggs. "It is to gather as much as I can."

    Rounding out the team are historical consultant Tony Brooks, executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society, and funding consultant Frank J. Pasquini, director of capital resources for the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

   

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lack of funds stalls 'Agnes' Project

Cash sought to produce Hurricane Agnes film


The Times Leader
December 27, 2011

By Sheena Delazio Weiss
Times Leader Staff Writer

The Times Leader - Dec. 27, 2011
WILKES-BARRE - With thousands of supporters and a host of footage and photos of the Agnes flood of 1972, a small group of volunteers hoping to produce a documentary of the flood is now struggling to find a way to make the dream happen.

Alan Stout, executive producer of the hopeful documentary, said that an application for a grant for the project from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council was denied. That leaves the group of volunteers little cash to actually produce the film - which they had hoped to debut in June 2012 - and asking the public for help.

"We have raised about $4,000 from local legislators and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs," Stout said. "It's a long way from the goal of our original thought. We are at a crossroads, and we feel the public needs to know that."

Stout, who is employed with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of The Bridge, has been working on the project for the past 18 months with Tony Brooks, executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society; Richard Briggs, who has worked with the Public Broadcasting System; Anthony Mussari, a former professor at King's College and award-winning filmmaker; and Frank Pasquini, former director of capital resources for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.

The Agnes flood inundated several towns along the Susquehanna River in 1972, when the river reached 40.91 feet. Stout said local legislators Lisa Baker, John Yudichak and Eddie Day Pashinski have made donations to the project, and that four local television stations have offered all Agnes flood footage on file. The group also has support from 5,000 Facebook followers on its social networking page and has received hundreds of photos from supporters.

"We decided the project has too much historical and educational value to abandon it," Stout said. "But the project is in danger."

He said the documentary would be about 90 minutes in length and include liceenced film from the major networks and licensed music. The plan, Stout said, would be to show the film to area schools and have a premier at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre. The film would cost somewhere near $75,000 to complete, Stout said, and with only $4,000 accumulated thus far, the new goal of the group is to just finish the project.

"This is disappointing for us." Stout said. "This is not something that would have value only in 2012 (for the 40th anniversary of the flood), but a definitive historical documentation of the flood that has a value to generations to come."

*****

Want to help? To donate, visit www.agnes1972.com or www.facebook.com/agnes72 Or, call the Luzerne County Historical Society at 570-823-6244.