A camera crew that is traveling around the nation to record the political views of rank-and-file Americans made a stop in Mount Airy Monday.
The four-member crew of Talking Eyes Media, a documentary company based in New Jersey, visited the city as part of a project called “Bring it to the Table.” The crew is going from place to place and inviting people to sit at a small table and share their beliefs while being interviewed by Julie Winokur, a writer and documentary film producer.
For its visit to Mount Airy Monday, the crew set up the table on the sidewalk in front of the F. Rees and Dragonfly Boutique stores around noon. Its array of cameras and microphones attracted much attention from lunchtime passersby.
Robert Atkins, 84, of Mount Airy, was among those interviewed about subjects such as Medicare. “What you see going on that you’d like corrected?” was one of the questions to him from Winokur which was overheard by onlookers.
After his interview, Atkins said he had mainly offered “just old country talk” during his responses to the documentary crew and his belief that faith in God can do much to guide the country.
The “Bring it to the Table” project originated with an observation by Winokur that American politics has become so divided people sometimes have difficulty openly discussing the subject. “Somewhere along the line, politics replaced sex as the one thing in America we don’t discuss in mixed company — even amongst friends and family,” she states on a website regarding the effort.
A desire to give citizens the opportunity to express themselves on the issues and having that recorded for posterity led to the launching of “Bring it to the Table” earlier this year. It is attempting to explore the roots of Americans’ political beliefs in addition to their positions on certain issues in a non-partisan format.
Initial plans call for the material to become “webisodes” that can be viewed online. However, it is hoped a major television network such as PBS or CBS will pick up the documentary for broadcasting because of its role in highlighting the thoughts of grass-roots America in a presidential election year.
The crew has begun visiting various locations, which eventually will take it around the country. In addition to Mount Airy, among the stops made so far include one to a Baptist church in Winston-Salem. Its work in this area is part of a 10-day swing through North Carolina and Virginia.
“We have done probably about 60 of these interviews” so far, Julie Turkewitz, a member of the camera crew, said Monday while watching the local citizens be questioned on North Main Street. About two to six interviews are conducted at each stop, which has been limited to East Coast sites so far.
While Winokur uses a standard set of questions, there is plenty of leeway for participants to inject their beliefs, according to Turkewitz.
Mount Airy was selected for the stopover due to fitting a small-town profile that the crew is targeting for its research, said Turkewitz, a 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who’s a journalism major. Another reason is the number of visitors Mount Airy attracts from other places due to its Mayberry mystique.
“We get a lot of diverse voices from visiting just one location,” Turkewitz explained as a group of tourists passed.
Something the crew has noted thus far is that while U.S. politics tends to be divided among party lines, many citizens don’t conform to that, she said.
“I think one of the major things we have found is people are frustrated by a two-party system that forces them to be a Democrat or Republican,” Turkewitz said. In reality, many might subscribe to individual positions of either party, but aren’t comfortable accepting its policies as a whole, she added.
“I’m hoping that by forcing people to look at their personal perspectives, our Table participants will gain a better understanding of why they believe what they believe,” Winokur says in the website account regarding her project.
“Once they do that, there is room to deal with real issues from a more productive vantage point, rather than merely through a partisan lens. My team and I hope that our project can inspire people to think a little deeper and engage more broadly.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.