A 200lb bologna in the sky brings a small Pennsylvanian city together in celebration.
Community, family, and the New Year? It’s a load of bologna! Bologna Drop follows the story of Lebanon PA, a small city, celebrating the coming of 2016 in the most unusual way possible… dropping a 12 foot long, 200-pound bologna from the sky. Witness this inspiring community strive for those in need and inner beauty.
Link to full film at the bottom of the article.
“Bologna Drop” is Reel Nation Media’s latest free short film after almost 2 years of releasing free content. This article explores the making and meaning behind the film from film director, Abdullah Abu-Mahfouz.
Into the Bologna
Daniel Bills (co-founder of Reel Nation Media) and I were stuck; we were searching for local stories to make a film about, and were at that wall for about a week. One day, Daniel suddenly spoke through his chuckles with his trademark eyebrow raise, “This town drops a two-hundred pound bologna for their New Year celebration.” We had found our story.
After doing further research, we realized that this event resonated with us much deeper than we expected. The town of Lebanon, PA used this celebration as an opportunity to use what made them unique to give back to their community. At the time, Daniel and I were searching for what was unique about us and Reel Nation Media to add value to the world. This quirky but sincere celebration provided us a journey to figure this out.
We pitched the idea to Al Jazeera America, and they liked it! Their reaction was similar to ours in that they thought it was absolutely out of this world and more importantly: unlike anything else they’ve heard of. With our hearts set and a powerhouse international media company having our backs, we went greenlighted the film for development.
We were excited to grow as filmmakers in our network and in our craft.
At the beginning of December, Daniel made first contact with the community of Lebanon. They were completely cooperative and willing for the production. After a few more days of phone calls, research, and negotiating, we made our first visit to Lebanon around the middle of the month.
Initially we thought the story was going to be about a community coming together to break a world record and achieve a high risk, high stakes monument in a goofy fashion, but our scouting told us otherwise. We found out that the film would become about a community coming together to revive town spirit in the way that fit their strengths and tackled their weaknesses, thus resulting in a happier community that has one of the best non-profit facilities we have seen. The Lebanon Rescue Mission.
Our first day was at Godshall’s Quality Meats Inc. The meat company graciously allowed us to film the creation of the bologna from start to finish. It was an experience Daniel nor I had witnessed before; it felt like a top security lab. Our footage had to be checked, we had to wear lab coats and hard hats, and be escorted everywhere we went. This is all coming from good intentions to protect the company’s renowned bologna recipe. Even with the tight security, we were given an awesome tour of the factory and got to see how they grew over the years. We realized how much they really impacted Lebanon.
We also met and interviewed Joe Ramos at the factory, who was an awesome guy to be around. He would become the leading voice of the film. On Christmas Eve, we interviewed Cheryl Batdorf, who was the president of the CLA (Commission of Lebanon). Her interview didn’t make it to the final film because of a huge mistake (you will see later). At that point, everything was going smoothly.
Unfortunately the smooth road wouldn't last for long; Al Jazeera America notified us that they were no longer interested in the bologna movie, but were interested in another film we had pitched (Refuge). It was a huge blow to us because that meant 25 full days of work in December would be unpaid (we took no days off). Should we continue with the movie? Or should we move on?
We obviously decided to stick it out. I don’t remember why to this day, but I think that’s just how we are here at Reel Nation Media. We never give up on something we believe in. Just look at Dead ED!
It wouldn’t be the last wall we faced…
On New Year’s Eve, we showed up to downtown Lebanon at noon to capture the Bologna being lifted into the air and the event being set up. Through our research and what we’ve been told, we thought that the vendors and attendees would start rolling in early in the afternoon. Little did we know that everyone would actually start arriving around 10pm. Out of ignorance and fear of missing anything important, Daniel and I naively stayed out in the cold for 10 hours (13 total, but hey who’s counting).
Today, we can guess that we caught hypothermia around 6pm that evening. I don’t know about Daniel, but I spent the following week as a fragile, sick man buried under blankets. I’ve never felt so cold in my entire life.
When 10pm hit, people finally started showing up and so did the vendors. The DJ and Salvation Army Truck you see in the film were filmed at that time. The rest is in the movie, filmed with frozen fingers and joints. By the time the bologna dropped, we had grown to hate our lives. I think that’s something that is still clearly reflected in the end product. I don’t think it’s our best work by a long shot.
With our production dropped by AJAM and our bodies giving in, we really had little will to continue on with this film. I think all artists/creators can relate to the feeling of making something you really have no heart for anymore; it feels like you’re killing apart of your passion for your craft. That’s what it certainly felt like while laying down sick and chilled to the bone while stressing about how to pay the company’s overhead and our personal bills. But we are Reel Nation Media, and we never give in.
To the right is our (Daniel left, Abdullah right) frozen faces selfie while filming.
Not giving up was entirely worth it. The next Monday we visited Lebanon Rescue Mission to see what had become of the Bologna. There we saw it being distributed to the needy. We had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Topping, a woman whose whole professional life had been, and still is, dedicated to volunteering and giving back to the community. Seeing the positive end result of the bologna and meeting a person with a character like Jenny’s made us remember the biggest reason why we set out to make this film: to find inspiration.
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but through the Bologna Drop, I found inspiration to mold Reel Nation Media’s Mission Statement to what it is today: To unite virtuous, sincere artists and audiences to inspire truth, understanding, hope, and reform, within themselves and the world, in a beautiful, powerful, and enjoyable journey through the media arts. For a creator to inspire those virtues within himself is what I took away from this movie. Seeing what positivity could be accomplished in this world made me realize that the physical journey of making the media art can be like a pilgrimage for the spirit.
The inspiration I learned above was sparked by visiting the Lebanon Rescue Mission, but it wasn’t fully realized until one year later, December 2016, when I had to edit the movie. The reason that it took so long was another wall I ran into; I accidentally deleted Cheryl Batdorf’s interview while organizing the editing project. We planned for her to be the leading voice of the film... It was one of those times where you couldn't hate yourself more. SHAME!
It wasn’t until the next New Year was approaching when I mustered enough courage to tackle the edit again. I realized that my mistake actually gave me an advantage. Cheryl’s point of view came out to be just as an organizer, whereas Joe Ramos’ perspective was both an organizer and a community member attending the event. It turned out that the unfortunate event worked out in our favor.
In the end, here are the 3 biggest things I took away from the Bologna Drop:
Creating film and other art can be an outer pilgrimage/journey for inner growth and change.
Inspiration has a chain effect. The community of Lebanon inspired us to finish this short film because what they were doing was inspiring in itself.
Learning late is better than never.
That’s a Wrap!
Finishing a small project like this for non-monetary gain has lead us to a much deeper growth. We now want to make short films like these much more often so we can come to a better understanding of our mission and the world around us. More importantly, we want you, the audience, to experience that same inspiration for yourself when you watch the end product. By doing more shorter pieces, we hope to learn more about you, our audiences, and how you want to be inspired and changed for the better.
Keep it Reel!
WATCH THE FULL 6 MINUTE MOVIE AT: https://youtu.be/ljgLOlJ4rME
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