Germantown gets its big break on screen

GERMANTOWN–“Germantown: Stories of Our History” had its world premiere Tuesday in two free screenings in town. The matinee was in the Hover Room at the Germantown Library, full at 40+ viewers. Sensing an even larger crowd for the evening screening, town historian Susan Raab moved it to the auditorium at the Germantown Central School.

The color film, with an original score, consists of interviews with 15 town residents, plus historic photos and voiceover by the writer and director, S. Nicholas Holsapple. (In Germantown Mr. Holsapple is known as Nick; to the rest of the world, he is Sanford.)The interviews begin with Alvin Sheffer, an unofficial town historian, describing the immigration of the Palatines from Germany in the early 18th century. Supervisor Joel Craig continues with a discussion of Germantown’s participation in the Civil War. Soldiers fought the war in regional troops, he explains, which could result in devastating losses for small towns like Germantown.

After that, a variety of “seniors” describe life in Germantown in the 1930s through the 1970s. They are Helen Henderson, Mary Howell, Don Kline, Doug Dodge, Bruce Bohnsack, Lucy Rifenburgh, Kurt Holsapple (Nick Holsapple’s father), Hank Himelright, Bob Rider, Gary Carter, Peter Fingar, George Sharpe and Nadine Rumke.

Mr. Holsapple, 28, attended both screenings. He is a graduate of Germantown Central School (he made his first film, on bullying, in high school) and SUNY Fredonia, where he studied acting. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works in film—acting, writing and producing.

Travis Bleen, GCS ’06, did the camera work. Also at the screenings was Sara Wolcott, who advised on the oral history aspect of the project. Her grandmother, Judy Tappen, lives in town.

The film’s score, piano solo with some vocalization, was composed and played by Kaleena Goldsworthy, a classmate of Mr. Holsapple’s at Fredonia, where she studied music. Her rendition of “Down in the River to Pray” backed the end of the film—baby photos of the interviewees and filmmakers. “We spent a good amount of time working on the music,” said Mr. Holsapple.

Speaking of time, Hollywood, take note: Mr. Holsapple and his colleagues put this polished, thoughtful film together in less than six months. Looking for a documentary project that he could be passionate about, Mr. Holsapple did the interviews last April—15 in one week. Over three months, he edited 20 hours of material to about 70 minutes, including his voiceover and the historic photos.

The Alexander and Marjorie Hover Trust Foundation funded the project with $5,000, and the Germantown History Department (headed by Ms. Raab, Mr. Holsapple’s mother) and the Germantown Library provided additional support.

Asked if he was looking for wider distribution, Mr. Holsapple said he didn’t know yet. “My biggest task was to get the film done on time to present it here,” he said.

Each hour-long interview will be available through the History Department and the library. The school and the library will have copies of the film. The library plans additional screenings, said Donald Westmore of the library board (and Town Board), and the high school can use the film as part of its history curriculum. “The film opened me to my heritage,” said Mr. Holsapple.

“Germantown: Stories of Our History” is dedicated to Mr. Rider, who died on August 27 at the age of 89.

 

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