Film will be a personal look at Dover's past, present, and future

Nathan Cronk and Brian Harvath are working on something special in celebration of Dover’s three-century anniversary.

For the past eight months, they’ve been preparing and filming their documentary, “3 For 300,” a look at Dover’s story through the lives of a triad of city residents.

Cronk and Harvath are about two-thirds of the way through the project and plan to wrap it up by the end of the year.

It’s not their first project in Dover; they’ve done promotional work for local restaurants, boutiques, and other businesses.

“But we always knew we wanted to do something more historical,” Cronk said.

Big River’s intent always has been story-driven video productions, in this case, the 300th observance of Dover’s founding, he added.

But acknowledging the near impossibility of condensing three centuries of history into a 12-minute production, the company instead made the story a bit more personal.

“We wanted something that transcended the history of Dover and what has happened in the past,” Cronk said. “We decided to focus on three people whose stories focus on the past, present, and future of Dover.”

Cronk and Harvath followed each of their subjects through their day, and each will provide their own narratives for their part of the production.

Real energy and passion

To represent Dover’s future, Cronk and Harvath selected Emily Canon after interviewing about 30 candidates. The Central Middle School student has an enthusiasm for dance, and the combination of that fervor, her resolve, and a gregarious personality made her a natural for the project. The pair filmed Emily a full day at Dover’s The Dance Factory as well as at home.

“She has a real energy and a real passion,” Cronk said. “She’s only 13 years old and that makes her unique.”

Harvath agrees. Emily broke her thumb after her interviews, but still showed up in a forearm-length cast the first day of filming.

“For someone so young, she’s very grown up and she knows what she wants. That stood out to us,” he said.

She felt having cameras film her every move was “a little weird,” but said her fellow dancers enjoyed it.

“They were in the video in the background and they thought it was really cool.”

Emily wants to use the experience to eventually open up the dance experience to others.

“I hope they see me and know the dance community is so very small in Dover,” she said. “I hope they see what dance is really like and how it can be advanced.”

Very unique perspective

For Cronk and Harvath, Dover’s past is best summed up in two words: Nena Todd, Delaware’s historic sites supervisor.

“Although she’s originally from Kansas, Nena knows a lot about Native American history here, a history that sometimes gets passed over in favor of Colonial history,” Cronk said.

Todd relates that her own background as a Native American is intertwined with Dover’s and she considers it an honor to share that history.

For her, the project has been both exciting and a learning experience.

“Nathan and Brian are wonderful filmmakers and have made the experience easy and pleasurable,” she said. Filming took place in her office and at the Old State House and Victrola Museum, two of Dover’s most historic places.

“They’re very gentle and know just the right things to say and do to get the right shot,” she added.

Cronk returned the compliment.

“She gives it a unique perspective and she’s just a fun person to chat with,” he said.

Todd is anxious to see the impact “3 For 300” may have on the city.

“I hope that my participation will influence others to take time to learn about the history of Dover and the state of Delaware and to learn from both the inspirational and harsh realities,” she said. “The more you know about the past the better decisions you can make for the future.”

‘We’ve captured Dover’s 300th year’

And speaking of the present, the person who will represent that part of Dover’s history has been chosen, but Cronk and Harvath aren’t ready to reveal much. They will acknowledge that she -- it is a woman -- is descended from several generations of Dover residents.

Cronk and Harvath started “3 For 300” with seed money that included $4,000 from the city’s economic development fund. City council approved the outlay in May and the city will retain all rights to the finished product.

To date they’ve raised $16,500 of the approximately $20,000 they’ll need for the project, with much of that cash coming from area residents, entrepreneurs and local businesses including NCALL, the Biggs Museum of American Art, Restoring Central Dover and Orthodontics on Silver Lake.

About 20 percent of the entire figure will be spent on marketing and promoting the video.

A native of New York state -- the company is named after the Genesee River where he spent much of his childhood -- Cronk came to Dover from Washington DC, where he had co-founded a video production company. He likes Dover because the city provides small-town living while in proximity to larger cities.

Harvath is a Delaware native who attended Polytech High School and graduated from the University of Delaware with a biology degree. He worked part-time in video production but eventually gave up a full-time commercial career to focus on video work.

Cronk founded Big River in 2015, and serves as a director on its projects; Harvath also directs but takes on the photography and production chores as well.

They had hoped to premiere “3 For 300” at the Schwartz Center for the Arts, but with that venue closed, are looking for alternatives.

“We still have a vision of a preview of the film in Downtown Dover,” Harvath said.

Although they’re aiming at wrapping the project by the end of the year, they acknowledge it won’t be ready for showing until sometime in 2018.

“We feel we’ve captured Dover’s 300th year, but if we have to wait until the 301st, that’s OK with us,” Cronk said. “What’s important about this project is that is real people from Dover telling the story of Dover. That’s significant.”

“I think our goal is to open people’s eyes and generate some interest in the history of Dover,” Harvath said. “We hope to encourage people to be more vested in Dover.”