Next on Our Town: Johnston and Charlestown

Last Updated by Lucie Raposo on

When Rhode Island PBS put out the call in December for the next Our Town location, two towns emerged quickly and strongly. By the time the January 31 deadline arrived, it was clear that support from two towns was equally enthusiastic.

“The people have spoken, and the two towns we will visit for the 2018-2019 season are Johnston and Charlestown,” said David W. Piccerelli, president of WSBE Rhode Island PBS. Johnston will be featured in a documentary televised in September, and Charlestown will be featured in March 2019.

Piccerelli attributes the enthusiasm for these next chapters of Our Town to the success of the previous Our Town chapters. “We and the participants have received positive and inspiring comments since the premiere Our Town: Glocester four years ago and up to Our Town: Smithfield last September. We are looking forward to building on the energy as we take the project now to Johnston and Charlestown.”

Our Town is a community project wherein neighbors become filmmakers and tell the stories of Our Town. Johnston and Charlestown represent the eighth and ninth stops on the track to visiting all 31 of Rhode Island’s towns.

“The content is decided by the participants. They pick what will be in the film. We’re looking forward to seeing what Johnston and Charlestown choose to do,” said Jodi Mesolella, Our Town project director, and director of membership and special projects at Rhode Island PBS.

In each town, Rhode Island PBS will recruit up to 20 to 25 volunteers with video cameras. There are no restrictions as to age or experience and there is no cost or compensation to participate.

The first planning meeting in Johnston will be Tuesday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. at the Johnston Senior Center. A technical meeting will follow on Tuesday, April 3 at 5:30 p.m., also at the Johnston Senior Center. Charlestown’s first planning meeting will be later this spring.

Part fund-raiser, part community builder, part historical and cultural documentary, and part “day-in-the-life” video scrapbook, Our Town shares with viewers the local legends, historical happenings, and backyard secrets of the particular town and its villages – untold or uncelebrated stories that capture the essence of the town. Previous Our Town projects are Glocester, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, West Warwick, Westerly, and Smithfield, with the premiere of Our Town: Bristol slated for May 16.

Our Town gives the community a platform to share stories and perspectives on the town in their own voices,” Piccerelli said. “It's also a meaningful way for us to connect with our community.”  

Residents of Johnston and Charlestown are especially urged to participate, but one need not be a resident of the particular town - just have a great town story to tell. Community meetings and a technical workshop lead up to filming. During the planning meetings, participants discuss and choose the subjects and locations they want to include in the documentary about their town. Two days are allocated for filming, but volunteers can film stories anytime before the deadline.

 “Those who wish to start filming right away do not have to wait for the filming dates – just contact the station and let us know,” Ms. Mesolella said.

“We will offer guidance, technical advice and support to our volunteers, but this is definitely their stories as told by them in their community,” said Nicole Muri, producer. Video recorded by the volunteers will be edited together by Rhode Island PBS to create a one-hour film of each town.

For information about joining the Rhode Island PBS Our Town project, and for details about meetings as the dates approach, visit ripbs.org/ourtown, or call Jodi Mesolella (project director) at 401-222-3636, extension 209, Nicole Muri (producer) at extension 225, or email ourtown@ripbs.org.