UT’s Land Grant Films has announced its most ambitious documentary yet: telling the story of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Journalism and Electronic Media Associate Professor Nick Geidner, who leads Land Grant Films, came up with the idea for the project—dubbed 100 Million Stories—after learning the program was on target to give away its 100 millionth book early next year.
Parton started Imagination Library in 1996 in honor of her father, who was unable to read or write. It began as a free book program for children from birth to age five in Sevier County, and has since expanded across 50 states and four countries. The organization now donates roughly 1.1 million books each month.
Geidner said he hopes Land Grant Films can interest PBS or Netflix in airing the film once it’s done.
“We hope to get national exposure so people across the country will be able to see this documentary,” said Geidner. He also plans to screen the film in partnership with Imagination Library affiliate programs across the country.
Geidner said his interest in the project is personal.
“My son, Henry, has received the Imagination Library books from when he was born. He’s four and a half now, so, right when Imagination Library is giving out its 100 millionth book, he will be graduating from the program. It’s sad he’s growing up, but then it’s really cool to do this documentary and sort of give back to this amazing thing they’ve given us.”
The documentary will feature a diverse group of individuals, including recipients of books, authors of books selected for the program, organizers, and volunteers—and the legend herself, Dolly Parton.
Two journalism and electronic media students, senior Brock Zych, from Kingsport, Tennessee, and junior Abby Bower from Knoxville who have worked with Land Grant Films for years, will serve as director of photography and producer, respectively.
The project is still in the planning stages with students researching subjects like children’s literacy, public policy, and authors.
“We’ve broken down the different angles and subjects that we want to cover in the documentary,” said Bower. “As producer for the project, I’ll be writing questions, setting up and conducting interviews, and writing the script for the documentary.”
The documentary team will be traveling all over the country conducting interviews and shooting footage. Land Grant Films hopes to fund the project through grants, corporate sponsorships, crowdfunding campaigns, and private donors.
Nick Geidner (865-974-5155, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lindsey Owen (865-974-0937, email@example.com)