WHEN YOU’RE LIVING IN THE THIRD-FASTEST SHRINKING CITY IN THE COUNTRY YOUR DREAMS ARE OFTEN DEPICTED AS NIGHTMARES. WELCOME TO JOHNSTOWN, PA. DEPRESSED. BLIGHTED. DRUG-INFESTED.
The Perfect Rust Belt Metaphor.
But The People Here Are Dreaming Of Better Days Ahead. And They're Fighting (With A Touch of Gallows Humor) To Get There.
I Dreamed of JohnsTown Is A Documentary Film Project. Have A Look At This Short Film To See What's Going On.
I DREAMED OF JOHNSTOWN IS A DOCUMENTARY PROJECT SHOT ON LOCATION IN JOHNSTOWN, PA, THE THIRD-FASTEST SHRINKING CITY IN AMERICA.
Johnstown, PA is a handy prop, a besieged Rust Belt city with a host of seemingly intractable problems. It’s where dreams go to die. Or so says The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the online site, politico.com. They have come and gone. They’ve passed judgment. It’s hopeless. The people here are rubes.
But for this film we’d like to stick around a while to see how the people in Johnstown work, live and dream. What we’ve already found is a poignant and very human struggle for survival: a heartwarming tale of lifeboat economics replete with political infighting, love, compassion and gallows humor.
Johnstown is not where dreams go to die. It’s where Americans dream of a better life.
THE MAYOR AND THE OPPOSITION
Mayor Frank Janakovic calls himself a progressive. But he’s battling an aging population with long-standing gripes. People like City Council member Charlene Stanton constantly frustrate Mayor Frank. Stanton represents a faction of the city that feels left behind.
The battle lines are clear.
THE HEALER AND THE COP
Rosalie Danchanko is on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. She runs a free clinic and a controversial needle exchange program. Sgt. Erin Kabler from the Johnstown Police Department sees another side of the epidemic. He’s running short of compassion.
Can they work out their differences and continue to save lives?
THE VISIONARY AND ARTIST
Mike Kane grew up in Johnstown and chose to stay and fight for his city. He’s convinced that the doubters are wrong. His foundation seeks to make positive economic and social change in the city. Musician George Byich is an artist with his own vision of the city: one with heart and soul.
Johnstown, PA was once a powerful industrial city. It turned out the iron and steel that is still found in our railroads, bridges and buildings. The mills once employed 18,000 workers.
Then, after a disastrous flood in 1977, the steel industry collapsed. The town paid a price. People moved away in droves in the decades to come. The city of Johnstown shrunk from 60,000 to less than 20,000 people.
The exodus is accelerating. The city has lost nearly 6 percent of its population since 2011. The numbers are staggering:
- The poverty rate is double the national average.
- Household income is less than half of the national rate.
- One in ten of its citizens hold a bachelor degree.
- 30 percent of the housing stock is blighted
- It’s county, Cambria, has the third-highest number of drug overdoses per capita in the US. The city of Johnstown is especially hard hit.
- The tax base is eroded. 60 percent of the budget goes to retire pension plans.
Cambria County, where Johnstown was once the major city, historically voted Democratic. But completing a trend that started in the Reagan years, the county went overwhelmingly for President Trump in 2016. He tapped into a disgruntled working class, promising a return to steelmaking and coal mining (jobs which have yet to materialize and, according to many experts, never will return).
KEVIN HUFFMAN, DIRECTOR
Kevin has directed and/or produced more than two-dozen documentary films for Netflix, TNT, A&E, Discovery, History and other networks. Several of Kevin's most successful films have explored the deep problems facing the criminal justice system. He's built compelling stories around the lives of murderers, detectives, prosecutors and victims.
Kevin’s recent projects include producing the Netflix documentary film Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru and Killing Richard Glossip, a serialized documentary focusing on the troubling case of a death row inmate in Oklahoma. Other projects include the series Judgment Day, which takes viewers inside the high-stakes world of parole and The System with Joe Berlinger, which highlighted the causes of wrongful convictions in the United States. Kevin attended the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown as an undergraduate, before earning an Urban Studies and Geography degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Master’s Degree in Television Production from Emerson College. He currently works in New York City.
LOU CHIODO, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
A Johnstown native, Lou’s production career began with Jazz That Moves, a live collaborative performance arts project in Pittsburgh. Jazz That Moves combined live jazz performers with an improvisational dance group and opened to a sellout crowd.
While in Pittsburgh, Lou was General Manager for the Off-Broadway production of the interactive theater performance, CLUE® The Musical, which is now a multi-city touring production.
Upon relocating to New York City, Lou was a founding partner in Gotham Media Group; a post- production facility specializing in cable television series like VH-1’s Where Are They Now? and creative campaigns for various networks and media outlets.
Lou also served as Managing Director of the York Theatre Company, which is the only theatre in the city (and one of few in the world) to exclusively dedicate its mission to developing new musicals and re-discover musical gems from the past. Lou oversaw the commercial transfer of Musical of Musicals (The Musical!) and Jolson to their Broadway openings.
Lou’s is currently founder and chief technologist of DepoCam Legal Services. DepoCam captures legal video for depositions, and provides trial presentation and tech services for many of the world’s largest law firms, especially those whom are engaged in high value litigation cases.
Get In Touch With The Filmmakers
® I Dreamed of Johnstown and idreamedofjohnstown.com