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Article Published July 29, 2020

Humanities Grant Funds Madison Historical Society Video on COVID Response

By Jesse Williams/

A documentary commissioned by the Madison Historical Society (MHS) to create a video record of how the coronavirus affected Madison got a big boost this month, as an approximately $5,000 grant from non-profit CT Humanities will allow the previously unfunded project to continue, aiming for a late August unveiling.

Turning the Tide: Madison and COVID-19 began filming in early April, with MHS Executive Director Jenny Simpson commissioning a small local film company called Ciné Vérité Productions to start interviewing local civic leaders, high school students, and business owners about their lives and experiences during the pandemic.

The two students who run the company, Garrett Samodel and Connor Wilke, took on the project knowing there was no assurance of pay or funding of any sort, according to Simpson, but with the grant, will now have everything they need to finish production.

“We were thrilled that our project clearly met the parameters [of the grant],” Simpson said. “Not only was it capturing the history in the moment as people were experiencing it, but the filmmakers were so great and so dedicated...It’s just been such a great experience.”

With a relatively short runtime—about 30 minutes, Simpson said—the hope is to have screenings in town, and potentially Q&A sessions while also making the film as broadly available online as possible.

Simpson said they probably filmed more than 60 hours of footage for the film during the height of the pandemic in the area between April 2 and May 16.

The CT Humanities grant program, which was aimed at projects specifically dealing with the pandemic, only approved about 15 percent of applicants, Simpson said, which meant that Turning the Tide was seen as particularly relevant and urgent.

Wilke and Samodel were able to speak to religious leaders like Todd and Sarah Vetter from the First Congregational Church, front-line health care workers serving at Yale New Haven Hospital, and a handful of graduating seniors at Daniel Hand High School, an interview that Simpson said was especially touching.

“My gosh...they were just so articulate, and so accomplished already, and so grounded. They had lost so much in their senior year, but were really taking the approach that this was character building, that this would be a blip, and that they would talk about this when they had grandchildren,” Simpson said.

MHS is hoping to raise some money in the next month or so in order to fund the promotion or other special events, like an outdoor viewing on the green or at the Surf Club, or possibly in the First Congregational Church, though Simpson emphasized that they “just don’t know what’s going to be possible” based on health concerns right now.

The entirety of the approximately $5,000 in grant money from CT Humanities will go to the filmmakers, according to Simpson. She said she hopes to release more information about the documentary, including clips or a trailer in the next week or two.

For more information about the Madison Historical Society, visit More information about Ciné Vérité Productions can be found at