This Saturday, Mar. 11 at 7 p.m., the Goshen Theater will be premiering “Admit One: The Story of the Goshen Theater,” written and directed by Riley Mills, a junior communications student, along with production from Kyle Hufford, assistant professor of communication and Five Core Media general manager.
The premiere will raise funds for the theater to be put towards future renovations. Guests are encouraged to wear formal attire.
The documentary is the product of Goshen College’s Maple Scholars Program, which provides selected students with a $2,500 scholarship to stay on campus over the summer and focus intensively on a single project.
This type of longer form documentary is atypical for the summer program.
“In the past, [Maple Scholars] have worked on short pieces, little features on people in the community, more short-form storytelling,” Mills said. “This time around we wanted to tackle something a little bit larger and chose a historical/educational piece.”
Originally, the project was somewhat vague.
“We weren’t really sure what our project was when we started,” said Mills, “so we looked to the community, at areas that needed attention.”
In their search, they found the Goshen Theater. “The Goshen Theater is so important to our program,” Hufford said. “We’ve had various student projects shown there, and we are a partner with the Riverbend Film Festival, which is a great opportunity for students – and the Goshen Theater is the hub of the film festival.”
The theater has a turbulent history. Jerry Peters, technical director and facilities manager at the Goshen Theater, was pleased with the documentary’s scope.
“It is actually really comprehensive, going back to when the building was built in 1905, the fire in 1906, and when it was rebuilt in 1907,” Peters said.
Creating this piece was an enriching experience for Mills, specifically holding personal interviews.
“There’s such a rich history that these people share and such strong connections to this place,” Mills said. “Afterwards, when you walk through the space, you can kind of see their memories.”
“Admit One” was not initially intended to be utilized for fundraising.
“The original goal,” Hufford said, “didn’t go much farther than a learning opportunity and to have a really professional finished piece that both faculty and students could be proud of. What happened after that was just a bonus.”
“We have a goal of $13.5 million,” said Peters. “I’m not sure we’re going to be able to get that…There are all sorts of dominos in the fundraising effort, but if we can align all those dominoes and make that $13.5 million, that would be great.”
Renovating the Goshen Theater has been the long-term goal of the Goshen Theater Board, intensified since their purchase of the building in 2014. Peters has hope.
“For about a year we’ve been screening movies on Friday nights, and we’d get a really broad demographic of people who almost unanimously support renovating the theater,” he said. “So people are very excited about it, it’s just a matter of people putting money where their mouth is.”
Others involved in the project agree. “We recognize the importance of having that theater preserved and restored as a community center, a place where the community gathers,” Hufford said. “We want it to last another hundred years.”
“Admit One” won an award of excellence from the Broadcast Education Association (BEA), which Mills and Hufford will accept at an event in Las Vegas at the end of April. The documentary will also be featured in the student category at the Riverbend Film Festival, which occurs in the beginning of April.
The project was not without its challenges.
“It was a lot of scheduling, making mistakes and learning,” Mills said. “With Maple Scholars, don’t be afraid to fail or feel like you’re failing because you’re probably not doing anything wrong…everyone’s in the same boat. Just remember to take your lens cap off!”
David Kendall, associate professor of communications, narrated the documentary and reflected on Mills’ growth over the past year.
“I’m really proud of Riley,” Kendall said, “because doing a documentary takes a lot of research, organization and the culmination of a lot of filmmaking skills – you have to be organized and creative.”
Mills expressed her gratitude at being a Maple Scholar.
“What was nice about the program is that it’s really rare to have time throughout the week that you’re not juggling extra projects or homework – with this you have however many hours of the day to work on your project. It gives you a lot of flexibility,” she said.
Hufford said, “It’s great for students to be able to do one focused, intense project for a couple of months.”
“Getting connected with people in the community can be such a huge asset,” said Mills. “[They] are really valuable and can help in your future at Goshen College and after graduation.”