A film with heart

'From the Heart of Williamsport' makes its debut

It started as a survey but then evolved into something bigger — a movie. “From the Heart of Williamsport” started its journey to the Community Arts Center’s big screen under the umbrella of the Susquehanna Greenways Partnership (SGP).

“We went to community events and into neighborhoods, block parties and surveyed people asking three basic questions. ‘What do you like about living here? What would you like to see changed? Do you have a favorite place in Williamsport.’ “ said Alice Trowbrige, who is the project coordinator with SGP and project director of The Heart of Williamsport.

The Heart of Williamsport is the name of the outreach program that was spearheaded by SGP. “The Pennsylvania Greenway Partnership has a river town program in which we help groups revision their connection to their river and their environment. We heard of a grant opportunity with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and it was for civic engagement through the Orton Family Foundation,” said Trowbridge. That grant started the mission to hear from all segments of the community, especially those that were not very vocal. Trowbridge said, “We know how to hear from certain groups but there are a lot of unheard voices.” The survey was meant to collect data that would later be analyzed.

Starting in 2016, eighty people were interviewed on camera by Sophie Herzing and shot by Christopher Cizek, who were both Lycoming College interns. Each interview ranged from 15 minutes to a half hour. Trowbridge elaborated, “We interviewed students, seniors, business people, community leaders, artists and went to homeless shelters.” The interviewees ranged from 15 years old to 65 years old and included a diverse group of locals.

Once the interviews were completed, another intern on the project had an idea. Why not take the interviews and weave them into a movie? Hayley Pisciotti from Lycoming College proposed taking the interviews and making a 60 minute documentary. “She had the concept of a movie of moments that made us smile or that made us feel good about where we lived to make residents of the community feel good about the community and to inspire them to participate in activities,” said Trowbridge. Pisciotti then wrote the screenplay which led the charge by 50 volunteers to make movie magic.

From The Heart of Williamsport is made by locals for locals. Close to a thousand volunteer hours went into its production with one crew member being as young as 15 years old. Trowbridge’s son, Curtis Trowbridge, is a Loyalsock High School student who logged 80 hours as an editor.

When asked who the director of the film is, Trowbridge answered, “I don’t really know.” She adds that it was a group effort and that it would be difficult to assign one person that title.

“From the Heart of Williamsport” serves as a mirror to the Williamsport experience. “We live in a uniquely wonderful town, with so many things to appreciate and not take for granted, and we are so grateful to be able to share some highlights from all the feel good stories we have heard,” said Mary Woods, who helped lead production as assistant project coordinator.

The film explores themes that are dear to the community’s heart such as our history, architecture, Little League, natural surroundings and the people and much more. “The movie’s purpose is two-fold: to make us feel good about where we live and it is a call to action. We all need to participate in making this a great place to live,” said Trowbridge.

“From The Heart of Williamsport” will debut at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., Friday, Feb. 9. Beginning at 5 p.m., a reception will welcome guests with light refreshments and music by the Susquehanna Jam Crackers. The free showing of the movie begins at 6 p.m. Following the movie at 7 p.m., the Capitol Lounge will host a second reception with music from pianist Jaquie Engel.

The movie’s premiere just before Valentine’s Day is no accident. It’s crew hopes the film warms the hearts of viewers. Woods said, “After interviewing a variety of local residents from different neighborhoods, representing a cross section of our diverse community through different backgrounds, careers, incomes, religions, races, ages, and genders … all the things that seem to divide us, I was most surprised to realize how much we all had in common!”