Alumni's 'Hollow' gets Emmy nomination

By Dan O'Brien
July 17, 2014

Soyk, McMillion

Jeff Soyk, MFA '13, creative designer of Hollow, and Elaine McMillion Sheldon, MFA '13, creator and director, after receiving a Peabody Award in May. (Courtesy Photo)

An alumna behind a groundbreaking interactive documentary on poverty in rural West Virginia has been nominated for an Emmy Award just one year after receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Emerson.

Elaine McMillion Sheldon, MFA ’13, is the creator and director of Hollow, which is nominated in the New Approaches: Documentary category alongside documentaries from PBS, NPR, New York Times, and Atavist.

“We poured our souls into this,” McMillion Sheldon said. “To be nominated in a group with the New York Times…and other major players is astounding.”

Several Emerson alumni worked on the documentary, including creative designer Jeff Soyk, MFA ’13; interactive developer Russell Goldenberg, MFA ’12; project manager and producer Nathaniel Hansen, MA ’04, MFA ’11; editor Sarah Ginsburg ’11; and production assistant Rheanna Bellomo ’12.

Hollow, which won a Peabody Award last spring, examines the dramatic decline of McDowell County, West Virginia, which was once home to booming industry.

Soyk, McMillion

Soyk and McMillion Sheldon accepting the Peabody Award in May. (Courtesy Photo)

The documentary is praised for its innovative approach: It can be viewed as a typical film, or it can be experienced interactively online using HTML5 technology.

The Hollow website walks the user through the history of McDowell County—which boasted a peak population of about 100,000 in the 1960s that has fallen to around 20,000 today—and then has the user follow his or her own path through the documentary.

“The idea that the stories are nonlinear [is like] a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of experience,” McMillion Sheldon said.

Hollow

Emily McMillion Sheldon, MFA '13, with Ed Shepard, who was interviewed in Hollow. (Courtesy Photo)

Seventy people were interviewed for Hollow and 30 appeared on camera.

On July 22, Hollow will be screened at the U.S. Capitol building’s theater at an event hosted by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

“Our small Boston-based team is now competing against the biggest names in the industry,” said McMillion Sheldon, who described the nomination as “a huge honor.”

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