Gloversville journalist Greg Hitchcock has always been a storyteller.
Throughout the last two decades, he’s written for the Adirondack Explorer, among other print outlets. This year, thanks in part to a microgrant from the Center for Law and Justice, he’ll be working in a different medium: film.
In the coming months, he plans to write, film and edit a docudrama surrounding the treatment of indigenous people in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War. In the last few years, Hitchcock has worked on other videos, including one about climate change in the Adirondacks.
“I got into documentary filmmaking because I thought it would be a special challenge for me,” Hitchcock said.
The idea for the docudrama, which is titled “Pioneer Days: The Fire in the Valley,” arose several years ago, when he was volunteering at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam. There he learned about the history of the settlement of the Mohawk Valley. According to Hitchcock, during the Revolutionary War, colonials rebelled against the British crown and burned down some indigenous villages in the Mohawk Valley.
“. . . that gave me the title ‘Fire in the Valley’ because [of the] tension between white settlers and natives and Tories that were allied with the crown. My goal is to showcase that tension. This project is about racism in the Capital District and I thought that this would be a great project because indigenous people … they had a really tough time after the Revolutionary War and I think that was a historical time that has an effect on us today because of the fact that we did something really terrible to the natives in the area at that time and I think it reflects on today’s racism with indigenous people.”
Hitchcock hopes to explore this hypothesis and learn more about the history of the area with a university-level history professor. He’d also like to involve local historical reenactors and hire a narrator, which the $1,000 microgrant will allow him to do. The grant is part of the Center’s Time for Reckoning program, which aims to support local activists, artists, grassroots community groups, and more who are actively engaged in efforts to address systemic racism. Hitchcock was among several people who received grant funding and with it, he can build on his initial vision for the production.
“Before, when I was doing videos and documentaries, it was all from my pocket and it was very basic and now I want to expand it into a docudrama. I want to get some help from reenactors. I want to hire a narrator for narration because I always narrated my own films and I don’t have much of a good voice for narrating films compared to other people that are professionals out there,” Hitchcock said.
This film will require quite a bit of research and beyond working with a history professor, Hitchcock is also looking back through newspaper articles and other vetted historical sources.
“My research and pre-production will be from February to mid-April before I start filming in mid-April. So that’s when I’m going to develop a story line, a script, get my funding together and get my team together,” Hitchcock said.
He hopes to film at a variety of locations around the Capital Region, starting in the Stockade and following that the Mabee Farm. However, because of the pandemic, Hitchcock anticipates some challenges in finding places to film, as well as finding reenactors.
“It might be a challenge getting some reenactors to participate in performing because of COVID restrictions,” Hitchcock said.
He’s looking to recruit at least 10 to play colonists as well as indigenous people. The project should be wrapped up before Aug. 1, which is the grant’s deadline, according to Hitchcock. The Center for Law and Justice has plans in the works for sharing the film, along with other projects funded by the Time for Reckoning grants.
Hitchcock said he wants people to understand that this film is primarily about racism in the Capital District.
“I want them to understand that we should live together with a sense of sensitivity, especially during these critical times of tension, we should be able to live together in a just world and that’s what I want to get out of this project,” Hitchcock said.
Anyone interested in being a reenactor or assisting with the project can contact Hitchcock at [email protected].