Tag Archives: a regular bouquet: mississippi summer

Steve Fayer, writer and producer, dies at age 80

11 Dec

Steve Fayer,  who worked as a writer on thirteen episodes of Eyes on the Prize and many other productions, has died at age 80. Fayer began his career in commercial television and then worked for Blackside, Inc. as a writer for several ground-breaking documentaries including Eyes on the Prize, The Great Depression, and as a producer for America’s War on Poverty. Fayer also wrote George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods On Fire, a biographical documentary about the former governor of Alabama. He was co-author of Voices of Freedom, an oral history of the civil rights movement with Henry Hampton and Sarah Flynn, which gathered a lot of material from outtakes of interviews conducted for Eyes on the Prize.

Hampton-Blackside-Eyes1-Titles-20071030

Fayer was an integral part of Blackside and had a close working relationship with filmmaker and founder, Henry Hampton. In the manuscript material that is part of the Henry Hampton Collection, Fayer’s work, writing, and comments can be found as Hampton, and the other producers and writers of Eyes on the Prize collaborated, discussed, wrote scripts, and fine-tuned the series.

In addition to scripts and other manuscripts, in an another document Fayer responds to treatments put together by Hampton and other producers for the third episode of Eyes on the Prize II: Power! with these remarks,

Exploring the influence of Malcolm [X] on ‘the future of American civil rights” is too narrow a construction. I thought his story is included in the series to show his influence on black people, on their aspirations, their perception of themselves whether in or out of the civil rights movement with particular emphasis on folk in the ghettos of America’s cities who will very soon steal the headlines from the movement.

Again, the question: Is the apparent (but not real) absorption of SNCC into the BPP the emotional payoff for wha[t] has happened in the Panther story, and in the hour? Is it more media event than real? If people believe that it is a sign of a new American revolution, have they been misled? What do mainstream blacks think? Whites?…I guess what I am asking is what is the truth here, the whole truth about empowerment of black folk in America? That’s what the hour has been about: concrete battles, a victory, a defeat. What do the Panthers represent on that spectrum?”

Fayer’s writing reveals that he wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions that helped shape what became Eyes on the Prize. He won an Emmy for his script of Mississippi: Is This America? and a Writers Guild of America award for his work on George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire.

Unita Blackwell in "Mississippi: Is this America?"

Unita Blackwell in “Mississippi: Is this America?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer [director’s cut]

31 Oct

Director, Cinematographer, Editor: Richard Beymer
Producers: Richard Beymer and Council of Federated Organization Film (COFO). Copyright © 1964 Richard Beymer. All rights reserved.

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer

Washington University Film & Media Archive is excited to make Richard Beymer’s A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer [director’s cut] available in full to the public. As part of a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) awarded this year to the Film & Media Archive, the original version is currently undergoing preservation.  Once the preservation work is complete the original version will be available for scholars and fans.   Thanks to the generosity of the filmmaker, the director’s cut is currently available to view.

Filmed in 1964 during the Mississippi Summer Project, a campaign to register black voters, provide educational opportunities, and build the movement for integration, Beymer’s film is unique as he was one of the few filmmakers working side-by-side with the activists and volunteers who made up the massive movement that was Freedom Summer.  In 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that included SNCC working in Mississippi, issued a call for volunteers, and nearly 1,000 responded. After receiving training, the volunteers, mostly white, northern college students and recent graduates, joined the existing group of predominantly black activists. But it wasn’t just students who heeded to call to come to Mississippi that summer.

After gaining notice in films such as The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Richard Beymer became a major star after appearing in West Side Story in 1961. He continued to work in Hollywood but was riveted by the news reports coming out of the South and Mississippi during the turbulent years of the early sixties. After being challenged to do something about his convictions by his agent during a cross-country trip to New York, Beymer decided to go to Mississippi during Freedom Summer.

At that time the I.F. Stone Weekly was an independent publication that covered the activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Since SNCC was one of the main organizers of the Mississippi Summer Project Beymer contacted I.F. Stone, the journalist and publisher responsible for the newsletter, and asked on advice on how to get to Mississippi. Stone’s advice, “You get in your car and drive to Mississippi,” while practical did not provide much detail on how to make contacts or find activists. When Beymer arrived in Mississippi, he asked people in town where the closest SNCC office near Jackson, Mississippi was. When he found the office, he explained his presence by saying, “I want to be part of this.” A SNCC volunteer handed him a broom and said, “Fine. There’s a broom, you can start with that.”

After a few days, Beymer attended an out-of-state orientation and it was during this time that the idea of making a film came to him. He had done a lot of still photography and had wanted to make a film before and proposed the idea to the organizers of a piece that could be shown to volunteers so they would have some idea of what they were getting into. They agreed and Beymer returned to Mississippi armed with a 16mm Bolex camera and a supply of black and white 16mm film.

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964, © Richard Beymer Collection.

During the summer, Beymer worked doing voter registration, canvassed neighborhoods, and in between doing this work filmed the daily lives and activities of the volunteers and the local people and children. He explained that he had his camera with him at all times and,”When I saw something that struck me, I had it there ready to go. I was making a film of my experience, wherever it took me.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into. Until you walk into it, you don’t know all of that.” — Richard Beymer

Speaking of the dangers of doing the work SNCC was engaged, Beymer said, “We were out in the boonies. It was kind of scary and where are you going to go–to the police? Anyone could have been killed at any time.”

Beymer describes the time as both positive and negative. Within the world of the volunteers and the African-American Mississippians, “We ate together, we went to these crummy little bars, we were all together there, it was great.” But he was shocked by the conditions that existed for black Mississippians at that time and that brutal poverty is captured in the film.

In addition to the poverty, the threat of racist violence haunted Freedom Summer from the beginning. On June 21, one week after the first volunteers arrived for training, three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared. The FBI conducted a massive search and found their corpses on August 4. All of the work the volunteers engaged in was done with the threat of something similar happening to them hanging over their heads.

Beymer didn’t develop the film until he returned to Los Angeles at the end of the summer, and then spent the next year editing. The footage Beymer captured has a naturalistic, spontaneous quality that evokes cinema vérité techniques at times. The impact of this footage showing the work of Mississippi volunteers and the local people who had not been given an opportunity to share their stories has carried through till the present day. As a result, other documentary filmmakers frequently seek his footage. Most recently, filmmaker Stanley Nelson relied heavily on A Regular Bouquet when completing his film, Freedom Summer, which premiered in June 2014 on PBS and footage from Beymer’s film appeared in Henry Hampton’s seminal documentary series, Eyes on the Prize (1987), episode five, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964).

Participants at an organizational meeting during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © Richard Beymer Collection.

Participants at an organizational meeting during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © Richard Beymer Collection.

A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer is part of the Richard Beymer Collection at the Film & Media Archive. In addition to the film elements of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, and a collection of black and white photographs that were shot during filming, the collection contains other titles by Beymer including The Innerview, Point of Departure and Perfect Movies. It also includes a taping of part of show 3 of Midnight Snacks by Andy Kaufman on which Richard Beymer appeared.

* Note: Quotes for this article are from a telephone interview with Richard Beymer, from August 18, 2014.

Screening of “A Regular Bouquet” and Q&A with Actor and Filmmaker Richard Beymer

26 Sep

Washington University Film & Media Archive hosted a screening of A Regular Bouquet, followed by a Q&A with actor and filmmaker, Richard Beymer on September 23. Best known for his roles as “Tony” in the film adaption of West Side Story (1961) and “Ben Horne” in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), actor Richard Beymer’s documentary film, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964) offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History. Beymer was one of the few filmmakers to spend significant time working with Freedom Summer volunteers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Footage from Beymer’s film was used in filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Summer (2014) and in episode five of Henry Hampton’s landmark series Eyes on the Prize, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964). 

A Regular Bouquet is a unique film and primary document of Freedom Summer in Mississippi. Beymer worked alongside Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists, organizing and registering people to vote in rural Mississippi. The footage he captured shows the daily life of African-American Mississippians and the extreme poverty and deprivation of their surroundings along with the excitement of the young people attending the Freedom Schools and organizational meetings. Many thanks to Mr. Beymer for sharing his film and memories with the audience.

Washington University Film & Media Archive received a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) to preserve A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi SummerOnce the preservation state is complete, Washington University Film & Media Archive will create a digital copy which will be available to stream online.  A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer is an invaluable film for filmmakers, researchers, teachers, and historians, and we look forward to making it available to the public.

Actor and filmmaker Richard Beymer and audience during the Q&A following the screening of

Actor and filmmaker Richard Beymer and audience during the Q&A following the screening of “A Regular Bouquet.”

September Events at the Film & Media Archive

12 Sep
Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. Photo from the Richard Beymer Collection.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. Photo from the Richard Beymer Collection.

Commemorating Mississippi Freedom Summer

Washington University Film & Media Archive invites you to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this pivotal time in American history.

Screening of A Regular Bouquet and Q&A with Actor Richard Beymer, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 7pm, Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium

A free screening of the short documentary film A Regular Bouquet  (1964), recently donated to the Film & Media Archive, and Q&A with filmmaker and actor Richard Beymer. Best known for his roles as Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story (1961) and in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), Beymer’s film, offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History.

 

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer Exhibition, Thru Oct. 25, Grand Staircase Lobby & Gingko Room, Olin Library

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of 1964’s Freedom Summer, this exhibit highlights primary source materials from the Washington University Libraries’ newly acquired Richard Beymer Collection and its inaugural Henry Hampton Collection.

Risking Everything Exhibition, Thru Sept. 29, Olin Library

A Freedom Summer traveling exhibit, from the Wisconsin Historical Society, featuring materials selected from over 1,100 boxes of unpublished papers created by individual activists, community groups, and national organizations.

 

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

28 Aug
Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

An exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is now on view in Olin Library, Gingko Room.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer highlights primary source materials from the Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive’s newly acquired Richard Beymer Collection and inaugural Henry Hampton Collection.The exhibit also celebrates the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) grant awarded to the Film & Media Archive in 2014 to preserve Beymer’s documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer.

Best known for his roles as “Tony” in the film adaption of West Side Story (1961) and “Ben Horne” in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), actor Richard Beymer’s documentary film, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964) offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History. Beymer was one of the few filmmakers to spend significant time working with Freedom Summer volunteers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As a result, other documentary filmmakers frequently seek his footage. Most recently, filmmaker Stanley Nelson relied heavily on A Regular Bouquet when completing his film, Freedom Summer, which premiered in June 2014 on PBS. Beymer’s footage was also included in Henry Hampton’s seminal documentary series, Eyes on the Prize (1987). Featured in episode five, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) Hampton combined stock footage and first-hand accounts to retell the events of Freedom Summer.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.

 

In 1964, civil rights activists launched Freedom Summer, a project in Mississippi to register black voters, provide educational opportunities, and build the movement for integration. The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that included SNCC working in Mississippi, issued a call for volunteers, and nearly 1,000 responded. After receiving training, the volunteers, mostly white, northern college students and recent graduates, joined the existing group of predominantly black activists.

Richard Beymer set out to film these activities in order to create a training tool for COFO’s future volunteers.  Comprised of testimonials from volunteers and Black Mississippi residents, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer consists of rare and historically significant primary source depictions of segregated Mississippi against the backdrop of violent opposition. The film also includes footage of Freedom Schools, which provided instruction to over 3,000 black students. The schools directly challenged Mississippi’s segregated education system by offering instruction on black history and constitutional rights. Portraying the intimate relationship between teacher and student, the film includes interviews, class instruction, sing-alongs, and a discussion of the student-written Pleasant Green Magazine

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

The threat of racist violence haunted Freedom Summer from the beginning. On June 21, one week after the first volunteers arrived for training, three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared. The FBI conducted a massive search and found their corpses on August 4. Despite the threat of violence, Freedom Summer volunteers engaged in door-to-door voter-registration efforts. Beymer filmed the registration drive and interviewed participants. One resident discussed the economic tactics used by segregationists: “When you put ‘By whom are you employed’ [on the application form], you’re fired by the time you get back home.” Mississippi officials rejected the vast majority of voter-registration applications submitted by African-American residents that summer. But the events of Freedom Summer increased public support for new civil rights legislation, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When Henry Hampton made Eyes on the Prize one of his main goals was to include the voices of people who had not been recorded or widely recognized before. Many local activists in remote areas of Mississippi who had organized early on to gain voting rights, often at great risk, were featured in the episode Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964). Hampton interviewed Robert Moses and Amize Moore, two of the main architects and planners of Freedom Summer, Unita Blackwell, local activist who became one of the delegates in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Casey and Tom Hayen, Freedom Summer volunteers, and Myrlie Evers, civil rights activist and widow of slain Mississippi leader Medgar Evers. Hampton also interviewed segregations, including William Simmons, a member of the Citizens’ Council—a pro-segregation organization that operated in Mississippi—to show what the prevailing political climate was like in Mississippi in 1964 and what the Freedom Summer volunteers had to combat. By interviewing people from both sides of the issue, Hampton brought a multifaceted portrait of Mississippi to viewers.

Together A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer and Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) create a complex portrait of life in Mississippi during Freedom Summer and an understanding of the social and political pressures that existed during this volatile period in our nation’s history.

 

 

“A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer” to be preserved with National Film Foundation Preservation Grant

27 Jun
Photo from the Richard Beymer Collection.  © Richard Beymer

A young man attends a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © Richard Beymer.

Washington University Film & Media Archive is excited to announce that we have received a National Film Preservation Foundation Grant (NFPF) to preserve Richard Beymer’s documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer. Beymer, an actor and filmmaker, traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to document the efforts of voter registration activists and the daily life of African American Mississippians. Beymer shot the film in black and white with a 16mm Bolex camera and captured unique footage of the daily life of children attending what were called Freedom schools-alternate schools set up by voter registration activists-as well as the political activity and the violent response from segregationists in Mississippi. “A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer” has become a touchstone and primary source for Freedom Summer, and footage from it attracted the attention of filmmakers and has been reproduced in many documentaries, including “Eyes on the Prize,” and more recently in Stanley Nelson’s “Freedom Summer.”

In a recent New York Times article, Beymer talked about his time in Mississippi during that turbulent, violent time,

“I was just filming everything that appealed to me,” Mr. Beymer, now 75, said in a telephone interview from his home in Fairfield, Iowa. “The only audience I had in mind, I suppose, was the next generation of people who came down here, so they could see what they were getting into. That gave me total leeway to just do my experience.”

The film used animation, photographs, black and white footage along with voice-over interviews with volunteers and African Americans residents who were organizing on multiple levels. The striking black and white footage shot by Beymer is lyrical and shows the unguarded moments of  the children who attended the Freedom Schools and the volunteers who had come down from the North. Often showing joyful scenes of children singing and playing the film is simultaneously an impressionistic portrait of life in a very specific place and time, segregated Mississippi, and also a challenge to people who tried to maintain that system by denying the vote and other basic human rights to African Americans.

In 2013, the Film & Media Archive acquired the Richard Beymer Collection. In addition to the film elements of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, and a collection of black and white photographs that were shot during filming, the collection contains other titles by Beymer including “The Innerview,” “Point of Departure” and “Perfect Movies.” It also includes a taping of part of show 3 of “Midnight Snacks” by Andy Kaufman on which Richard Beymer appeared.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and the preservation of A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer, an exhibition and screening is planned for later this summer. As part of the NFPF grant, after the preservation work is complete the film will be made available online. 

For a full list of the awards see the National Film Preservation Foundation’s press release.