March 7, 2014 12:04PM
By NANCY BURNS-FUSARO
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY— For those who know and love Watch Hill, it will be a reminder of the village’s stunning beauty, history and charm. For those who don’t know Watch Hill, it will serve as an introduction to one of the crown jewels of New England.
But for everyone who watches “Watch Hill: Portrait of a New England Seaside Village,” a documentary film produced and written by Betty-Jo Cugini Greene, and set to make its debut Thursday night on Rhode Island Public Television, it will be a film to own and to watch again and again.
The film is a 45-minute gem based on the book “Watch Hill Though Time, the Evolution of a New England Shore Community,” by Chaplin “Chap” Bradford Barnes, the former executive director of the Watch Hill Conservancy who serves as the film’s primary narrator.
“Chap does a remarkable job,” said Greene, who grew up in Watch Hill. “He is really the focus of this ... and he should be the focus.”
Greene said she always knew that Barnes’ “fabulous” coffee table book, published in 2005 by the Watch Hill Conservancy, lent itself to having a film version. After all, she said, “It’s on every coffee table in town and you can read it hundreds of times and never get tired of it. ... I really wanted to help bring it to life.”
“Betty-Jo has done a terrific job,” said Barnes. “The real purpose of the book was to show the special character of a special place, and Betty-Jo did a terrific job presenting that. She was the inspiration.”
Barnes, not much of a social media participant, said he laughed when he heard from one of his daughters that the trailer for the documentary had become so popular so quickly on Facebook. (The trailer is also available on the Watch Hill Conservancy website, thewatchhillconservancy.org.)
“It doesn’t really surprise me because I knew it was going to be a wonderful film,” he said, adding that he looks forward to seeing it on PBS. “I am thrilled it will be airing on public television.”
Greene said that she and her husband, Stephen Greene, went to visit Barnes one night last spring and encouraged him to get the project going. Barnes, a retired attorney who has divided his career between environmental conservation and the private practice of law, agreed, and the planning and writing began in earnest.
As soon as she was given the go-ahead, Greene contacted Jim Karpeichik, of Ocean State Video, whose work has appeared on NBC Nightly News, Discovery Channel, PBS, CNN, History Channel, ESPN and numerous other television stations across the country, including WJAR in Providence, where he worked for 14 years.
“I had seen Watch Hill on a beautiful summer day, and I had seen Watch Hill in the midst of a hurricane,” said Karpeichik who was a colleague of Greene’s at WJAR. “It’s one of those places in Rhode Island that we all love. It’s one of our treasures.”
But Karpeichik said it wasn’t until he read Barnes’ book that he saw the fuller picture of Watch Hill.
“I got a whole new level of insight,” he said. “I learned the history and how it became what it is today.
“It was an absolute pleasure to film this and to get to know the people in the film,” he added. “There is so much beauty in Watch Hill. All I really had to do was turn my camera on.”
In addition to Barnes, the film features interviews with Watch Hill residents Edith Eglin, Ada F. Addington, Georgie Williams Lewis and Anne Snowden. Interviews with Richard Youngken, an adviser to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and consultant to several local preservation organizations, and with Peter V. August, a professor of natural resources in the department of natural resources science at the University of Rhode Island, are also included.
“It’s a terrific video,” said August, a Hope Valley resident, “and Chap Barnes is terrific.”
August, who serves as a science adviser on the Napatree Point Conservation Area, said he got to know Barnes when the 2011 Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) issued a report on Napatree, the “Napatree Point Conservation Area Ecosystem Management Study.”
“It was on of my most interesting assignments,” he said. “I am in awe of all the work Chap has done for the preservation of Watch Hill and Napatree Point. His work to advance science-based stewardship of the Napatree Conservation Area is a unique thing. This film is a wonderful way to showcase our part of the state and the wonderful work being done here.”
The film, according to R.I. Public Television, “takes a look at the strong and enduring sense of community” of Watch Hill.
“Watch Hill is scenic 12 months of the year,” said Lucie Raposo, Rhode Island Public Television’s public information manager. “It is a place that enchants and inspires you all year long.” The documentary, she added “captures the essence of Watch Hill’s charm.”
“‘Watch Hill: Portrait of a New England Seaside Village’ traces the area’s history as a lookout point for Native Americans, and allows viewers to explore and appreciate the beauty of this coastal village,” added R.I. Public television. “The film also features vivid reminiscences of residents who, for generations, have summered, lived, worked, and come of age in the picturesque seaside village.”
Green said she was “ecstatic,” with the finished film. “For me, it was a total labor of love. I simply wrote from the heart.”
“Watch Hill: Portrait of a New England Seaside Village” airs Thursday, March 6, at 8:30 p.m. and will be shown several more times throughout March: March 8 at 8 p.m., March 11 at 4 a.m., March 12 at 10 p.m. and March 22 at 11 p.m.
To see the trailer for the documentary, visit thewesterlysun.com. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS77-jSTPcs.