Andrew Rudd made this film about Thelma Slater. Thelma has had a positive affect on our community for 65 years as a teacher and counselor. She currently is a full time volunteer at the Stark County District Library.
Artist's Interview with Andrew Rudd
Why is this story important for our community?
Thelma's story is not only a deeply American story -- a tale of rags to (a certain kind of) riches, but it is also a celebration of the communitarian spirit that sometimes (but not always) is needed in order to sustain a country like America. It's that spirit -- the idea of angels on our shoulders -- that is vital for our community. Thelma's life has been devoted to the welfare and betterment of people in Stark County who have fewer advantages and privileges. What's more? She's surrounded herself with others who are equally committed to the well-being of those who have profound needs. Even more impressive? She's mentored many of the volunteers, community workers and educators that are on her team and that work with her toward eradicating illiteracy in our community.
How did you choose your subject for the film?
I chose Thelma because of how MANY people knew her and knew of her work. The focus of my story, though is on mobility or movement, and their relationship to literacy, education and class. Thelma grew up on "the wrong side of the tracks" and like many people who grow up in poverty, her ability to *go* almost anywhere was limited by her circumstance. It's striking to me how, once she obtained her education and committed her life to helping other people in poverty -- how much mobility and movement created opportunity for her. This subject felt like it chose me as I listened to many of Thelma's stories.
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
Thelma is a wonderful story teller who has, for the last 90 years, led the most full, rich life imaginable. Trying to tell a story that communicated the truth and vitality of her and her life -- in 9 minutes -- was one of the most difficult storytelling challenges I've ever faced.
What was the most enjoyable part of making this film? No question on this one: listening to Thelma tell stories.
Second favorite? Hearing the stories and seeing the images that Thelma's friends told me and that I found in the archives of the libraries and museums of Stark County.
Are you working on any future projects at the moment?
I'm actually working on packaging this story -- along with a little memory piece about Jones School -- where Thelma worked for several years -- so we can sell it around town. All benefits will go to the Mayors Literacy Commission of Canton and Massillon. I'm eager to contribute to these causes that have defined Thelma's life.
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