NYSCA grant, and a fifth shooting trip to Calumet

This update is long overdue, but we’ve been traveling and shooting and writing grants, so there hasn’t been much time for the website in the past few months. Time to catch up.

On the fundraising front, we’ve just gotten great news: 1913 Massacre has been awarded a grant from NYSCA, the New York State Council on the Arts. The grant will allow us to finish shooting the film and keep working to raise funds for post-production.

In late June and early July, we took a fifth shooting trip to Calumet, where we continued our interviews about the tearing down of Italian Hall. We met Dale Koski and Joe Johnson of the Operating Engineers at the Italian Hall arch. After the interview, we retired to Dale’s RV to look at some pictures from the day they tore down the Hall and to hear some more stories.

We picked up the conversation again with Dale and Joe a few days later at Joe’s place out near Misery Bay.

The highlight of our very busy trip was probably the time we spent filming and recording traditional music with Oren Tikkanen and his friends. Oren introduced us to the very accomplished bones and spoons player Johnny Perona, his apprentice Randy Seppala, fiddle player Helmer Toyras, lumberjack harmonica player Les Ross, Sr., and members of the Finn Hall Band, who were in town from Minneapolis for the Finnish American Music Festival.

Here’s a sample, with Les Ross on harmonica and Johnny Perona on bones. Les Ross and John Perona

Back in New York, we spent a memorable afternoon talking with radio personality and musician Oscar Brand about Woody Guthrie and his music, and we got a lesson in the history of the song “Union Maid.”

A few days later, we made our way out to Chicago to talk with Studs Terkel about Woody and the WPA. After an amazing interview, we had to ask for a snapshot with Studs.


Studs started the monkey business by jerking his thumb at us and saying, These are the guys. We responded by pointing back at him: This is the guy.

Not too long after we returned from Chicago, we met up with Minneapolis-based singer / songwriter Charlie Maguire in Croton, New York. Charlie sang some songs, including The Ballad of Augie March, about a survivor of the Italian Hall disaster, and he told us a great story about sneaking into the Italian Hall by climbing a snowdrift and hoisting himself in through an upstairs window. There were Christmas decorations on the stage and around the ballroom, as if a Christmas party had been interrupted long ago and no one had returned.

The rest of the summer is going to be spent on grants and fundraising. But be sure to check back in the fall, as we take the production toward the completion of the shooting phase, and into post-production… And if you’d like to make a contribution toward our post-production fund, please contact us.

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