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Company plans Blennerhassett film

Updated: May 1, 2020

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG — A documentary film on Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett will be made in Wood County.

Representatives from MotionMasters, a video production company in Dunbar, appeared before the Wood County Commission Thursday to discuss their upcoming project concerning the area’s famous residents.

The company, which has been in business for over 30 years, has produced documentaries about Katherine Johnson, Burning Springs, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and John Marshall.

“We produce documentaries about West Virginia history,” owner Diana Sole Walko said.

All of their films have premiered on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and are regularly shown in West Virginia schools and other venues.

“Our work gets the highest ratings on Public Broadcasting,” Walko said.

Their documentary on Burning Springs, detailing the early oil and gas industry, premiered a few years ago at the Smoot Theatre in Parkersburg. Walko spoke highly of working with the late David McKain of the Oil and Gas Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley on that one.

MotionMasters’ work is supported through grants and individual donations.

“No one commissions us to do them,” Walko said. “We do them and raise the funds to do them. Our work does get national and international exposure.”

They wanted to focus on doing a documentary on the Blennerhassetts. Years ago they did a 10-15 minute video on the Blennerhassetts that still plays at the Blennerhassett Museum.

“We are looking to now do an hour to an hour-and-a-half in length story that puts everything into context.”

This would include the story of the Blennerhassetts coming to this area and their connection to Aaron Burr.

Walko said they have a commitment from Ray Swick, retired historian for the Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, to do an interview for the documentary.

For their other projects, they have secured money from the state and the state Department of Education because their work is shown in schools.

This project will be executively produced by Susan Shoemaker, who has done work with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

“She is a West Virginia native,” Walko said. “She and I have gotten acquainted over the last several years and we are going to team our efforts on this.

“We are excited to be teaming with someone with her level of credentials.”

Walko asked the commissioners if they could contribute funding toward the project. Commissioners said the budget period just ended and they were not sure what could be available.

Because they were early in the process with work expected to take 18 months on the project, Walko said they could come back next year when the commission begins working on its budget for next year to see if they can secure funding then.

Commissioners suggested local people who might be able to provide information and insights.

Walko said they were looking forward to getting started.

“We are committed to telling our West Virginia story to a broader audience,” Walko said.

They are just starting the fundraising process and are looking for contributors.

The anticipated release for the documentary is the fall of 2020.

For more information on the project or about donating, call 304-345-8800.

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