- Associated Press - Saturday, January 9, 2016

MIDDLETOWN, Del. (AP) - Familiar faces and places from Frederick County’s Middletown may appear in a new documentary about the various Middletowns across America.

Nadine Owens Burton, a longtime resident of Middletown, Delaware, began her venture of documenting the culture and history of other Middletowns in August, starting in her own town.

The idea for the documentary “Middletown, USA” stemmed from Burton’s time as an undergraduate sociology major, during which she studied the book “Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture.” Her memory of the book remained with Burton over the years and fueled her recent research into the history of Middletowns.

Despite her limited knowledge in film and documentaries, Burton decided to make the leap and create a documentary on the Middletowns across the U.S., from New Jersey to California.

“There’s so much, unfortunately, negativity in the world. I love those human interest stories, positive stories of people living their lives,” Burton said. It was her intention to tell the stories of Middletowns and the lives of the people who live there.

After about a dozen interviews with various Delaware residents, from politicians to historians, Burton expanded her research and focus to Middletown, Maryland. In October, she drove down and met with several key people in the area to begin brainstorming subjects to highlight and people to interview.

During her visit, Burton said, she completed some filming. However, her main focus at the moment is cultivating stories, facts and figures to speak with for the documentary, with help from local residents.

Dwight Hutchinson, vice president of the Middletown Valley Historical Society, was among those who met with Burton during her short visit. He said she told them about the documentary and her goals, but Hutchinson was unsure the extent and detail in which Middletown, Maryland, would be featured in the film.

“It’s going to be involving sociology aspects . about growing up in Middletown, Delaware, and how things have progressed so far . and try and incorporate information on other Middletowns,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said Burton had not yet asked him for specific details or interview subjects in Frederick County. He believed she was still looking for funding for the project.

However, he said, if she chose to feature Middletown, Maryland, he planned to show her old photos of the town, provide some background and history, and recommend she speak with the town’s burgess.

“We’re going to wait until she comes back out here; we’ll get more information and learn more then,” he said. “It’s too early to speculate on what she’s going to cover.”

Burton said she plans to return to Frederick County in January to continue laying the groundwork before filming. Readying for the film shoot could take three to four months of preparation and work, including countless emails, phone calls and a handful of visits to the town.

“The hope was to plan to have a (film) shoot in Middletown, Maryland, sometime in the spring,” she said.

The film shoot itself will be completed in a 24- to 36-hour timeframe, according to Burton.

“What I’m looking for is almost the feel of the time when I come for the actual shoot,” she said, noting her intention for authenticity. “Like I’m a visitor in your town.”

For each Middletown, Burton said, she identified six subject areas to focus on - getting a living, making a home, training the young, using leisure time, engaging in religious practices and engaging in community activities. Not every town will span all six areas, she said.

There are about 20 Middletowns across the U.S., spanning from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to California. Burton said the number of Middletowns featured in “Middletown, USA” would depend on her availability and the amount of funding for the project.

Despite her recent efforts to begin research and filming, Burton said the documentary is still in the early stages. Burton is currently funding the project, and has yet to identify other sources for funding.

“Until I get additional outside funding, and I haven’t figured out whether I’m going to do grants, crow funding or something else . anything I do for it is self-funded,” Burton said. She is paying out of pocket for cameras, lighting and mileage.

Burton works full-time as the founder and president of Owens Burton Consulting, an improvement training and services company, so she pursues the documentary during her free time.

If all goes according to plan, Burton said, she hopes to wrap up filming “Middletown, USA” by August 2016, with video editing and the final compilation taking an additional two to three months. She aims to have the film finished and entered into screenings across the country by late 2016 to early 2017.

“I’ve got a timetable in mind,” she said. “But as with most things, you plan and God laughs.”

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