Jenny Roberts is the director, cinematographer and editor of Pieces of Tangier,
a 45-minute documentary about Tangier Island, Virginia, which will
screen at the 16th annual Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival on
Sunday, November 10 at 10:30AM. Roberts was born in Pocomoke, Maryland.
She graduated from Monmouth University in 2007. She received her MFA in
film from Ohio University in 2013. Pieces of Tangier was her
thesis project there. She has her own production company called Yellow
Bicycle Films, based on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Pieces of Tangier focuses on the struggles of the people of Tangier Island, as they face the fact that the island is slowly but literally disappearing. Due to wind and water erosion, the sea level is rising and threatens to swallow the island. At the same time, the seafood industry that sustains the island's economy is on the decline. As a result, young people needing work and a college education leave the island and don't return.
Before starting this documentary, Jenny Roberts was an avid writer, but while attending Pocomoke High School, she fell in love with video production. She learned how to shoot and edit. She even chose Monmouth University in New Jersey because it had a brand new TV studio for its students. She immediately started working there as a news anchor and camera operator. In her sophomore year, she started her own show that profiled unique students. In her senior year, she studied film and found an interest in documentary films.
She began attending Ohio University School of Film in 2009. She made documentary films every year. She met Carrie Crockett, a nursing student at an engagement party in Pocomoke. Crockett was a resident of Tangier Island before she left. When she told Roberts about the problems facing Tangier, Roberts knew that the island needed to be the subject of her thesis.
Roberts says, "Scouting the watermen's community, I was immediately intrigued by the unique dialect and way of life, from the crabbing shanties that line the entrance into the harbor to the tourism industry that springs to life each day with tourists marveling at the bicycles and golf carts buzzing down the single lane road. I couldn't believe I had never been there before and that I hadn't heard about the erosion."
Roberts continues, "The concept of home, what it means to us all and how important it is to fight for it, that seemed very right to me and very worth sharing with others. It was never about wanting to force a viewpoint on someone, it was to try and reveal the heart and soul of people on Tangier so that an audience might be aware, and maybe even inspired to get involved."
Roberts funded the movie and photographed mostly by herself. She had assistance from Matt Fillmore, a cinematographer one year behind her. She had a Sony EX3 HD camera from her school, but that's it. She used a patient and laid-back approach to warm herself to the island and to its people. She took many trips to the island, spanning a two-year production period.
Roberts states some people believe that Tangier can't be saved and islanders should just move off. Yet, she includes that all documentary films communicate a point of view and it would be false to say that Pieces of Tangier is a completely objective piece as there is a clear identification with the islanders who desperately want to save their island. But she believes it is a fair portrait of a place that is worth paying attention.
Pieces of Tangier
Playing at the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival.
For more information about the movie, go to: http://www.yellowbicyclefilms.net/#!music/c10tw