New Film Paints Pretty Picture of “Ugly” Rutland, Vt.

June 26, 2011; Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Rutland, Vt., is an old mill and quarry town of 16,630 residents that is, in the words of one magazine, “the only ugly town in Vermont.” But many good things are happening in Rutland, and they’ve been brought into focus through the lens of an independent filmmaker, to his own surprise. The resulting film, “The Blood in this Town” has become a rallying point for community pride and renewed energy for revitalization.

On Dec. 22, 2009, New York filmmaker Art Jones and his crew arrived to film Rutland’s one day blood drive as a quaint story; a short vignette of a small, hardscrabble town. Local organizers had set what many saw as an unattainable goal to collect 1,000 pints of blood in a single day. By the end of the day, the Rutland drive had set a New England record. The 1,034 pints collected in Rutland bested the previous one-day total achieved only by Boston, the largest city in the six-state region.

This made the filmmaker curious about what else was happening behind the surface appearance of broken glass, deteriorated streetscapes, and vacant buildings. He returned to Rutland and found a vibrant farmers market, an all-volunteer “Friday Night Live” summer downtown celebration, a former hot spot for excess drinking transformed into a mountain biking haven, a creative sustainable agriculture partnership, and more. What started as a four-minute documentary of the blood drive evolved into a full portrait of a resilient community that’s building upon its own assets and leadership to revive itself economically, environmentally, and socially.

Rutland Herald editor Randal Smathers described one of the most interesting impacts from his perspective: “It’s made people proud to say ‘I’m from Rutland’, when before it was like, ‘Oh, I’m from Vermont.’” Here’s hoping the film gets a wide audience and inspires renewed energy for small town community revitalization.—Kathi Jaworski