Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 24, 2018

‘Heroes of Fairfield’ enters post-production

By Jon Gilrain, Ledger correspondent | Mar 01, 2018
Source: PHOTO COURTESY OF ASHIA FREDEEN Dick DeAngelis with assistant director Ashia Fredeen researching the birthplace of the Republican Party in Crawfordsville.

The second installment of the History of Fairfield documentary series, “Heroes of Fairfield” is set to begin post-production March 10, aiming for an early summer release.

The film promises a close look at the Underground Railroad as it existed in and around Fairfield as well as a sampling of heroes from throughout Fairfield’s history.

Fair Field Productions, a nonprofit headed by Fairfield resident Dick DeAngelis, is producing the series, which is intended to have eight episodes. The first production, “Life Before Fairfield,” examined both the prehistoric geology, flora and fauna of the area and Native American perspectives on the region before Fairfield existed.

“It’s a nonprofit educational organization. It was formed a couple of years ago with the express intent to produce a series of historical documentaries that will tell the story of Fairfield’s history using the latest possible research,” DeAngelis said. “The whole purpose of these films is to bring our community together by understanding the shared knowledge of our history.”

The Ledger was not made privy to the list of featured heroes for the film, which is under wraps until the release, except that it will include heroes of both peace and wartime, and both men and women will be featured. Some will be well known, but others may be unknown to modern viewers.

“There were average people who were either from here or came through here who’ve made a big difference,” DeAngelis said. “They cared more than just for themselves. They put their own freedom or life at risk for others and we’re trying to tell their story.”

According to the filmmaker, the segments about the Underground Railroad will be gripping and reveal a part of Fairfield history that has heretofore been largely untold.

“This story is such a crucial thing. In my opinion it may end up becoming an important part of Fairfield’s history to tell forever,” said DeAngelis.

The Underground Railroad was a system of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves escaping north out of slave states to free states and Canada. Formed in the late 1700s and operated with the help of abolitionists, this network assisted many tens of thousands of former slaves through the end of the American Civil War.

Fairfield being in such close proximity to Missouri, a slave state, saw action as a waypoint for the Underground Railroad. DeAngelis and his team discovered documentation of at least one family supporting it and which also implied that Fairfield may have seen a considerable amount of traffic of slaves to freedom.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was strengthened by the Compromise of 1850. This new legislation gave rise to slave catchers and bounty hunters in free states including Iowa. This considerably heightened the danger of participating in the Underground Railroad both as an escaping slave and as an abolitionist. The Fugitive Slave Act, according to DeAngelis, was almost never prosecuted in Iowa.

Creating a documentary film with a high production value involves a lot of people with diverse talents. DeAngelis engages a team of about 75 paid specialists and volunteers across many jobs. Local experts in both history and filmmaking, along with musicians and all kinds of support staff, make up the majority of the team.

On a budget of approximately $50,000 per film, the coordination of people, equipment, shooting schedules, editing and premiere finds DeAngelis at the center of a hurricane of activity.

“I’m doing these films for a budget that includes cameras, travel and crew, and just amazing amounts of work ... and then the editing, the sound work and everything. So right now, I don’t know what’s left or what’s right sometimes because I’m wearing all these hats. I’ve run some pretty big companies and it’s nothing compared to doing this,” he said.

The production is supported by a combination of grants from the Greater Jefferson County Foundation and the Humanities Iowa Group as well as donations from businesses and individuals, plus self-funding. Fair Field Productions finds itself about $8,500 short of its needs.

Businesses and individuals can participate in funding the project via Paypal at fairfieldhistoryseries.com.

For his upcoming March birthday, Dick DeAngelis’ children created a Facebook fundraiser on the Fair Field Production page to support the effort.

The next film in the series will focus on farming and agriculture in and around Fairfield.

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