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Documentary crew captures the spirit of Berlin

Scott Strainge and Joshua Silveira, of Blind Squirrel Productions, and Ken Turino, of Historic New England, screen some of their interviews from their documentary project on Berlin. (Photo by Erik Eisele) (click for larger version)
September 16, 2009
BERLIN — A documentary crew was in Berlin over the weekend, capturing the last bit of video for a movie about Berlin in the 20th century.

Blind Squirrel Productions, out of Plaistow, in association with Historic New England, of Boston, and the Berlin and Cos County Historical Society, have interviewed 38 people from Berlin, ranging from their 20s to their 90s, in an effort to capture some of the history of Berlin's last century.

"All for the love of history," said Joshua Silveira, one of the two men who make up Blind Squirrel Productions.

Mr. Silveira and Scott Strainge both work at Timberlane Regional High School in Plainstow. Mr. Silveira is a history teacher, and Mr. Strainge is the humanities curriculum coordinator. Both men have a passion for history, particularly when they are capturing it first hand.

"We're laying down a story," said Mr. Strainge. "It's exciting to actually be doing history."

Doing history can be a lot of work; they have more than 350 hours invested in the project.

"We're probably at the midpoint of the process," Mr. Strainge said.

They have finished recording and transcribing the interviews, and they were shooting footage from around the area this past weekend to finish filming. Now they have to weave it all together to a cohesive project.

This is just the first in a series of projects sponsored by Historic New England to capture histories from around New England. They have started a project, "100 Years, 100 Communities," to celebrate their centennial. They are working to document 100 small and large communities from around the region.

"We're trying to document the 20th century before that history is lost," said Ken Turino, manager of community engagement and exhibitions for Historic New England.

"Berlin is really the pilot project for the entire project," said Mr. Strainge.

Blind Squirrel worked with BCCHS to get a range of people representing different backgrounds from Berlin.

"We set up all the interviews," said Jacklyn Nadeau of BCCHS. "We tried to get all the different aspects," from ethnic groups to employers.

She said she hoped the project stimulated even more interest in people about the history of the city and the region.

"Their touching the surface of many subjects," she said, but there is much more history in Berlin waiting to be discovered.

Blind Squirrel Productions has already won awards for the local history they've uncovered. Their first documentary was on logging competitions, and it won a national award of merit from the American Association of State and Local History. They also just finished a documentary on the Scopes trial.

They plan to have the first screening of the movie in Berlin some time in April. It may also go to PBS for nationwide broadcast once it is completed.

Until then there's still more to do. For some people, however, dig into history is no chore.

"This is fun, not work," said Mrs. Nadeau.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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