Dellinger Grist Mill Project

View Video: The Dellinger Grist Mill c.1867 Bakersville, North Carolina

Filmmaker Robert Maier is captivated by the story of the Jack Dellinger and his family’s historic grist mill, and wants share the story with others.

Robert has produced numerous feature films, television documentaries, and educational films. He was senior producer at Charlotte’s PBS TV station, for eight years, and was head of the Broadcasting Department at Gaston College for nine. His own production company took him from Honolulu to Kabul, to a Trappist monastery in South Carolina.

His most recent project, concerning 86-year old Jack Dellinger and his grist mill, came about totally by happenstance. He and Katherine are avid mountain hikers. They had stopped at a country restaurant near Roan Mountain in North Carolina, when Dellinger delivered an armful of cornmeal bags. The Maiers inquired about his identity, and found that the old Dellinger mill was just up the road– and still working. They visited the next day, to hear the unique story of the mill, and Jack’s life. He had a surprising career, growing up on a fourth-generation family farm, joined the Air Force after graduating from high school, earned an engineering degree from NC State, and was selected by Werner von Braun to work on NASA’s Apollo moon rocket program. After several decades developing software for NASA and IBM on projects including the GIS system, the first email, the first hard drive, and the first PCs

In 1847 the Dellinger family built a grist mill on their farm in the North Carolina mountains. Jack Dellinger is the fourth miller. But Jack didn’t take over the family enterprise directly. He left the farm in 1950 at age 17 to see the world. He did that—and more. He was away from the farm for 44 years before returning to undertake a nine-year project to restore the mill. Jack is now 86 years old. The Dellinger grist mill is the last water-powered grist mill in North Carolina.

Dellinger Mill is now on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s largely obscure and unnoticed on a dead-end country road. Maier has been working for the past two years to help it gain more visibility through the film.

With about 8 hours of film so far, Robert is editing and script writing, weaving the compelling history and culture of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in to Jack’s personal story.

The video on this page is a small bit of the work in progress.

Robert Maier Personal Appearance with FEMALE TROUBLE in Chattanooga, Tennessee


will host a screening and post Q&A of the restored John Waters’ film FEMALE TROUBLE at the amazing Palace Theater in Chattanooga, TN. Also my newly restored version of LOVE LETTER TO EDIE.

FEMALE TROUBLE was my first film with Waters, and it is quite the piece of 1970s underground culture. Autographed copies of my book LOW BUDGET HELL: MAKING UNDERGROUND MOVIES WITH JOHN WATERS and LOVE LETTER TO EDIE Blu-Rays– and other goodies available on site!

Sunday January 27 2:00 PM

A presentation of Justin Savage Arts

More Recommended Netflix Titles

Netflix has some great non-mainstream cinema to offer, but theycan hard to find in the thousands of ever-shifting titles. Google “best films on Netflix”, and you’ll get dozens of returns. Like so much Internet junk, many just use algorithms of the most popular titles, counting stars, likes, etc.– not very helpful. Others are click bait saturated with ads that make it nearly impossible to get any useful information– frustrating.
I don’t like most algorithms, so by actually watching films, I’ve found many hidden gems. Here’s my newest list of titles, to help others find unusual, engaging, and informative pieces of cinema art that are very watchable.



The Wonder of a Silent Film Accompanied by a Large Pipe Organ

Silent Film Organist Dorothy Papadakos en costume!

After my many decades in film, I finally got to see a silent film accompanied live by a large pipe organ.  The pipe organ has always been my favorite instrument.  Probably because it is so loud, has so many different sounds, and one note can be duplicated a dozens times in dozens of different voices.  Large pipe organs are huge, with 10,000+ pipes, mounted in rooms hundreds of square feet in size each with an individual switch connected to a massive console.

Many organs have pipes 32 feet long (a three- story building) requiring ceiling heights of 40+ feet.  The massive “earthquake” pipe creates such low tones, that they are felt, not heard, and risk collapsing buildings with subsonic pressure waves.  Most interesting, this analog technology is hundreds of years old.

In the digital world, many people believe a circuit chip and a set of $100 headphones can emulate a large pipe organ. Many churches have replaced pipe organs with 4-piece rock bands.  As if there weren’t already enough places to hear 4-piece rock bands—like the grocery store.

I have been to many organ concerts across the US.  Sometimes they can be bland, as the organists spend too much time noodling across the keyboard making mellow meditative tones, seemingly shy about what a big organ can really produce. But the performance I attended last night was an all-out organ assault.

Dorothy Papadakos, an incredible performer and artist, is famous as the first woman organist at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John The Devine, among other gigs.  For years, she has found a comfortable niche accompanying 100-year old silent films, around the world in churches  and theaters with huge organs in huge spaces.   She writes all her own music, which guides her through fantastic improvisations.

I saw her last night accompanying the 1920 version of the iconic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” starring John Barrymore.  The melodies pitted the ferocious against the sublime, reflecting the dual personalities of the protagonist.  Her improvisations enhanced the action, growing in volume and complexity as Dr. Jekyll unravels from a generous, kind doctor, to a demon addicted to hurting people.

When Papadakos “pulls out all the stops,” (which she does frequently), the walls shake.  She seems to be physically crawling over the organ in acrobatic kicks, swirls, stretches and flourishes to enhance the intense images.  I love watching organists racing across the keyboards with both hands and feet, as the volume swells, and the tempo jumps by leaps and bounds.  I swear that more than once, she actually threw her whole body onto the three keyboards, attempting to hit every note at once.

Actually, the organ did shut down a couple times, crying “uncle,” (never seen that before), but she coolly rebooted, missing hardly a beat.  After the show she asked if I noticed when the organ “began to play by itself.”  I sure did—and I sympathized with it.

For the first time I realized the genius of the silent film makers who introduced the pipe organ as the ideal instrument to accompany their big screen films.

Papadakos made it a point to say that she did not perform on the classic “theater” organs like the Mighty Wurlitzers that included, gongs, cymbals, snare drums, trombones, and xylophones, and organ pipes designed to “sound just like” oboes, clarinets, and cellos, but were very bland compared to the actual instruments.  For some reason, they usually used a heavy vibrato on every note— a ‘special effect,’ that gets old very quickly.  They were meant to mimic a live orchestra.  They never did a great job of it, especially since they were meant to mimic a more expensive orchestra, take away musicians’ jobs, and save the theater owners money.  I guess,  they’re just—cheezy.

Ultimately, church organs—without all the theatrical bells and whistles—are ideal partners for silent films, seen on a large screen, in a large hall, the way they were meant to be. They are original instruments with unique, complex, thought-provoking sounds.  And the performers who play them, are in harmony with the sense and presence of the ‘silent’ cinematic experience.

I wish every town had a repertory cinema that regularly played the silents with a grand organ.

For more info about Dorothy and her magical world of music

Film Appreciation Course at The Warehouse PAC Institute Begins Wednesday Nov. 7

This seminar includes five uniquely cinematic films. They are thought-provoking “art films” that explore filmmaking’s greatest potential in acting, music, sound, cinematography, and innovative storytelling. They are multi-award winners, critically acclaimed, and very watchable.

The films will be shown in The Warehouse PAC theater in Cornelius, on its 10 x 20 ft. screen with 5.1 Dolby surround sound, to provide an authentic large screen experience.

Each film will be introduced, screened, and followed by Q&A and discussion.

Films and class schedule:
All classes 6:00pm-8:30pm

Wed Nov 7 TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL Documentary, US Independent, dir Jeffrey Schwartz 2015

Wed Nov 28 MOLLY’S GAMEDrama, US, accurate reenactment of a woman’s venture into the ‘male’ business world; Jessica Chastain, dir. Aaron Sorkin 2015

Wed Jan 16 KING OF MARVIN GARDENSDrama, US, 1960’s ground-breaking indie film about small-time crooks. Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, dir. Bob Rafelson 1972

Wed Jan 30 HUNTER GATHERERDrama/Comedy, US Independent African/American theme dir. Joshua Locy 2016

Wed Feb 20 THE GREAT BEAUTYDrama, Italy, Oscar Best Foreign Language Film, in Italian w/English subtitles 2015

Seminar leader, Robert Maier, is a founder of the Davidson Film Club, Studio C Cinema, and The Warehouse PAC Cinema. He worked 30 years in film production as a writer, producer, director, and was chair of the broadcasting department at Gaston College. Maier has published three books on film production, and writes and lectures on cinema.

Class size limited– early registration recommended.

To register, please contact Robert at rgm234@gmail.comor 704-996-7724.

Cost is $45.00 including all films.

Great, but Hard-To-Find Films on Netflix

Netflix has some great non-mainstream cinema to offer, but it can hard to find in the thousands of ever-shifting titles. Google “best films on Netflix”, and you’ll get dozens of returns. Like so much Internet junk, many just use algorithms of the most popular titles, counting stars, likes, etc.– not very helpful. Others are click bait saturated with ads that make it nearly impossible to get any useful information– frustrating.

I don’t like most algorithms, so by actually watching films, I’ve found many hidden gems, so here’s my first list of titles, to help others find unusual, engaging, and informative pieces of cinema that are very well done.

Camp X-Ray

What Happened Miss Simone?
Slow West
Wind River
The Constant Gardner
All The Queens Horses
The Angel
Finding Vivian Maier
Karl Marx City
A Perfect Day
The Trader

To immerse yourself in a series for a month, try these two. Turn, a drama, puts a different spin on the American Revolution. Life Below Zero follows several people who choose to live in Arctic Alaska, and contrasts their lives with the cushy average suburban American’s experience.

Life Below Zero

Negatives of the Share Culture – Pt. 1:  Ride Share

City Lights bookstore threshold mosaic, San Francisco.

San Francisco has the greatest share culture I’ve seen.  Everyone uses Uber, Lyft, scooters, bikes, and Air bnb. Here are some thoughts.

On arrival at the airport, everyone said ride shares, not taxis were the way to go.  Problem was we didn’t know where the ride share pickup points were, and we had read critiques that the horde of ride share drivers had turned the airport into a mass of confusion to the point of nearly being banned.

So we took a taxi from the well-marked taxi stand.  It was a great ride with a driver from Ukraine who had lived in SF for ten years.  Very informative and friendly.  He drove a direct route way to our hotel in the Presidio, driving safely and courteously.  It cost about $50, just a few dollars more than a ride share, and we would soon find out, it was a good decision.

On my first Uber ride,  a year earlier, it was difficult to find the driver.  Finally he arrived.  We were four, but the driver asked if he could pick up another on the way.  That meant squeezing another in the back seat.  It was rush hour on one of San Francisco’s busiest streets, and the driver said he had to go the other direction.  There was a tiny gap in oncoming traffic, so he floored into a u-turn, barely missing being clipped.

I said woh! Is that legal in San Francisco?  He grinned and said he learned to drive in Syria.  Since it was legal there, it was ok for him.  Looked like anyone could participate in a “ride-share” culture, with zero credentials. Next, they’ll be driving down the sidewalks, like they do in Kabul.  Made a mental note to take a taxi next time.

Next morning, back at the hotel, the clerk strongly suggested we use Lyft on our next trip to the Alcatraz dock.  He said they were cheaper than both Taxis and Uber, and it was a San Francisco-based company.  After the Uber experience, I was ready for something new, but preferred the taxi. Using the taxi app, we hailed a cab that said it was 10 minutes away.  Lyft showed about the same.  12 minutes later, no taxi, so we looked at Lyft again and saw a driver was just 2 minutes away, so we hailed that.  The taxi arrived about 5 seconds after the Lyft.  I told the driver we had a reservation at the Alcatraz ferry, and thought he had gotten lost.  He apologized with a knowing smile.

The Lyft diver was a trip.  He rambled about his personal life and poor health.  He lived an hour outside SF, and was between jobs, so driving ride share, but not making much at it.  He got lost a few times on the ride to the ferry dock, one of the most famous places in the world.  When we finally got close, we were on the wrong side of 6 lanes of rush hour traffic.  He said we should get out and cross the street, even though there wasn’t a crosswalk.  When I said I couldn’t see the ferry dock, he insisted it was right behind the warehouse across the street.  Not wanting to risk crossing, I demanded that he drive us to the exact location.  This had to take a couple side streets and zig zag his way back to drive in the opposite direction.  Not being Syrian-trained, he demurred making a u-turn.

As soon as he negotiated the last turn, he pulled over, saying “the dock is here.”  But we couldn’t see it.  We actually got into an argument, because it was obviously not the dock.  It was a warehouse with no signage, parking, or sign of a tourist entity.  Finally, he got confused about the fare, and charged us an extra $5.  We were now late, obviously in the wrong spot, and dealing with a disturbed individual.  So we took off on foot.  Three long blocks later we arrived at the dock, just in time.

The Alcatraz tour was truly amazing, but getting there was a lesson in the share culture, that we would learn more about in the coming days.  The big problem is that the sharing culture consists of part-timers with no professional training.  So you’re expected to have low expectations to justify the low price—which delivers low quality, often from bumblers who don’t practice their trade frequently enough to really understand it, and deliver good service.  But the logic is, hey, you saved $4, so go buy yourself a latte.

The Beauty of Analog Audio

I teach an on-line Introduction to Broadcasting course, and my teenage-20s students discussed vinyl vs. digital recordings in an assignment. I was surprised how many loved vinyl, because it created an emotional response in them that the music alone did not. The sight and sound of the visible mechanics were more important and heart-felt than the ease and convenience of Echo, i-phone, etc.

I mean, where is the emotional payoff to shouting a song title across the room and having a robot play it?  About the same as eating a McDonald’s hamburger, I suppose.

When I was a teen, 33.3 vinyl hi-fi stereo was it. The physical ritual of unpacking the LP, respectfully  putting it on the platter, carefully placing the arm  on the disc and watching it’s leisurely spin was an important part of the music experience.

In high school, I bought one of these hand-crank non-electric phonographs and a stack of 78s for pennies at an antique store. We’d take it on picnics and be astonished — this was way before Walkman. The first time we heard “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, on a 78, all scratchy and tinny, dependent on cranks and gears and belts and springs, and… no electricity. It was a different world. It was life-changing.  It opened new doors of perception.

I get what my students, 50 years later, are feeling, and I like it.

Advice to High School Graduates

I read an article this morning about how unpaid internships may be the collapse  of modern civilization.  I get this, but on the other hand, sometimes an unpaid internship is a good route to a career. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at universities that may not result a paid gig in the field you think you’ll like.

It’s possible that a long unpaid internship will deliver the same or better benefits as a BA. As a working professional and college instructor, the most honest advice I give to some students is drop out of school, then research the best company that is busy doing what you think you want to do in life. Go to that company and ask if you can pay them to mentor you in their field– a ‘reverse paid internship’, except the intern pays the company, so you don’t feel guilty about taking their time for detailed instruction, when needed.  If you’re not hired you after 2 months, you’re probably not right for the field, or you chose a company that is not very successful, and it’s time to move on.  You’ll have to figure how to work this, because loan institutions only want to give educational loans to standard institutions.  But that’s part of the education.  It usually means leaning on family, or a flexible part-time job.

This won’t work in many fields, because degrees are a short-cut for HR departments– a cookie cutter measurement that may not show how good an employee will be. Colleges can be filled with unmotivated, self-entitled souls who prefer to kick back rather than do– and that’s the last thing competitive companies want.

When I was hiring entry-level people, I paid more attention to the menial jobs they had while in college than the name of the college, like Starbucks, pizza delivery, retail clerk, car mechanic, or call center. They had learned how to get along in the real world, and were ready for a real job. They proved they could be resilient enough to learn all they needed with on-the-job training.

Needless to say, this is not a popular viewpoint. But it is worth consideration.  So many jobs I’ve had never cared to see my diploma, my course list, grades, attendance record, or letters of recommendation.  Only the colleges!

Humvees FAIL

Soldiers spend a lot of time taking vehicles to the motor pool for repair. The streets are rough, and Humvees are surprisingly susceptible to problems. Power steering hoses pop, and you lose control—not good.

The engine’s moving parts are connected by one long serpentine belt. If it breaks—which is common, they’re completely out of commission. It must be a pretty anxious moment to break down on an Iraqi street. I read a lot in the press how much of the army’s equipment has broken down, so I’m not surprised.

The Humvee was designed during the Cold War to cruise the cool or snow-bound paved highways of Central Europe, not the pock-marked 120 degree gravel paths of the Iraqi desert. The words of Captain Donald Rumsfeld, ring in my ears, when complained to by a soldier that the gear was inadequate, if not downright unsafe for the job: “Sometimes you have to fight a war with what you have, not what you want.” Same goes for leadership, I suppose.