Farragut may be a young town, but it sprang from a community with a notable history that includes the birth of the nation’s first admiral, the rise and fall of a thriving marble industry and the loss of significant property to a TVA lake. Those events, as well as Farragut’s fight for incorporation, will be included in a documentary currently being written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Keith McDaniel.
The project began with a collection of oral histories filmed by the Farragut Museum committee. They began taping first-person accounts of local history in 2012, and those videos came up during a meeting when the committee was trying to decide the best use for funds received through memberships and donations, says Julia Barham, Farragut Museum and historical resources coordinator.
“The committee met with Keith McDaniel to talk about how we could create a documentary from those videos. Committee member Steve Stow was familiar with McDaniel’s work on an oral-history project in Oak Ridge. We had also seen a film Keith had made for Grainger County.”
Barham and her committee realized that the cost of the project would require the town to put out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) before hiring a filmmaker. There were several qualified applicants, but McDaniel was the only one who had experience with oral histories.
His credits include the critically acclaimed films “Secret City: The Oak Ridge Story Parts 1 and 2” and “The Clinton 12,” which has garnered nearly 20 awards. He is also the founder and director of the Knoxville Film Festival and host of the podcast “Tennessee Filmmaker.”
After McDaniel came on board, the project evolved. The sound quality of the original oral histories wasn’t quite good enough for the documentary, so he recorded new oral histories of eight residents, creating several hours of new material.
He recently completed the final version of the script for the Farragut documentary.
“I love the history of East Tennessee and have spent most of my career documenting that history,” he says. “When the opportunity came up to produce a film about the history of the Farragut area, I jumped at the chance. Learning about the people, places and events that have shaped this history has been fascinating. I look forward to folks hearing these stories and learning more about their heritage.”
The documentary, which has yet to be named, will debut in the board room at Farragut Town Hall on Thursday, Jan. 31. A reception precedes the film at 5 p.m.
A new viewing area for the documentary will be installed in the Bill Dunlap Gallery in the Farragut Museum in early 2019. It will open on Feb. 1, along with a new exhibit, “Hometown History,” which will feature artifacts and photos reflecting the everyday lives of people who have called the Farragut area home.
Barham can’t wait to see the finished documentary.
“I’m excited that the museum has had the opportunity to work with Keith. I think the project will be excellent. It’s something that will be valuable to the museum and to visitors at the museum for many years to come.”
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the Town of Farragut.