CORRIDOR OF SHAME A Documentary Produced & Directed By Bud Ferillo
The Neglect of South Carolina's Rural Schools

Biographical Notes »
The CORRIDOR project began in September, 2004, when I was asked by John Rainey to draft a concept paper and prepare a working budget for a documentary on the conditions in South Carolina’s rural school districts.

By November, the project was approved and I began to read nearly 7500 pages of testimony of the plaintiffs’ witnesses in the Abbeville vs. State of South Carolina trial that lasted 102 days and ended on December 9, 2005.

I was very familiar with this case because I had contributed a year of public relations services pro bono in support of the plaintiffs’ cause, working closely with the team of litigators from the Nelson, Mullins law firm based in Columbia, South Carolina.

Filming began in January, 2005, with a two day shoot in Dillon School District Two. I selected Dillon to begin the project first for two reasons: first, it includes the oldest, continuously operating school building in the state, J.V. Martin High School, which was built in 1896, and I wanted the documentary to establish the age and poor conditions of many of the state’s rural school buildings; and second, I had fallen in love with the powerful, descriptive trial testimony of Superintendent Ray Rogers. I knew if I could get him comfortable in front of the camera he would make for a terrific interview.

My hunches about Dillon and Ray Rogers were right on the mark. That old high school offers visual evidence of every conceivable inadequacy you can imagine. The first twelve minutes of CORRIDOR are devoted exclusively to J.V. Martin High School. Its able, affable principal, Larry Monahan, effortlessly gave us the memorable tour you see in the opening scenes. Superintendent Ray Rogers is a natural born communicator. The eyes of both of these noble South Carolinians often filled with tears as they guided me through the conditions that they, their staff and students live with every day.

It was 18 degrees the morning we boarded the Dillon District Two school bus to shoot the opening frames. Many classrooms we visited that morning were unbelievably uncomfortable. You cannot imagine how cold, bare and ill-equipped many of these rural schools are in the winter months.

CORRIDOR goes on to report on ceiling collapses in Dillon’s East Elementary School four years ago and at West Hardeeville Elementary School in Jasper County in early January, 2005. The principals in Jasper County School District and Marion School District 7 reported how raw sewage backs up into their elementary school’s hallways and closets on rainy days. The vice-principal at West Hardeville Elementary took us to a classroom and a cafeteria where poisonous snakes had recently crawled inside from a nearby swamp.

In CORRIDOR, you’ll see inadequate reading classrooms, ill-equipped science labs and media centers. You’ll hear how difficult it is for administrators to hire and keep good teachers in their rural schools, and then you’ll meet some of the most inspiring, extraordinary teachers you will find anywhere in the nation.

You’ll also find a peculiar dichotomy in these poor, rural schools. When I first entered many of these facilities, most of them built in the 1920’s and 1950’s, I felt I had discovered long abandoned concentration camps. But instead of finding morbid evidence of tortured souls, I found these distressed places full of angels.

When you look into the faces of CORRIDOR’s children, you will meet these angels yourself and the wonderful teachers, principals and administrators who struggle every day to hold these schools together despite inadequate support from their elected officials.

The five months of making CORRIDOR was a profoundly moving experience for me personally, but through this candid look at the shameful conditions that are still endured in America’s rural schools, I found inspiration.

Hopefully, our governmental system will soon acknowledge the injustice of our present inadequate methods of funding rural, public schools, and as our federal, state and local leaders awaken to the consequential gaps in funding and achievement that are growing in rural America every year.

I completed and then edited 124 hours of interviews and news footage to compress this story into a one-hour documentary. Throughout this project, images of Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 documentary Harvest of Shame welled up from the recesses of my mind. I was fifteen years old when I first watched that classic film on the horrible conditions of Florida’s migrant workers which led to major reforms in the laws of Florida and other states. That documentary has stayed with me all my life and spoke again to me as I struggled with my own work on CORRIDOR some 45 years later.

I do not know if I have succeeded in translating the essence of this story effectively enough to help bring an end to the disgraceful neglect these schools have endured, but I do know that because of the courage, candor and graciousness of the people in this documentary who tell their story well, as my friend Pat Conroy observed they do in his generous introduction, they will not have to face another day thinking they do so alone.

Bud Ferillo
Producer and Director
March 29, 2005