Thursday, October 22, 2009

....Davidson filmmaker's documentary about circus set to open....

Tim Clodfelter
Published: October 22, 2009

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for a homage to the heyday of the circus.

Children of All Ages, a documentary by North Carolina filmmaker Scott Galloway, will start this weekend at the Wynnsong Theater.

When Galloway, who lives in Davidson near Charlotte, was growing up, he remembers being fascinated with the circus.

"I'm 41, so I was catching the Gunther Gebel-Williams era," he said, referring to a circus animal trainer who was especially popular during the 1970s.

When Galloway was about 8 years old and living in Pennsylvania, his parents took him to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

"My parents built it up for three weeks," he said. "I was told we were going to go to Baltimore and see the Greatest Show on Earth."

And he wasn't disappointed.

"I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable,'" Galloway said.

Then about three years ago, the circus re-entered his life.

"Our production company, TentMakers Entertainment, was doing a lot of television shows, and we bid on a project with the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida." Sarasota was the winter home for many circus performers, and still has a strong connection to the circus tradition.

The museum was looking for someone to make a five-minute film about the history of the circus to be shown at the museum. Galloway flew down to meet them. He discovered an incredible archive of 35-millimeter prints of circus footage from the 1920s and '30s. He also met Howard Tibbals, a model builder who was putting the finishing touches on a 3,800-square-foot miniature replica circus with more than 1 million pieces.

Inspired by Tibbals' enthusiasm and the vintage footage, Galloway decided he wanted to make a feature-length documentary in addition to the five-minute short. He arranged to gather circus veterans from decades past for interviews, including clown Jackie LeClaire, who was born and raised in the circus and still performs in his 80s; the widows of Emmett Kelly, a legendary clown; and one of the original Flying Wallendas acrobatic troupe.

"They started telling me their stories," Galloway said, "and I thought I had a film, but didn't quite know what it was."

Then he also learned about the Sailor Circus, a show put on by fourth- to 12th-graders in Sarasota each year since 1949. He decided to incorporate footage of their work with the interviews, vintage film and shots of the miniature circus.

The result is what Galloway describes as a "three-ringed documentary" that bounces between the performers of the past, Tibbals' tribute and the young performers keeping the tradition alive.


arlee bird said...

I'd like to see this film. I wonder if it will ever be on NetFlix.