NOTE: This is indeed the final episode of the series. There was a previous blog post about what I’ve learned in doing the project and three more will follow over the next three days, the following though, is just the standard making of the episode piece.
The idea for this episode came from a combination of two sources. The first was an article in the LA Times about Trona’s football team, (read it here). The second was this poem by James Wright:
Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchmen of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.
Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.
Now, this poem was written in 1963 back when there actually were steel factories in Eastern Ohio but the sentiment remains. Clearly, high-school-football-as-expression-of-town’s-hope-and-pride is a shopworn cliché. No argument here.
At the same time the visual draw of Trona, the notion that the very ground the team plays on is a reflection of the difficulty of living in the town, and the ability to root this truism in the modern American West were all too hard to pass up.
And, I think the viewing of the piece reflects our own experiencing in making it. It begins with a sense of this eerie, forlorn town, then moves to an understanding of how extremely dire the economic situation in Trona truly is and ends with an understanding that here football is not about sport, but rather about an expression of survival. That’s very much how we came to understand the town in our time there.
Lastly, as devoted readers of these pieces know I usually offer some kind of comment on why this particular episode was tough. And it’s been true, every episode has been really difficult to get done and each time it’s been for a unique reason. Last night over celebratory beers my wife and I were remarking on the fact that this episode, episode 12 was actually not all that difficult. There was a late night sure (stayed up until 5am) but that’s just par for the course in a project like this. There wasn’t the endless gnashing of teeth on how to get the cut working, there wasn’t a sense that this would be our worst outing yet, there was just the need to do the work.
It seems that after doing this eleven times before I had finally learned to trust not only the process and myself as well.