We recently had the opportunity to talk to Brian Gersten (left), who alongside co-director Liv Dubendorf (right), made the 2016 Indie Grits selected film, The Hollerin’ Contest at Spivey’s Corner.
1. What is your connection to the South?
Both Liv and I are graduate students at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC. Liv also spent her undergraduate years at Elon University which is in North Carolina as well. Though, for myself, before coming to North Carolina for graduate school I had literally never set foot south of the Mason Dixon line (I’m originally from Chicago). This film was a chance for me to completely immerse myself in southern culture.
2. What was your muse for this film?
When I was researching story ideas, I came across a documentary from 1978 entitled “Welcome To Spivey’s Corner” which documents the National Hollerin’ Contest during that era. I was fascinated, mesmerized, overwhelmed, excited and a number of other adjectives. I was just in such awe of this event and the people who participated in the competition. I’d never seen anything like it. I quickly decided that I wanted to make a pseudo-follow-up documentary and examine what the contest is like these days.
3. What was your first film?
My first film was a short documentary entitled “The Amazing Mr. Ash” which is a character profile of a famous Chicago-area magician. Liv’s first film was also a short documentary entitled “Find Your Voice” which profiles a university a Capella group.
4. Did anything interesting or funny happen on set during the shooting?
Well – when the day of the competition arrived we were all anxious and excited and eager to document it. We had all sorts of ideas in mind for how we would cover the event but then…there was an unexpected torrential downpour which threw everything out of whack. It just wouldn’t stop raining – and we were starting to fear the competition might be cancelled. Luckily they continued on with the contest and we just had to make due with the situation, which wasn’t ideal, but it was certainly an interesting curve ball.