Theo Moore is the founder and producer behind Hiztorical Vision Productions, a local non-profit based out of Auburn that aims to tell African-American history throughout the state through short films.
Moore began his career as a history teacher and initially saw that students were much more visually oriented. Moore said when he saw his students pull out their phones and use videos as their preferred way of learning, the idea of HVP was born.
“One day in class I told my students to look up definitions and things of that nature, something where you actually have to read," Moore said. "I taught 10th grade so everybody pulled out their phone and watched a video instead. Something just went off in my head; I’m the type of person to meet people where they are. Times have changed. Everybody isn’t picking up a book."
It was around this time that Moore also began a new job at the Legacy Museum at Tuskegee University, which gave him the resources to conduct research on local history. It was on a later trip to the Nashville Civil Rights Museum with his wife that Moore found the inspiration for his first film, “Crown the County of Lowndes."
“I started seeing stuff about this LCFO, Lowndes County, Alabama, Black Panther Party. I call myself a historian and I didn’t even know this,” Moore said. “If I don’t know this just imagine who else doesn’t know this.”
That initial inspiration connected him to the greater story of Lowndes County. HVP’s first film “Crown the County of Lowndes” explores Booker T. Washington's role during the reconstruction era of education and the format established in Lowndes county, which would serve as a model for African-American education throughout the South.
Lowndes county would later be home to the Lowndes County Freedom Party, who would design the logo that the Black Panther party would later adopt.
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The core of HVP’s mission is to tell local stories that are often overlooked. By focusing on success stories in the face of oppression, Moore hopes to preserve local stories that otherwise might be lost with history.
“Nobody is learning about local, tangible, history,” Moore said. “We don’t get the opportunity to learn about it, or we don’t know it's there. We pass by some run-down houses or a run-down building, but it plays a big part of our history.”
Moore also hopes to preserve stories through his "Oral History" projects. Moore collects long-form interviews and conversations to create a minute to two-minute film. Through this, Moore said he hopes to preserve civil-rights era stories before they aren’t around to be told.
While he has a backlog of long interviews, Moore recently began publicly sharing these through his “Conversations with Legends” series on Hiztorical Vision Production’s Youtube page.
Aside from being an educational tool and a way to present history, the films have many other purposes. Moore said the mayor of Hobson city uses the film covering the town’s history to attract commerce and investment to the area, while HVP’s “Oral History” projects serve as a way to preserve first-hand accounts that may not be around for much longer. Museums and other organizations are then able to purchase these interviews for their own use, giving these stories more exposure.
In addition, Moore relies on help from volunteers to produce his films. Moore, who is a self-taught filmmaker, said despite the learning curve, he’s made strides in filmmaking and discovering his unique style.
“It’s an untapped talent I didn’t know I had,” he said.
However, Moore wants to give his volunteers an opportunity to share their vision through the studio’s projects.
“I don’t want to look at it as just volunteers,” Moore said.
By assisting in the production process, Moore said he hopes to allow aspiring filmmakers to share ideas and stories that they are passionate about.
In this sense, HVP is more than a documentary studio. By making short films, Moore is able to collect history, be an outlet for aspiring filmmakers and be a resource for localities and teachers alike.
HVP’s team consists of Moore and a board of trustees, who connect the studio to resources and give feedback, but Moore said he wants HVP to continue to grow. Eventually, Moore said he hopes to operate a dedicated studio out of Auburn or Opelika to not only produce films but also to host and operate workshops, classes, media studios, museums and a gift shop.
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