Library to produce documentary film about Fayetteville

FPL executive director Shawna Thorup

As awesome as Fayetteville is, it’s hard to believe that after all these years, no one has ever made a film documenting the history of one of the finest towns in the universe. Thanks to the Fayetteville Public Library, that’s all about to change.

Fayetteville, get ready for your closeup.

FPL executive director Shawna Thorup announced today that the library has enlisted Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Larry Foley to produce a 60-minute documentary on the history of Fayetteville beginning this fall.

“As long as the public library exists, we’ll be in the story business,” Thorup told a full house packed into the Walker Community Room inside the library this afternoon. “We owe it to those on whose shoulders we stand to preserve their history, their heritage, and their stories for future generations.”

Foley, the filmmaker behind documentaries such as “The Buffalo Flows” and “Sacred Spaces: The Architecture of Fay Jones,” will be tasked with collecting stories, pictures, film and artifacts from Fayetteville residents and other sources to create the film, intended to become a permanent tribute to the city of Fayetteville.

The documentary will be dedicated to the memory of the late John Lewis, a longtime Fayetteville resident and former Bank of Fayetteville president. Lewis was nicknamed “Mr. Fayetteville” for his love of his hometown, and his efforts for growth and development of the city. The title of the film, “Up Among The Hills: The Story of Fayetteville,” comes from Lewis’ writings.

The project will take about two years to complete with a tentative premiere in mind for late 2012.

In addition to the documentary, Thorup said that the library plans to create a digital image archive made up of a collection of pictures, letters, postcards, and other artifacts from Fayetteville’s history. Community sessions scheduled in the coming months aim to help collect these images, and the library promises to scan the images and return them that day. All of the images will become part of the library’s digital collection.

A film contest is also planned for the project, and the winning film will be included in the bonus features of the finished documentary DVD.

The library estimates the project will cost between $150-175,000. About $50,000 has already been donated by Hayden McIlroy, the McIlroy family, and the Lewis family. The money raised will also help the library towards a 3:1 match challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will result in a $2.4 million endowment to support long-term improvements to the library’s humanities collection and programs.

Thorup said that she hopes the Fayetteville community will help not only with the funding of the project, but also by contributing their stories, pictures, and ideas.

“This is not the library’s project. This is your project. This is our project as a community,” Thorup said.

For more information, or to track the progress of the film, visit