Pepperell film to document one who went the extra mile

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GROTON — A local businesswoman has dedicated the resources of her media development company to the creation of a new film detailing the life and accomplishments of local environmentalist Marion Stoddart and her efforts to clean up the Nashua River.

Pepperell resident Susan Edwards, owner of Extramile.com Productions, said she hopes work on the documentary will begin in earnest next year and be completed in time for a spring 2009 premiere.

“It was sort of my brainchild, if you will,” said Edwards. “I’ve been working with Marion Stoddart and learning about her story, gathering archival material, researching and then pulling it all together. Right now, I’m looking for funding and have been applying to the Center for Independent Documentaries (CID). I’m looking to them to be our nonprofit collaborator.”

“The cleanup of the Nashua River was huge and historically significant for Massachusetts,” said Edwards. “I really wanted to know how this person, Marion Stoddart, was able to do that; how she was able to have the persistence and the tenacity to mobilize thousands of people and get them into the fight to clean up the Nashua River.”

Stoddart, a mother of three, took the Nashua River project far beyond the local level.

“I was very impressed because it was her fight, really, that got the Massachusetts Clean Water Act in place and then the federal Clean Water Act soon after,” Edwards said. “These things may have happened without Marion, but not at the rate they did unless there was a strong advocate like her on board.”

Stoddart showed that individual efforts, when taken together, can create a synergy that may become something much bigger.

“She’s a model for anyone interested in fighting for rights in other areas of concern to the community, whether they involve the school system or a town’s struggling economy,” Edwards said. “Another thing that’s so compelling about Marion’s story is that what started in the 1960s as a local effort became a nationwide model for other organizations looking to mobilize people, how to remain vigilant, or on top of an issue. With this project, I’d like to help Marion pass the baton and inspire new visionaries.”

Edwards’ company, Extramile.com Productions, seems well-suited to take local history and present it in a format accessible to a 21st century audience.

“The film is really intended for a general audience,” she said. “The way we’re approaching this film is that we will have it distributed through traditional channels such as film festivals, but if we get the funding we’d like to have it distributed through PBS. We’re also looking at the Web as being one of the distribution channels.”

Edwards will be joined by videographer Sherry Moore, who has been involved in such PBS documentaries as “Twisted,” “Design Squad” and “Under the Skin,” and journalist Dorie Clark, who wrote the script and will direct the film.

“I bring together teams of experts to work on various projects,” explained Edwards. “Working on the new film has been a very collaborative project.”

Edwards said she began Extramile.com Productions in 1995.

“Our firm is a local company and I’ve been running it for over 10 years now,” Edwards said. “Our primary focus is to get information and put it into the hands of the people who need it. What we’ve been doing is working with public, academic and school libraries, helping them to increase their visibility and public awareness. We also help them to develop community-based programs and then show them how to inform the community about their existence. Such programs might include getting the public to read a particular book, or encouraging non-English speakers to use the library’s resources, or even to develop training programs showing new mothers how to read to their children or play games with them.

Edwards described Extramile.com Productions as a group of people specializing in different areas of production, hired to work on specific projects.

“One of our team members has worked on various film projects, while another member is an award-winning journalist,” said Edwards. “And then there’s me. I have a background in information science and technology and design.”

Edwards estimated that the Stoddart bio-documentary, titled “The Work of 1,000,” would cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $125,000 — money she hopes to raise mostly from grants.

In the meantime, some interview footage and archival film is being strung together as a “demo reel” of sorts and screened at a special “trailer release party,” to be held at Lawrence Academy’s MacNeil Lounge on Sunday, Nov. 4 from 3-5 p.m.

Intended as a vehicle to raise awareness about the project, the trailer release party will feature special guest Marion Stoddart, former Fitchburg mayor Bill Flynn, Nashua River Watershed Association executive director Elizabeth Ainsley Campbell, as well as the filmmakers themselves.

Those interested in learning more about Extramile.com Productions, the film project, or the trailer release party can visit the company’s Web site at www.workof1000.com.