“An honest portrayal of Mississippi. A search for diversity that is found within a state that has gone otherwise unnoticed.”
That was the vision Vincent Chaney, a 22-year-old senior at The University of Southern Mississippi, set out to achieve in May 2011 when he created “subSIPPI,” a documentary that sheds light on various subcultures within Mississippi.
Chaney collaborated with artist Greg Gandy and urban gardener Lauren Chioffi to seek interesting narratives throughout the state. The visionaries wanted to showcase the present inner workings of Mississippi despite its past.
The documentary presents many non-traditional cultures that offset some hostile generalizations about the state.
“What we hope will transpire from the film is a good resource to take inventory on what is going on here in Mississippi; many people do not have the time to explore the state, to see the many different communities doing many different things,” Chaney said. “Within an hour long segment, all of these people are given a voice and [the “subSIPPI” team] hopes this enables inter-community engagement.”
The Student Printz had the opportunity to speak to Chaney and executive producers, Jason Le Viere and Adam Myrick of Click Boutique about the project.
SP: Why “subSIPPI”? Can you let our readers know what is implied by that title?
Chaney: The name derives from combining the two words “subcultures” and “Mississippi.” We decided early on that it was catchy, so we stuck with it.
SP: Mississippi is a landscape that has seen blood and grievances in its past. Do you see an art in the way we operate as a state and as Mississippians?
Chaney: I think what is peculiar to Mississippi is our heritage. We are the underdog story in many cases. I think art is born from suffering in that a person is able to analyze and interpret his/her situation with a creative consciousness and express himself/herself and [that has been the case with many of the great Mississippi artists].
Le Viere: I believe Mississippi’s rich history and tradition makes it unique. Mississippi is special because there is still so much room for growth and innovation – like a blank canvas.
SP: Creative activism is a field that uses media and the arts to ignite community interest in hopes of social change. “subSIPPI” is a quintessential example of this. In the best of all possible worlds, what is it you hope to see achieved by “subSIPPI?”
Chaney: I hope “subSIPPI” aids as a resource to educate people about the diversity in MS as well as excites in a way to get people involved within these communities and build infrastructure.
Myrick: I became very emotional and connected to the vision of “subSIPPI.” I knew what outsiders’ perceptions were of Mississippians. When I lived in New York, people assumed that I was ignorant, unmotivated and uneducated. (I might have proved them wrong a few times) I hope “subSIPPI” changes people’s perceptions about our state and inspires the children of Missississippi to embrace our history and work towards a bright future because change in any community only happens when the people share a common vision of what Mississippi can be. [For instance, Click is] still here because our community believed in us and the vision of change that we brought downtown.
Le Viere: My desire is that “subSIPPI” will take a far-reaching leap forward for Mississippi and the perception of our state to the media. Why couldn’t I point out Mississippi on a map three years ago? Because in my mind, based upon my perceptions, Mississippi was a place I would never have a reason to go. I didn’t belong in Mississippi, but now it is my home.
SP: Why is creative activism important in your eyes?
Chaney: Because open communication and a respect of persons (beliefs/values) is important to me. I want to make sure that I can understand where a person is coming from Hostility to open communication leads to suffering. I think “creative activism” is important insofar as it continues the conversation.
Myrick: I believe that there is hope for the state to move forward. There is a lot of work to be done and now is the time to identify the individuals to are creative, passionate, and motivated to actually work for change.
SP: Vincent, your major is philosophy. How has that influenced your work, if at all?
Chaney: Studying philosophy has taught me how to cultivate the desire to learn for the sake of learning and it has also taught me perseverance. Both of these things were important in the filming process. I had to teach myself, largely, how to make a film with little background knowledge prior to starting.
SP: Vincent, what tips do you have to offer to someone who feels a similar internal desire for change and chooses filmmaking?
Chaney: I’d like to cite someone who has much more clarity when it comes to these types of decisions. “Follow your bliss.” –Joseph Campbell
Secondary advice includes finding pleasure in the process. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but the axiom rings true…”if you find something you like doing, then you’ll never work a day in your life.” At least, partially…but be ready to commit and run with it!
SP: Surely as a first-time filmmaker, you have some lessons learned and viable tips for those seeking to proceed in the field. What can you provide to readers that has been valuable to you in your journey?
Chaney: Finding people that are smarter than you and spending as much time as possible with them, learning as you go. That is the best advice I have when beginning any new craft or endeavor.
Q: Tell us about the historic Saenger Theater and why the premier will be held there.
Le Viere: The location is significant due to historical relevance and because we are the “Hub City” of Mississippi. The Saenger Theater was built in 1929 and was one of the first air conditioned places in the state. The theater changed with the times – originally being split with segregated seating areas. The 2013 Saenger seats is 20,000 sq. ft 997 and hosts [many major local events].
Tim Benoit of Hub City Music, thought “subSIPPI” was able to achieve a stark, honest presentation of the state and mindset of its residents.
“subSIPPI felt like a beautiful love poem to a place and its people,” Benoit said.
“subSIPPI” will premiere at 7 p.m. at the historic Saenger Theatre in downtown Hattiesburg on Fri., Aug. 23. Doors open at 6 p.m. There will be a cash bar and photobooth in the lobby area.
Tickets are $5 cash/$6 credit card, and can be purchased online at www.etix.com.
The “subSIPPI” crew invites attendees to give their feedback before and after the event using the hashtag #subSIPPIPremiere on various social media sites.