Giving a voice to the language, laughter and heart of its city blocks, East Lake won the grand prize for this year’s My Neighborhood Rocks video contest.
The competition—in its second year—is orchestrated by the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise as a means of recognizing the individual areas of the Scenic City and encouraging self-initiated, sustainable collaboration within the neighborhoods.
“Initially, the thinking was [the contest] would be an innovative way for the neighborhoods to tell us organically who they are,” said Nick Wilkinson, director of development at the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise. “Rather than us making a website or a video about why they’re great, the neighborhoods could figure out a way to make that happen from the ground up.”
The My Neighborhood Rocks contest accepted submissions through the month of October, asking participants to answer the question of how their neighborhood plays. This year, five groups entered videos online to represent Brainerd North Park, East Lake, Glenwood, Highland Park and Oak Grove.
Both East Lake and Glenwood also participated in the inaugural contest last year.
Once the submissions were uploaded, anyone could view them on the contest’s website and cast votes during a two-week period. A panel of judges from the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and the Association for Visual Artists then measured the videos in four categories: creativity, originality, adherence to the theme of play and the overall quality of the video.
The East Lake submission, “1, 2, 3 Go! East Lake,” took the top prize—and helped the neighborhood retain its championship title from last year’s contest—during the Nov. 9 screening in the Pavilion at Miller Plaza.
Wilkinson noted that elements of the video, including the timelapse footage, audio overlay, and the incorporation and coordination of a large group of neighbors in a concise and thoughtful narrative, helped it stand out.
The styles and flavors of play
Filmmaker Kelly Lacy and writer Conner Armstrong, both East Lake residents, collaborated with help from fellow East Laker Rebekah Cordes for English/Spanish translation. The pair actually conceived, scripted, shot and edited the two-minute video in roughly two days.
The sprint of a project, which Lacy and Armstrong finished right in time for the deadline before learning it had been extended by a weekend, spoke to the connectedness of the neighborhood: The pair linked to their subjects through other neighbors and knew where to find the shots for the videos scenes.
Lacy explained that the first conversation between Armstrong and himself highlighted the fact that when considering any question about East Lake, the answer must be seen in terms of a vibrant diversity.
“My take on the question of ‘how does East Lake play’ was to focus on the different types of people we have in our neighborhood,” Armstrong said of writing the script. “Kelly and I wanted to capture recreation for different ages, genders and races.”
“1, 2, 3 Go! East Lake” blends clips of the more obvious versions of play, such as football, basketball and soccer games, with the more subtle glimpses into residents’ lives, such as a father fixing the brakes on his son’s car or a husband and wife holding their infant.
Children ride their bikes through the street, the clouds roll over East Lake Park and green peppers sizzle on the grill while the voices of a young boy, an older Latino woman and an older white man speak about falling and getting back up, bringing different styles of play together to make a familiar game new and how the noise of life can define a neighborhood.
“The noise of life sounds like a lot of things, and when it all comes together, it sounds like a place,” Armstrong’s script reads.
Living in East Lake
The loose boundaries of the neighborhood run from East 28th Street south to the state line and from a few blocks west of Rossville Boulevard to the foot of Missionary Ridge, according to the map of Hamilton County voting precincts.
Although young, white residents have begun to set up homes in the area, there are still issues of crime and poverty, making the need for connections between those next door or across the street all the more important.
“Like any diversified neighborhood, like Highland Park, it really has to do with knowing your neighbors and even the street or block you live on,” Lacy said.
My Neighborhood Rocks—which will return next fall for the third year—awarded the East Lake Neighborhood Association $5,000 for the winning video to be used in the neighborhood. Wilkinson explained that, with the prize money, the contest creates the opportunity for the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise to be democratic in its funding.
Last year, the award bought toppers for the street signs. Armstrong said he would like to see the money go toward programs for skill development and employment networking or a competition for community development ideas this year.
Lacy said he would opt to spend the funds on a celebratory block party with grills, balloon houses and a screening of the video, ensuring that everyone in the neighborhood sees just how East Lake plays.
“East Lake is a badass place,” Lacy said. “Let’s have some pride in our neighborhood.”