In recent years, the ZSR Library has responded to user demand for more streaming video. Compared to the DVD format, streaming video offers faculty more flexibility in assigning films for classes. Currently we offer over 41,000 streaming films – mostly documentaries and educational titles – across multiple vendor platforms. One popular platform is Kanopy, which offers about 14,000 titles. Last semester, Wake Forest students and faculty viewed 35,858 minutes of film via the Kanopy platform, with over 1,700 visits.
Among the films available is “The Hollerin’ Contest at Spivey’s Corner,” co-directed by Brian Gersten (MFA ’16) and Liv Dubendorf. Detailing the “history, characters and sounds of North Carolina’s National Hollerin’ Contest,” Gersten and Dubendorf’s film screened at over 15 international film festivals in the past year.
We wanted to know more, and Gersten gamely answered these questions:
1. Why did you and Liv choose the National Hollerin’ Contest as your film topic?
Liv and I both hail from large cities (she’s from Philly, and I’m from Chicago), so when we first came across videos of the hollerin’ contest online we were in complete awe. We had never seen anything like it. It was a very foreign, exotic thing for us to see. I was immediately fascinated by this competition, and I wanted to find out as much as I could about the history of it and the people that participated in it. Also, the videos of the contest that we came across were from the ’70s, so I was very curious to find out how the contest and contestants had evolved over the decades.
2. What was the hardest aspect of making this film?
I think the hardest aspect of making the film was figuring out what story we were trying to tell. Were we trying to make a film about the history of hollerin’? Were we trying to make a film about the contestants? Were we trying to make a film about southern culture? It was difficult to pick and choose what aspects of hollerin’ we wanted to include in the film, so the end product is essentially an amalgamation of everything.
3. What surprised you while researching/interviewing/making this film?
We had absolutely no idea how popular the contest had been back in the 1960s and 1970s. It appeared to be a complete phenomenon. We were astonished when we looked through old photos, videos and newspapers and saw crowds of 10,000 people at the contest. And the winners of the hollerin’ contest in those days were typically invited to appear on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” When you contrast that with the size of the crowds at the modern-day contest, and the attention it gets, it’s all the more startling.
4. Can you holler? (Of course I had to ask!)
I don’t know that it’s a traditional holler, but yes, Liv and I have both been known to holler.
5. What current project(s) are you working on?
I’m working on a documentary about the last land dispute between the U.S. and Canada, which is a tiny island located in the Gulf of Maine. Liv is working on a multimedia documentary project that retraces her grandfather’s steps through WWII.
If you are unfamiliar with the National Hollerin’ Contest, you are encouraged to learn more through Gersten and Dubendorf’s film. Wake Forest offers over 14,000 films on the Kanopy platform and over 41,000 streaming films across all platforms. Last semester, Wake Forest students and faculty viewed 35,858 minutes of film via the Kanopy platform, with over 1,700 visits.