VANCEBURG Jason Lewis lives about 90 miles southwest of Lewis County’s largest city.
Lewis, 47, loves the area as much as anyone from Vanceburg, Garrison, Quincy or Firebrick. So much so, he’s making a documentary about Lewis County.
You’re wondering, Why would someone make a film that might not make a lot of money?
“I’m doing this because I care very deeply about this community and because I feel that the political and economic systems are probably unintentionally rigged against smaller rural communities,” Lewis said. “The system simply works to support bigger, more prosperous communities and to funnel resources to centers of economic and political power.”
To Lewis, that means people have to leave rural areas for the cities to find jobs because there’s no reason for companies to invest in places like Lewis County.
People like Lewis, whose family moved to Cynthiana before he was born.
“It becomes cyclical,” Lewis said. “ … They have to follow the jobs, they have to follow the government investment, and when they leave, the government uses that as an excuse to not invest in the communities.
“ … Although my parents (Ancil Lewis and Kathy Lykins Foster), my grandparents, my great-grandparents, all 16 of my of my great-great-grandparents lived in Lewis County, I grew up somewhere else. I had a good life, but I missed being around my family.
“I missed growing up with my aunts, uncles and cousins.”
What is now Lewis County split from Mason County in 1806. It is named after Meriwether Lewis, one-half of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Jason Lewis is not related to Meriwether.
“My family was already in this area, having come down the river on a flatboat, prior to the county being formed or named,” Lewis said.
Jason Lewis has a background in finance, but he’s much more passionate about filmmaking.
“It’s something meaningful,” he said. “ … I think it’s much more important.”
Lewis spent a week last month filming scenes throughout the county. Among the sites: Kinniconnick Creek, Salt Lick Creek and along the Ohio River.
“It’s a beautiful county,” Brian Florence, one of the camera operators, said “I like the river, and I’m a avid outdoorsman, so I like the amount of trees and the natural beauty.”
Shirley Cagle co-owns the Second Street Diner. She said the county should expand the Foster Meade Career and Technical Center.
“It doesn’t have to be high-tech jobs,” she said. “It can be like carpentry, laying bricks, making furniture.”
There will be some music underneath the video; Lewis said it’ll be a variety. He said what the film is not is an MTV-style video with its nanosecond quick cuts from scene to scene.
“We’re filming lots of nature footage because we want people to understand that although there is a great deal of poverty in this region, there’s also a great deal of cultural wealth and natural wealth,” Lewis said.
Lewis and his family are financing the film. He isn’t sure his film, which is scheduled for release next year, will change any legislators’ minds in Frankfort or Washington.
“Perhaps it will make them more aware of what’s going on,” he said.