Scope and Content Notes:
The Community Eye program had origins in an eponymous 7-part video news magazine that aired on Pittsburgh’s public access PCTV in 1990. Community Eye was the predecessor to the Video Documentation Service, and “Eye” films evidenced a more sophisticated production value, pairing CM student volunteers and interns under Jackson’s direction with professional videographers to outline, film, and produce narrative documentary videos. Files include programs, shooting schedules and shot lists, film synopses, contracts and invoices, press releases and news clippings, memos and correspondence.
Two projects, “Layers” (1992), a documentary of a Pittsburgh Public Theatre production of the John Henry Redwood play A Sunbeam, and “Clean Drums” (1994), documenting a Kuntu Repertory production of the Rob Penny play of same name, were produced through Community Eye prior to the release of “A Safe Place” in 1995. “Safe” documented the problems of gang-related youth violence in Pittsburgh. It was the first full-length CM film of original subject matter, and won best community-produced documentary in the 1996 Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, Inc. International Black Independent Film & Video Competition.
“Harambe!” (meaning “rise up” in Swahili) was a half-hour documentary video, following the development of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Youth Theater Project’s production of “This Too Shall Pass,” and its troupe of young performers. The project cultivated publicity that raised funds for the play’s eventual production March 10, 1997, at Pittsburgh’s Theodore L. Hazlett, Jr. Theatre. The documentary “Harambe!” Premiered October 25, 1997, at the Homewood Branch of the Carnegie Library, and was screen several times around the city as part of the “Takin’ It to the Streets” program.
“Things That Fit” is a half-hour documentary highlighting prolific playwright and Pittsburgh native August Wilson, focusing on a New York production of his play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” a musical charting the development of blues music, and the third in a ten-play cycle which chronicles the African-American experience in the twentieth century decade by decade. Wilson addressed those gathered at the premiere presentation of “Things That Fit” on March 16, 1998 at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland; the film won an award from the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) in 1999.
In 1999, CM interns produced a documentary on YouthWorks job training programs around Allegheny County, including their own program. As both the CM interns and Community Media were paid by the YouthWorks organization, and as the documentary project was the subject of the winning proposal CM had submitted to YouthWorks that year, documentation of the documentary resides in the YouthWorks series.
“Jonny Gammage: Enough is ENOUGH!” began to document the political fallout and racial tensions following the 1996 shooting-death of motorist Gammage at the hands of suburban Pittsburgh police. The file contains significant background research and notes relating to community forums on police brutality and the establishment of the Citizen’s Review Board for Pittsburgh Police, as well as highlights of interviews with Gammage’s surviving family in Syracuse, NY (Gammage was a cousin of former Pittsburgh Steeler Ray Seals). The film was previewed October 14, 1999 at the “Just Us: Protecting Our Freedom” symposium at Carnegie Mellon University, and received funding from the Three Rivers Community Fund as late as 2001, but was never released in a finished version.
In 2000, student interns including Volunteer Coordinator Darnell “WERM” Grisham attended “Listen Up!,” a production workshop on Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and a project of Learning Matters, which produces the annual Merrow report on higher education. The “Listen Up!” project file includes information on CM’s expanded curriculum on producing PSAs, and relating to the production of PSAs, including a 24 second short titled “Stop the Violence” and entered into a number of contests.
Files include budgets, programs, correspondence, press releases contest submissions and notices of award, related to the production and promotion of Community Eye projects. Included in some cases are copies of related grant reports; funding and materials documentary projects were often funneled through the Video Documentation Service. Where applicable, invoices created for the sale and distribution of video cassette copies follow in a separate file.