Rutland Blood Drive Inspires Film

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(Host) Each December, the people of Rutland come together to give a very special Christmas present — blood.  

The annual Gift of Life Marathon provides a huge amount of blood at a time when supplies are often critically low. Last year, the event brought in over one thousand pints. Per capita, it’s the largest single day donation in the nation.   

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, one New York City film company believes it’s the stuff movies are made of.

(Keck) The camera pans downtown Rutland, neighborhood streets, church steeples, the band stand. A lone car passes the Paramount Theatre where Red Cross trucks are lined up.

(Film clip) "The Gift of Life Blood drive is the motherlode of every blood drive. Not any city can do it. This is what you do. This is citizenship, this is what it’s all about.   This is a huge statement from this community saying, we might not have a lot of money, we might not have a lot of stuff – we might not have the biggest houses or be the richest people, but  what we’ve got we’re going to give  as much as we can."

(Keck) So opens the trailer for Art Jones’ documentary film, "Blood in This Town."

(Jones) "I got a call from my friend, Steve Costello, who works for CVPS. And he said, ‘Art, if you’ve got a day, come on up. We do something called the Gift of Life Marathon.’ He says, ‘It’s a blood drive and I think it might interest you.’"

(Keck) Jones met Costello back in 2001 when CVPS hired his film company to produce a short corporate film. Industrial movies are Jones’ bread and butter, but he says his real passion is creating his own independent films.

(Jones) "You know, we’re always looking for stories in different parts of the country to focus our cameras on. And this is one, we said, ‘You know, let’s check this out.’"

(Keck) Last December, the day of the blood drive, Jones turned his cameras on Rutland, starting before dawn as the Red Cross employees began setting up.

(Jones) "It’s like watching U2 in all their vans show up in town loading out all their speakers and the amps. And instead they’re setting up 24 to 50 different phlebotomist stations where you give blood and they roll out a helluva show."

(Organizer)"The goal is 1,000. What’s our goal?"

(Crowd) "1,000."

(Organizer) "What’s our goal?"

(Crowd) "1,000."

(Organizer) "We’re going for 1,000 pints of blood. Last year, our little town of Rutland beat the new England record. And the fun part is we beat Boston."

(Keck) Besides the footage he got last December, Jones and his crew spent an additional week in Vermont last month. During interviews with local business owners and city leaders – even a local radio reporter – Jones says he learned about Rutland’s grass roots efforts to harness its creative economy, expand its farmer’s market, spiff up its downtown and hold on to its Amtrak service.

(Jones) "Rutland like so many small cities across America is facing challenges and hard times. The difference is that here there is a palpable sense that something is being done about it. There are answers somehow coming together."

(Keck) Jones says he needs two more months and $50,000 to finish editing, but he’s optimistic he’ll be able to schedule a premiere this summer – in Rutland.  

For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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