‘Shake ‘Em on Down’ was produced by the Southern Documentary Project
JUNE 1, 2018 BY
Two University of Mississippi filmmakers have been nominated for a 2018 Southeast Emmy Award for their documentary chronicling the life and music of a regional bluesman.
“Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell,” a 55-minute film produced as part of the Southern Documentary Project, housed in the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, is among four films nominated in the Documentaries category. The winner will be announced June 16 during ceremonies at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta.
“We were all elated to receive such great recognition from our peers,” said Scott Barretta, a sociology and anthropology instructor who co-produced the film. “It’s a wonderful feeling when your friends praise the film, but to be judged so positively by people who are assessing the film simply on its own merits is another thing altogether.”
Barretta and Andy Harper, Southern Documentary Projects director, learned of the nomination from Joe York, a former UM faculty member, freelance director and the film’s other co-producer, who spotted it on the Southeast Emmy Award website.
“Shake ‘Em On Down” tells the story of Fred McDowell, who was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959, mentored Bonnie Raitt and served as the cornerstone of the unique and enduring north Mississippi style of blues music.
Building on the longevity, success and devoted audience of “Highway 61 Radio,” a production of the Southern Documentary Project, York and Barretta feel that a dedication to visual storytelling about the musical heritage of the South, with a primary focus on the blues, will greatly enhance SouthDocs’ ability to meet its goals of documenting and educating the region.
“If the film wins, I think it will be a testimony to the power of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s music and the compelling nature of his life story,” Barretta said. “It would also be a great boost to further promote the film, which was so well received on the festival circuit and aired nationally on PBS through the Reel South series.”
Barretta is the longtime host of “Highway 61 Radio,” and York its former producer.
If the film wins, it would be the second Emmy for the Southern Documentary Project. The first award was for “The Toughest Job: William Winters’ Mississippi,” an hourlong film that chronicles the life and career of the state’s 57th governor and his fight to pass the 1982 Education Reform Bill.
“When we get nominated or win awards, it serves primarily as an indicator that we’re on the right path,” Harper said. “With the launch of our new M.F.A. in Documentary Expression this year, it’s another thing we can point to for folks who want to know what they can expect from their time here.”