Letters to the editor

Southern-gospel story truly sings

I wanted to thank you for [Tracy Rose’s] great article on Southern gospel [“The Secret Landscape of Southern Gospel” cover story, Xpress Dec. 10]. It was insightful and informative.

As an avid reader of your newspaper, I wanted to let you know that, miraculously, I can enjoy your newspaper and be a fan of Southern gospel.

— Christy McHan

[Ed. Note: Then we lift our own voices in praise of the miracle!]

So much for the afterglow …

I enthusiastically took part in the Asheville Parks and Recreation-run Film Festival [on Nov. 6-9]. It was a great experience, and everyone I talked to — other than slackers who missed movies because they did not buy advance tickets — enjoyed the event. In the afterglow, there seems to be a general sense that the festival has opened doors for Asheville and its businesses to court major Hollywood studios for film-production work (see Asheville Citizen-Times article “Film Festival Casts Spotlight on WNC,” Nov. 6).

From the three expensive galas to the screening of The Cooler starring William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin, the demeanor of the event was oriented to drawing in outside production companies to film here. While landing a location package for a studio blockbuster in Asheville may do wonders for the local economy — up to 30 percent of a film’s budget goes to location expenses — it is not the only, or best, way to leverage all the positive momentum generated by the festival.

With the hemorrhaging of local jobs in North Carolina, film production has been heralded as an economic holy grail. According to the North Carolina Film Office, production income [in this state] totaled $230 million last year, third in the nation behind California and New York. But the infrastructure and investment necessary to be a production destination is exorbitant.

Asheville’s own actress-heroine Andy McDowell said on WCQS-FM last month that people “really have to be logical; they have to think things through and understand it is a business.” In the interview, she stated that the competition for film locations is hotly contested. Price drives all major studio decisions, and every player in the game knows this.

True, North Carolina offers tax breaks for high-budget movies or television shows, but so do many other states. Even within the state, Asheville is in competition with three other studios. Most new high-budget films are being shot overseas — in New Zealand (The Lord of the Rings [trilogy]), for example, and in Romania (Cold Mountain).

Furthermore, because most jobs on film sets are short-term contracts, few sustainable employment opportunities arise for location-based workers. Film-industry professionals in the [state’s] coastal region are wrestling with this reality since the bread-and-butter production there, WB’s Dawson’s Creek [TV series], was cancelled in May.

There is a future for Asheville’s film industry other than bringing in big-budget Hollywood movies to shoot here. The AFF screened several films that were put together by talented local filmmakers: Paradise Falls, Sinkhole, The Mystery of George Masa and Miles Ahead were just a few locally made features. These productions embody the true potential of Asheville’s film industry.

On Saturday night [Nov. 8], VIPs celebrated the commercial viability for the AFF and Asheville at an awards ceremony in Studio B of Blue Ridge Motion Pictures. Simultaneously, local filmmakers and actors gathered in the Diana Wortham Theatre for an impromptu celebration of local talent after the debut screening of Sinkhole, a nearly complete feature film directed by Paul Schattel. After the screening, Schattel spoke passionately for 20 minutes, with local actors Bryan Marshall and Robin Spriggs, and director of photography Steve Agnew, about the community involvement and support for the film.

To see such a well-made feature, and to know that it was completed within the budgetary limitations of a native do-it-yourself project, is a testament to the future potential of independent film here. The fact that the screening took place within the space of the film festival is more promising for the future of film in Asheville than anything else.

Asheville has always identified and promoted itself as a cultural and artistic locus. The best way for the city to vitalize the local film industry is to promote and support indigenous creation, production and distribution. City officials should lend more weight to the development benefits of supporting independent-local-film productions than to grandiose, out-of-town, big-budget efforts.

Funding grassroots programs like the Media Arts Project (MAP) is a good start. The MAP plans to set up a media center attached to a new public-access television station. Video artists, filmmakers and students can tap into the MAP’s technology, and expertise and potentially air their productions locally.

The Asheville Film Festival was great for promoting Asheville, but if we want our film industry to thrive, we must make sure the success takes root through — and for — talented local productions.

— Greg Lucas

I’m so in love with ya, honey

Just a note to let you know I quite enjoyed [Frank Rabey’s] article on Anne Murray [“Tainted Love,” Xpress Nov. 26]. I’ve been her conductor/pianist for 21 years now, and I must say it was one of the most enjoyable pieces on her I’ve read in quite some time.

Well done.

— Steve Sexton
Markham, Ontario, Canada

APD committed to battling domestic violence

In 2002, there were 74 domestic-violence-related homicides in North Carolina. This year to date, 55 lives have been lost to domestic violence in our state. Nationally, one woman is beaten by her husband every 15 seconds. These grim statistics remind our community we must work together to end domestic violence, and the Asheville Police Department is committed to taking a leadership role in that process.

In January 2003, APD sponsored a task team to renew the department’s domestic-violence-action strategy by emphasizing the reporting of domestic-violence cases as well as follow-up investigations and referrals to appropriate support agencies. During the process, the team met with representatives from such agencies as Helpmate, [as well as with] the district attorney’s office and the clerk of court.

After several months of work, the task team delivered department recommendations for further progress against domestic violence. As a result, the APD has included mandatory reporting of domestic-violence incidents in its policy, and enhanced domestic-violence training for all sworn officers and supervisors. We are also instituting programs to assist domestic-violence victims through APD’s Victim Services Unit, which will coordinate with Helpmate to ensure continued support of domestic-violence victims. The team presented its recommendations to Asheville City Council for review in October.

The Asheville Police Department is dedicated to promoting a violence-free community, and will continue to pursue efforts against domestic-violence. If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact Helpmate’s 24-hour crisis line at 254-0516, or APD Victim Services at 259-5912.

The APD encourages residents to help eliminate domestic violence by advocating for victims and supporting zero tolerance of domestic violence. Information about volunteer opportunities is available at www.helpmateonline.org, or by calling the Helpmate volunteer coordinator at 254-2968.

— Sgt. Daryl Fisher
Asheville Police Department

Anti-woman attitudes perpetuate domestic abuse

Linda Evans’ recent trial has gotten me thinking about domestic and sexual violence as unseen, pervasive and routine aspects of our culture.

Some say hierarchy and the subordination of women (which have led to the present domestic-violence epidemic) are dictated by our biological functions … meaning that women’s traditional roles are rooted in there relationships to birth and childrearing. The family division of labor [has historically] influenced our economic and political systems, encouraging male-centered hierarchy. The most widely read literature, the Bible, discusses the rape and beating of women as defilement of other men’s property, neglecting their effects on women (Deuteronomy 22: 23-24).

In researching this, I had hoped to expose horrific cases of violence against women throughout human history, but because these have been invisible problems — buried beneath traditions and social systems — they were rarely documented. However, on a personal note: In the last 100 years, women from each generation of my family were assaulted. Has there been improvement? Don’t wait until your sister, mother or daughter is assaulted to find out.

Anti-woman attitudes are implicit in our social systems (religion, economy, laws, family). We must correct these systems — [though] I [must] ask whether it is possible to erase symptoms of age-old systems without erasing the systems themselves?

— Schuyler Montgomery-Nassif

[Ed. Note: The trial of 52-year-old Leicester resident Linda Evans — accused of murdering her longtime boyfriend — ended Oct. 13 in a hung jury. The case will be tried again with a new jury, possibly this month.]

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