Welcome to Film Production Rabbit Holes!

Aliss Valerie Terrell
3 min readNov 17, 2022


My father Paul Terrell, on a horse-drawn disc harrow, 1930’s, family farm, South Georgia

Producing a film is a multidimensional mind-body mission, and very, as the French say, “time-devouring” (chronophage). Footage to create, find, and assemble with stills, sound recording and music mixing, endless copyright clearances, detailed credits. Funding and distribution… Dozens (perhaps hundreds?) of people in the communication loop.

Me now, learning the ropes: Editing the trailer is a process in itself. It’s moving forward, but still cuts to make, clearances to get and music to sync…

One of my interlocking rabbit holes:

Background research for Saving Mr. Charlie’s Trees led me through surviving family photos to hundreds of stock images and websites about 20th century life in the South. The hardships were much greater than I thought and on a much larger scale. I knew my family came through poverty but I didn’t realize their journey was a hologram of Southern US history.

Times were extreme, beginning with natural catastrophes: flooding in Alabama in 1909, then from 1910 to 1915 the entire cotton belt was infested by the boll weevil, an ugly beetle that gnawed away the cotton crop from inside, destroying thousands of acres, causing farms and related businesses to fail.


Men went off to war in 1917, the year my uncle Charlie was born, and then the so-called “Spanish Flu” pandemic hit, just as Charlie’s parents and a group of their relatives were joining The Great Flux, millions of people, mainly Black, leaving Alabama looking for livelihoods elsewhere.

Charlie’s father moved his wife, small children, and belongings by mule-drawn wagon and train to South Georgia. The deadly virus was moving back and forth with the migrants. Our immediate family recovered, but all around them, others were not so lucky, some losing 4–5 family members. My grandfather had to sell his mules to pay for the move and the doctor bills.

Georgia plunged into the Great Depression, 10 years before the rest of the country, in 1919.

The already dire situation was made worse by severe droughts beginning in 1924. Hundreds of thousands of farm workers and their families fled to other regions. Competition for jobs between Blacks and Whites aggravated racism and favored the Klan. From 1929–1932, the average GA farmer’s income went from $206 to $83/year.

Dorothea Lange, Drought in Georgia, Library of Congress

My family stayed mostly in Georgia, sharecropping and farming, but my grandfather often traveled long distances for carpentry work to bring in extra money, leaving Charlie, a preteen eldest son, to manage the land and the animals. He eventually dropped out of school and ran away to the Navy.

Margaret Bourke-White, Boy Plowing, Have You Seen Their Faces, 1937.

President FDR witnessed these conditions first-hand when he traveled to Warm Springs, GA hoping to improve his health. He then mandated a series of special programs for the state but Georgia didn’t begin to recover until the economic boom following WWII.

Dorothea Lange, Farm Family, 1937, Library of Congress

(see also https://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/great-depression/)

During the worst of the crisis, New Deal agencies engaged photographers to document social collapse and environmental devastation.

I’m especially admiring how Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White captured all this in their photography, seen above.

Thank you for reading!

Read more @GoFundMe Saving Mr. Charlie’s Trees

To be continued…


Originally published at http://thankyouparis.wordpress.com on November 17, 2022.



Aliss Valerie Terrell

I’ve had several lives since coming to France: grad student, singer songwriter, writer and filmmaker, marriage and mothering….