TV show to film at Mills


Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Twin Counties will be part of a new national television series airing next year on PBS.

“Family Pictures USA” is a new show coming to PBS in 2019 that will be aired on UNC-TV. “Family Pictures USA” explores neighborhoods and cities through the lens of family photo albums. The series will be hosted by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, executive producer of “Family Pictures USA,” who will be traveling to different locations finding, meeting and connecting with families and their family pictures.

“For the past 150 years, families have used the photo album to pass on their stories from one generation to the next,” Harris said. “The family album has kept us together. But in today’s digital age, we have to work harder to keep and maintain the stories of our families and our communities. Everyone is a photographer, but the stories and communites behind our photos are being lost.”

“Family Pictures USA” and Public Media North Carolina will host a family photo sharing event and do filming from 10 to 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Rocky Mount Mills. Rachel Raney, director of national productions and original content at UNC-TV, said she lives right down the road from the American Tobacco Campus in Durham and has heard many great things about the Mills project.

 “We needed a space that is large and accessible to the public that could accomodate our television crew and all the people that would come,” Raney said. “It also seemed like a great opportunity to draw attention to what is going on at the Rocky Mount Mills and all the redevelopment happening out there.”

Raney said Harris, who is also a photographer, would do digital sharing events where people would share their photos of their families. She added the “Family Pictures USA” project had been in development for almost a decade until it got the green light from PBS, and UNC-TV is thrilled to help pilot the new series.

“Thomas noticed something really magical would happen in the room when you’ve got a lot of folks in the room who didn’t know each other but would share their family photos and talk about their families. He decided this could be a television series because it’s so powerful to hear the commonality we all have when you really dig deep in people’s family history.”

“Family Pictures USA” wanted to bring its traveling production to North Carolina to not just film in the Triangle, but highlight Eastern North Carolina.

“We definitely wanted to do something in Eastern North Carolina, and we had a lot of talks about tobacco and textile being such an important and rich part of North Carolina’s history,” Raney said. “We have so many families that touch back to that history, so Rocky Mount seemed like a perfect place to land. Also, we were looking for a town Down East that had a lot of small towns around it. We don’t just want folks from Rocky Mount to come, but also surrounding towns as well are welcome to join us.”

Participants’ photos will be digitized and stories will be recorded on video, with select ones featured in the series and premiering on air and online on PBS in 2019.

Raney suggests participants bring no more than two dozen photos and said the process should take about an hour to go through. People interested in sharing their family photos and stories and learning more about them can visit unctv.org/familypicturesusa for more information and to sign up. 

“What we’re looking for is that it’s as much about the stories behind the photos as the pictures themselves,” Raney said.