A community participatory documentary project coming in Spring 2013

Hollow is a hybrid community participatory project and interactive documentary where content is created “for the community, by the community.” The project combines personal documentary video portraits, user-generated content, photography, soundscapes, interactive data and grassroots mapping on an HTML5 website designed to discuss the many stereotypes associated with the area, population loss and potential for the future. Members of the community will take part in the filmmaking process by creating 20 of the 50 short documentaries in efforts to build engagement and social trust and empower the community to work together for a better future.

On August 22, 2012, Hollow was awarded a new media grant from Tribeca Film Institute. The Hollow team is honored to be recognized by Tribeca and to be among the other talented teams who were chosen for this prestigious award.




Why should you care about this project?

“Most of the thoughts and opinions of our state are formed by outside forces looking in. A project like this gives us the opportunity to do the exact opposite. To let people see West Virginia from the perspective of the people who live here. We can show the good and the bad. And the surprising thing for most people will probably be that the good is awfully good. And that the bad is much more real and nuanced than the clichés and stereotypes.”

- Jason Headley, Hollow story director and writer.


A Nationwide Issue

Demographers studying population in West Virginia estimate that the 10 communities that make up McDowell County, West Virginia are just years away from extinction. From 1950 to 2010, the population of the county seat of Welch has diminished to 2,600; only 22,000 people remain in the county. Located in the southern coalfields, the area has experienced the effects of a boom and bust economy, but its experience is similar to many rural towns. Over the past 25 years, more than 700 rural counties, from the Plains to the Texas Panhandle to Appalachia, lost 10% or more of their population (Hollowing Out the Middle). Population loss has many negative effects on the economy, education system and overall quality of life for people who choose to stay. The project will examine the many community-led ideas that could change the current economic landscape and bring people home.

“The problems facing small-town America do not receive as much attention as urban issues by the government or media. Rural development falls under the Department of Agriculture and is fourth in line. Compare this to the urban affairs, which have a secretary-level member of the cabinet whose sole job is to advise the president on housing and urban affairs. National media assigns reporters to cover suburban and urban beats, but the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times have no equivalent rural-issues correspondents.”

(Hollowing Out the Middle)

This community participatory project has great potential to become a place where the community can have a voice and share ideas for the future. We hope that this interactive model can encourage trust among the community and empower them to work together for change. Hollow’s documentary portraits and user-generated content will provide a multidimensional viewpoint, highlighting the ingenuity and spirit that keeps the community fighting.



Our Kickstarter campaign has successfully ended, but we’re still funding additional phases of the project. Donate by clicking below. Thank you for your support!

Take Control of the Future

We are currently looking for individuals and businesses who want to collaborate in providing ideas for the future of Southern West Virginia.

Project Director

Participatory Mapping