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Elaine McMillion-Sheldon

Elaine McMillion-Sheldon

The next event in the Caney Convocation Series is sure to be a special treat on the spring calendar. Elaine McMillion-Sheldon, an award-winning documentary storyteller and visual journalist from West Virginia, will present her film, Hollow, to our campus community. Hollow has already garnered national attention and prestigious awards, landing McMillion-Sheldon on Filmmaker Magazine‘s 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

Hollow is an interactive documentary and community participatory project that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of those living in McDowell County, W.Va. Hollow combines video portraits, data visualizations, photography, soundscapes, community-generated content and grassroots mapping to bring these stories to life through an online experience.The film is funded by Kickstarter, Tribeca Film Institute’s New Media Grant and the West Virginia Humanities Council. It is supported by Documentary Educational Resources and the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild.

Hollow merges cinematic techniques with web-based storytelling to encourage a dialogue about the issues that small-town America faces. The project examines the lives of 30 individuals living in McDowell County, W.Va., an area that is representative of many boom-and-bust areas across the country. McDowell County has lost almost 80 percent of its population since 1950 and continues to lose more young people every year due to a lack of economic opportunity. This rural “brain drain” has left many counties across the nation with an aging demographic and failing infrastructure. However, many people—approximately 22,000—continue to live and work in McDowell. They feel a great sense of pride and belonging and believe they are there to help improve and move the county into the future.

Focusing on the residents who have stayed during the tumultuous times, Hollow is a story of hope and home and strives to not only address the issues through storytelling, but help provide potential solutions. Using HTML5 technology to merge cinematic and emotional storytelling with the web, the stories of residents have been brought to life for the outside world to understand the often overlooked sector of our society. The interactive documentary provides a “lean forward” and “lean back” experience and encourages each user to not only consume media, but also be an active participant and contribute to the narrative.

While Hollow is a storytelling project at its core, the team also strives to encourage change and growth through new media. Using a WordPress blogging tool that feeds into the main experience, residents will continue to update their stories and initiatives to keep users updated and potentially encourage them to get involved.

In 2013, McMillion-Sheldon was chosen a fellow for the Future of Storytelling and presented Hollow at the New York Film Festival, IFP Conference, The DocYard, Camden International Film Festival, UFVA Conference, StoryCode NYC, West Virginia International Film Festival, Create WV, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Documentary Lab, Harvard University’s Berkman Center, the Museum of Moving Image and at 10 universities, libraries and high schools throughout the Appalachian region.

In November 2013, Hollow was selected for the DocLab Showcase at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam. Hollow was chosen as one of the top 3, out of 15 projects featured in The DocLab.

McMillion-Sheldon earned a B.S. from West Virginia University in Journalism and an M.F.A. in Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College.

Please join us for this exciting event on Tuesday, April 1st, at 7:30 PM in the Ralph Edwards Auditorium on the campus of Alice Lloyd College. McMillion-Sheldon will deliver a 45-minute presentation, walking you through her groundbreaking website and showing various clips from the documentary. The evening will close with a 15-minute Q & A session with the filmmaker.

Alice Lloyd College would like to thank ALC alumna Mindy Beth Miller for inviting Ms. McMillion-Sheldon to visit the College and present her documentary in-person to our students.

Visit the unique and interactive Hollow website. You will need Google Chrome to view the site.

Find out more about Elaine McMillion-Sheldon here.

This article was created using the official Hollow Press Kit.

All events in the Caney Convocation Series are free and open to the public. The convocation series at Alice Lloyd College is partially subsidized by The Edward G. Hefter Endowment Fund. If you would like to contribute to the endowment fund for convocations, please contact Ms. Margo Sparkman, ALC’s Director of Development, Alice Lloyd College, 100 Purpose Road, Pippa Passes, KY 41844 or via e-mail at