Storytelling is one of humanity’s most ancient tools of communication. It has a significant impact on the way we view the world, relate to others and live our lives. Over generations the tools we use to tell stories have evolved, but the reason we continue to tell them remain: to share and to teach.
As modern filmmakers, we are able to share stories in an impactful way, reaching a large audience in a short amount of time. By telling the inspirational and exceptional stories of other people we are able to help them in way they could not do themselves. With that goal in mind, our team at Foster Visuals began While I’m Here | The Legacy Project—www.whileimheretheproject.com—to document the stories of amazing individuals with incredible legacies to leave behind.
This series of stories, to be shot within the next 12-18 months throughout North America, is not about the rich and famous, but about sharing the legacies of ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.
We recently launched the second story, which features 83-year-old Mississippi Delta Bluesman, Leo “Bud” Welch, one of the last remaining bluesman from his era. Leo has worked in the logging industry and on the farm for his entire life, and until now, had never been recognized outside of his small town of Bruce, Mississippi.
Check out Leo’s story here: https://vmeo.com/123912287
Our first project was launched in late December 2014, featuring “The San Diego Highwayman,” a.k.a. Thomas Weller. Driving an old Ghostbusters-esque car up and down the highways and byways of San Diego, Mr. Weller helps drivers stranded on the dangerous roadsides of rural San Diego. He fills their tanks with gas, fixes their tires or helps them with an overheated engine—no matter the problem, The San Diego Highway Man fixes it to get people back on the road. Mr. Weller has been coming to the aid of those in need for more than 48 years! All he asks is that those he helps pay it forward some day.
View The Highwayman Story here: https://vimeo.com/114542749
When we travelled to San Diego to tell Thomas’s story, we learned that things weren’t perfect in his world. His prized rescue car, Beulah, had been in a crash and was sitting in his backyard, damaged. Thomas was obviously emotionally distraught, and during the interview he talked about his dream of getting Beulah back on the road to continue helping others.
When we launched Thomas’s story on the site, we also started a GoFundMe page to help get his car back up and running. Almost overnight, the funds began to pour in, and supporters began to write messages on the page, describing the times that Thomas has rescued them on the San Diego highways. It was incredible to hear so many stories from people who seemed as if they were waiting for a forum where they could talk about their experiences with Thomas. Many were thrilled to have the chance to pay it forward to Thomas himself, and help get him back on the road. Eventually, a donor came forward and decided to fully repair Beulah. We were able to use the $12,000-plus raised to put into an account to keep Thomas on the road for a very long time.
With the success of the GoFundMe site, we knew we were onto something with the project. Clearly, it was something bigger than we had initially expected. This project has now become as much about helping the subjects in our stories as it has about telling their stories. This is definitely a new model for approaching a personal project for us.
With each story we launch in this series, we will now use this same model to help the characters of our stories continue to do amazing, selfless things.
With the release of Leo “Bud” Welch’s story this week, we also created a secondary video and a GoFundMe page to help him raise money to travel to rural schools in Mississippi and surrounding areas to play music for children and continue to keep the tradition of blues alive.
As filmmakers, we spend so much time worried about how many views our videos get, where they’re featured, etc. This project has reminded us not only of the importance of why we do what we do, but also the good that can come from it if you think outside of the box.
To learn more about the project, please visit: www.whileimheretheproject.com