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Filmmaker shifts focus of Rich Hill documentary

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Award-winning film maker Tracy Droz Tragos remembers childhood visits to the town she now wants to put on film.
The Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos has made several trips to Rich Hill where she spent time with relatives when she was a youngster. She has been visiting the town she has fond memories of and trying to chronicle on film how the small Bates County community is an example of small communities across the country that have struggled to survive and have done so because of the character and uniqueness of their inhabitants.

Droz Tragos began her work in Rich Hill in 2011 and estimates that she has 300 hours of footage at this point. During the course of filming and getting to know some of the residents of the town, Droz Tragos and her cousin, who is helping with the film, met some boys on a school bus. She said that after we "started to really get to know them and their family stories, we felt like this really needed to be where our film was focused."

The production company "still hopes to capture some of the flavor and spirit of this place that we really care about -- at the same time we're letting these four boys be the authors of their stories of it and their experience and what it's like for them to grow up in and around this community."

Droz Tragos said the town will certainly be a "character" in the film but, the story will inherently be more compelling if it's "about people." She decided on the four boys because "their perspective is one that's not seen very often, a child's perspective."

Droz Tragos said she and her cousin Andrew Droz Palermo of Columbia, Mo., will continue filming for the documentary until the Fourth of July. Droz Tragos said she hopes the "first cuts will be shared" by January of 2014.

She said they will spend all summer editing the film. She also said that thanks to a "production grant" and support from the Sundance Institute, the organization that funds and supports the Sundance Film Festival, her company, Dinky Pictures, will be able to hire an editor. The grant has really helped she said, and Dinky Pictures is currently "under consideration" for a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Droz Tragos is no stranger to success. Her hour-long, Emmy Award-winning film, "Be Good, Smile Pretty," was released in 2003 and was about her father, Lt. Donald Glen Droz, a Naval Academy graduate who died in Vietnam in 1969 when she was only 3 months old.

Growing up in Oakland, Calif., with her mom and stepdad, she often stayed with grandparents Glen and Dorothy Droz in Rich Hill during the 1970s and '80s. Her uncle and aunt, Paul and Peggy Droz, and relatives Julie Droz, Frank and Francine Droz and the Rapp and Jennings families still live there.

She has terrific memories of visiting Rich Hill as a girl. "I was catching grasshoppers, fishing and learning to drive," she has previously reminisced. "The downtown was full of life and businesses. I loved the taste of the funny water and the lights at Christmas. I couldn't wait for the Fourth of July when I got to ride in the fire truck and do all the stuff I couldn't do in the city." Droz Tragos currently lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif., with her husband Chris who owns an Internet advertising company. They have two young daughters, Pen-elope, 4, and Charlotte, 7.

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