We have an announcement to make! But, first, some background.

On November 12, 2016, OTA hosted The OTA Finale, which we fully expected to be the final engagement we’d have in the region. The night before the event, we got word that Reggie Watts would be unable to join us due to some career-threatening vocal issues. This meant that, after paying some penalties, we’d have remaining funds for one last project.

As we reflected back on the eight years of OTA, there were two significant highlights that we felt extremely proud of.

The first was the thirty-five micro-documentaries that had been produced in partnership with Passenger, featuring people from throughout the three states in a variety of creative and community roles. These films captured the spirit of these individuals and the region in a beautiful, tangible way. You can see those features here.

The second was the OTA Builder and OTA Trailblazer programs that put dollars in the hands of 26 creative and community builders that were either starting or finishing projects. These individuals gave the region a glimpse of the creative journey and contributed their voices from OTA’s stage in our final regional events. We are confident that the ripples of these programs will extend for years after OTA has wrapped up.

So, with these efforts front of mind, we began to consider how we might wrap up OTA intentionally and invest the remaining funds in an appropriate way.

After much consideration, we chose to invest the funds in filming an OTA documentary as an unofficial 27th OTA Builder/Trailblazer project with Kylee Leonetti and Christian Jensen of Kylee and Christian Creative. Kylee is a native of Minneapolis and Christian a native of Milbank, SD. Both currently live in Minneapolis and work together as a wife and husband, producer-filmmaker power duo.

Over the course of the past four months, they have filmed and edited a feature-length documentary that spotlights 16 OTA creatives and includes many others from the region. The film follows OTA’s founder, Hugh Weber, as he makes one last OTA journey through the three states catching up with people who have played significant role in OTA’s history. We see creativity risk and community building in action throughout the region through Hugh, the places he visits, and the people that he encounters.

When we commissioned this film with Kylee and Christian, we entrusted them to tell the story of OTA as they saw it, and as OTAns themselves. We are extremely proud of the story they’ve chosen to tell, in its complexities, with its challenging context and in its tangible nuances. There are a limitless number of stories that could be told about this region, this organization and the people that it has worked to connect and champion. We believe that Kylee and Christian have chosen a path that is significant and worthy of the possibility that this region contains.

With the film nearly complete, we are also pleased to announce that we will be screening the film throughout the region. In partnership with Friends of South Dakota Public Broadcasting and through an event sponsorship with the Bush Foundation, we will be sharing the film in communities in all three states. These screenings will include conversations about the film and the futures of the communities we visit. We hope to provide toolkits for attendees to host their own conversations and create space for “mini-OTAs” in the future. Our sincere hope is that this documentary can spark an ongoing conversation about the communities we hope to build and the role creativity will play in those futures. If your community is interested in a screening, we hope you’ll email us at hugh@weareota.com. The first screening will be held in Milbank, SD on May 5 at 7pm. Dates and locations for the other initial screening will be announced soon.

A final word of thanks to everyone that has contributed thoughts and time to this film and to OTA in general. It wouldn’t have happened without the support of so many people and for that we are grateful. We hope you will all take time to see the film, share your thoughts, have a conversation and continue the great work of building this region.  Thanks to all of you.