NOTEWORTHY DOCUMENTARY WINS UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FILMMAKER THIRD EMMY

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - University of Arkansas journalist and filmmaker, Dale Carpenter, won his third Emmy Award last Saturday night for a documentary about the Hot Springs Music Festival, which he wrote, directed and produced in 2001.

Called "The Sound of Dreams," Carpenter’s film was originally released on the Arkansas Educational Television Network, then distributed nationally through PBS. The documentary eventually aired on 69 percent of public television markets, reaching viewers across the nation.

"The Emmy is a nice affirmation, but I get more satisfaction out of knowing that I did the best work I could on a project and that I told a story that was worth sitting down and watching," Carpenter said. "I want people to see my documentaries and feel inspired or moved or just a little better about being human. And I love telling stories about people, especially those who have dreams and are striving."

Conferred by the Midwest Chapter of the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences, Carpenter’s new Emmy was awarded for the category of Best Program Feature, Cultural. It represents Carpenter’s second Emmy in that category, the first awarded in 2001 for "When Lightning Struck." In 1995, Carpenter won an Emmy in the category of Best Documentary for "The Edge of Conflict" - a three-part series on Arkansas and the Civil War.

Carpenter is one of three University of Arkansas professors to be nominated in this year’s awards. Larry Foley, associate professor of journalism, and James Greeson, professor of music, also were honored with nominations.

Carpenter filmed "The Sound of Dreams" over the course of three weeks in 1999, capturing the action and chaos of a music festival that brings hundreds of musicians from a dozen different countries to Hot Springs, Ark., each year in June.

Orchestrated by Laura and Richard Rosenberg, the Hot Springs Music Festival pairs established professional musicians with young people who wish to pursue a career in classical music. These musicians infiltrate the town, taking over churches, art galleries, coffee shops and street corners for rehearsals, and staging as many as 17 concerts in a period of about two weeks.

At times, the daunting schedule of practices and performances had Carpenter scrambling to keep up. "The passion of these musicians is incredible - four or five hours of rehearsal each day and concerts at night. Their dedication is astonishing, and I wanted to capture the intensity of their experience," he said. "So even though I went into it with a shooting plan, I had to react to what was happening at the moment. A lot of times it was just me running after people with a camera."

That intensity comes through the activities of the musicians, but it also comes through the complexity of the storytelling. Like a conductor reading a score, Carpenter followed the story of the festival across multiple lines: the mentor-apprentice relationships, the vision and passion of the organizers, and the story of the music itself.

Searching for a voice to tie those storylines together, Carpenter turned to Kabin Thomas, an accomplished tuba player and assistant professor of music at the U of A. He filmed Thomas and graduate student Todd Cranston as they prepared for the festival and struggled to master a challenging tuba solo for one of the concerts. Thomas’ dedication to music and his general enthusiasm so impressed Carpenter that he eventually asked Thomas to narrate the documentary.

"Working with Dale was fantastic. He and I talked, and he basically wrote the script from our interviews. So the effect of the narration is like a natural conversation between friends," Thomas said. "Dale really captured the energy and the experience of being at the festival. And more than that, he caught the spirit and enthusiasm that comes from being involved in the arts and participating in classical music."

The music itself plays a critical role in Carpenter’s documentary. Omnipresent in concerts, recordings, rehearsals and private practice sessions, the music serves less as a score for the film than as an additional narrative voice.

Carpenter’s camera catches serene moments like a quartet on the city sidewalk, gathered for a spontaneous performance of Amazing Grace. But when the action gets chaotic - as when an unforeseen problem involving air conditioning arises - Carpenter makes the viewer hear that chaos by overlaying the cacophony of practice, multiple musicians playing different pieces, different parts. It’s implied that all of this - the serenity and cacophony of music - underlies every moment, every other aspect of the festival.

And although there’s plenty of action to capture over the course of the two-week event, Carpenter takes moments in the film simply to listen in. At those moments, he gives his viewers visual rest so that they too become listeners. Flute notes ping down an empty, dark hallway. The voice of a violin plays behind a closed door.

"I’m not a classically trained musician, myself, but I found the whole process of the festival inspiring - from the dedication of the musicians, digging at difficult passages hour after hour, to the audiences that spontaneously gathered at rehearsals," Carpenter said. "I hadn’t realized before how intense the experience of music could be."

"The Sound of Dreams" was underwritten in part by the Morris Foundation, the Bodenhamer Foundation and the Horace C. Cabe Foundation. AETN will broadcast the documentary once again at noon on Sunday, Nov. 17.

Contacts

Dale Carpenter, associate professor of journalism, Fulbright College (479)575-5216, dcarpent@uark.edu

Kabin Thomas, assistant professor of music, Fulbright College (479)575-7607, kabint@uark.edu

Allison Hogge, science and research communications officer (479)575-5555, alhogge@uark.edu

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