County people, places, history showcased in TV special

Johnson County has a good story to tell.

From the revitalization in communities such as Franklin, Greenwood and Bargersville to the success of Franklin College to the impact of Camp Atterbury, local residents know about the good things going on in their county.

Now, the rest of central Indiana will be in on the secret as well.

Johnson County gets its star turn in a new documentary airing on Bloomington’s PBS channel. “Spirit of Johnson County” will tell the stories of the county’s history, the places that make it special and the people who call it home.

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The film will air for the first time at 8 p.m. Monday on WTIU.

“With the people we talked to and the stories we were able to tell, there’s a lot of community pride. Our hope is that residents who watch this are able to see it and have a renewed sense of that pride,” said Jason Pear, producer of “Spirit of Johnson County.”

“Maybe they can even learn something new about their community.”

A large segment dealt with efforts to maintain and restore the county’s architecture and past. Filmmakers spotlighted Franklin Heritage Inc., a historical conservation group, for their work on the Artcraft Theatre and on structures throughout downtown Franklin.

Greenwood’s ongoing facade project was also given attention. With exciting new restaurants, shops and businesses filling empty spaces in the Old Town area, a new kind of city center is taking shape.

“This is a community that cares about its roots, that cares about its heritage,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers, who is interviewed for the film. “We’re working as hard as we can to restore the downtown area, with 17 buildings under construction. We want to be able to use that as a catalyst, to show that we can take the old and make it new again in a historical fashion.”

Bargersville’s own rebirth, with Taxman Brewing Co., is featured in the film as well. Filmmakers attended the brewery’s successful Death & Taxes Day, showing hundreds of people flocking to a small rural town.

“Our goal in opening Taxman was to create a place for the community to come together,” said Leah Huelsebusch, co-owner of Taxman. “The fact that we were asked to participate in a documentary defining our community after less than two years in business means that we are already considered an integral part of Johnson County; it’s simply overwhelming.”

The historic and continued impact of Camp Atterbury, agro-tourism hotspot the Apple Works and a miniature train running through Johnson County Park are also highlighted.

“We really tried to get from the north to the south, with all of the other communities represented as well,” Pear said. “A lot of the stories we focused on had that historical element to it, bridging the history and contemporary stories.”

Planning for the documentary started when Pear and his team researched Johnson County and some of its most noteworthy aspects. With a better sense of the history and layout of the area, Pear took to the roads to explore it himself.

“For me, I got up from my desk and out of the office to drive around and see what I could find,” he said. “From there, we keyed on some stories to find out what we wanted to tell and see who could help tell those stories.”

Work on the documentary started in the summer of 2015, giving Pear and his team a full year to capture some of the county’s most noteworthy events and traditions. Footage of the Johnson County Fair and the Apple Works’ fall festival were prominently included.

“We knew based on where we’d be in the production schedule, we wouldn’t be able to get another crack at those this year. So we gathered that video and then worked backwards,” Pear said.

By spring of this year, most of the interviews with local residents, business owners and civic leaders were conducted. Local residents and historians, including the staff at the Johnson County Museum of History, assisted with research and historical photos for the project.

With all of the materials in hand, Pear spent about a month-and-a-half editing the footage and creating a coherent story.

The finished documentary is scheduled to be shown three times on WTIU during next week.

Johnson County is the fourth Indiana county to be profiled in the “Spirit of …” series. WTIU began by producing three films about Monroe County before expanding to Orange and Brown counties.

“These are our viewers, our members, the stories that we want to tell,” Pear said. “They are stories that maybe get overlooked by television, and these are the kinds of stories that PBS do well. It’s our local communities, our neighbors.”

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“Spirit of Johnson County”

What: The documentary created by WTIU, Bloomington’s PBS station, is slated for release over the next week.

Dates it airs:

  • 8 p.m. Monday
  • 1 p.m. Aug. 26
  • 10:30 a.m. Aug. 27

What channel:

  • Over-the-air: Channel 30.1
  • AT&T, Dish, and DirecTV: Channel 30
  • NewWave Communications: Channels 3 or 171
  • Xfinity/Comcast: Channels 30 and 1030.

Check local listings or with your service provider for more details.