Cary, NC — On February 27, 2020, the locally produced documentary, “Shaw Rising” was first broadcast on UNC-TV. The film centers around the largely untold history of Shaw University—the oldest of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the South.
Just last month, exactly one-year-to-the-day after its premiere, the film and its makers were recognized with a regional Emmy Award.
A Team Effort Gets the Win
In previous CaryCitizen coverage, we spoke with producer Hal Goodtree on the film’s storyline and production process. We also heard from director Tim Finkbiner when the film was first nominated and what that meant for Shaw University and other HBCUs.
Today, following the team’s official Emmy win, we hear from another executive producer of the film, Donna Mitchell.
“It was very much a team effort,” said Mitchell.
“You want at the end of the day to be able to do a great job at telling a story and it felt good to win the Emmy because the documentary/historical category is usually a pretty tough one.”
A Producer, President and Founder
In 1982, Mitchell founded her own production company, Horizon Productions, in her early 20s.
She and the company were approached and hired by Goodtree to take part in the Shaw Rising project which took a little over 5 years.
Mitchell was responsible for handling the budget, often “crunching pennies” to produce the best film with the funding they were able to acquire. She also put many hours into searching for the historical images displayed throughout the film.
35th Annual Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards
How Emmy’s work, in a nutshell, is that there are different regional chapters of the National Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences. Of these, North Carolina falls into the Nashville/Midsouth chapter.
Within the chapter, Shaw Rising was considered against others in the category of Documentary/Historical and came out on top.
To be eligible for the Emmy, the documentary had to be aired on television. A big part of how the film ended up airing on the regional UNC-TV network was due to a man the crew met along the way, Travis Mitchell.
“The film got finished because it resonated with him, an HBCU kid that had grown up on the campus of Shaw University,” said Mitchell.
“It was because of the passion that was ignited inside Travis when he saw the rough cut of the film that he worked with UNC-TV to help us finish this documentary and then get it aired.”
Travis also aired the documentary on Maryland Public Television and has set his sights on getting the film aired nationally on PBS. This would mean more people hearing the story of Shaw, plus the film would then be eligible for a national Emmy nomination.
What it’s All About
While the film was in production, a key element that resonated with Mitchell was just how much most people don’t know about HBCUs and their value.
“I think we take for granted what it means to African American kids to be able to be taught in a tradition surrounded by folks that are the same color as them,” said Mitchell.
As she put it, there is just a history and a community there that is like no other. It’s the mission of the film to show this community both in the days of its founding and today.
“HBCUs have a place in our history. They did back then and they do today. Shaw University should continue and we hope that this film will help them to fundraise in that effort,” said Mitchell.
Watch Shaw Rising Online
Shaw Rising can be viewed for free on the Shaw University YouTube channel.
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