Danielle Beverly is a Brooklyn based filmmaker, and this weekend her film Old South played during the Atlanta Film Festival at the Plaza Theater. The documentary explores the effects of a fraternity moving into a historically African American neighborhood in Athens, Georgia. A friend who lives nearby alerted Beverly to the impending conflict and allowed her to relocate to the neighborhood and fully dedicate herself to capturing the story.
When filming, Danielle prefers to work alone, immersing herself in her projects. “You don’t have a film without access,” she said, “at least not as a documentary maker.” Gaining that access to a close knit community as an outsider is not always an easy task, and she has found that it is easier to gain the trust of others when she works alone rather than in a team.
“I live very low to the ground when I do this kind of work,” she said of her process. Big changes in the story often came from Danielle simply walking through the neighborhood, making connections with people in the community, and in the case of this film that meant sometimes following the sounds of a frat party in full swing to get the shot.
Danielle refers to her filmmaking style as “longitudinal documentaries,” meaning that she doesn’t necessarily have a predetermined plot or outcome in mind when she begins working on a project. As with any of her films, “there will be a moment of turning” when the nature of the story organically shifts and things begin to fall into place.
Old South offers a window into a community in transition with a cast as varied as they are likeable. “This is a community that worked extremely hard for everything that happened,” Danielle said, praising the individuals she came to know during the process.
Next up for Danielle is a film called Dusty Groove which is currently in production. The film follows Rick, a used vinyl records expert and record shop owner in Chicago, Illinois. In this project, Danielle is exploring the transition that comes from selling vintage records. “Rick serves as a locus to walk me into peoples lives,” she said. Many of the people who sell their records to Dusty Groove are in a state of transition, and letting go of these precious and valuable items that once defined them but no longer do leads Danielle to pose the question “when does that moment happen?”