A Rural Revolution: Indiana’s Round Barns airs Sunday, August 30 at 8pm. We spoke with producer Mark Gibson about his experience creating the documentary.
What drew you to this project?
Well, when Rob Anderson (WTIU Interim General Manager) approached me about possibly producing a documentary on round barns, I knew absolutely nothing about round barns period, much less round barns in Indiana. Just nothing. But I was intrigued. I enjoy learning new things and enjoy sharing what I learn and trying to keep it interesting. And this project was just delightful. I met so many great people in the process—barn owners who were eager to show their barn and give a tour, and round barn "experts" willing to share their knowledge about the history and use of these barns.
The barns are the star of this story. Tell us about your process for bringing them to life for viewers.
The great thing about these barns is that each kind of has its own personality. Sure, they all share the same basic, general feature: they’re all circular. But beyond that, they’re all different, really. Each barn is unique, with its own personal history and look and environment and stories to tell. So it’s fun to capture what separates this barn from all the others and what makes it distinct from all the others. As for the people, I knew one person I was going to have to get on camera: John Hanou, who literally wrote the book on round barns in Indiana. Beyond that, I was given some names of some other knowledgeable people to reach out to, and then there were the barn owners themselves, who had great stories and personal histories with the barns to share. They’re the ones who really helped breathe life into these barns.
What surprised you most during the course of researching and producing the documentary?
I think some of the things I really wanted to know going into the project were why they were built in the first place—you know, what purposes did the circular shape serve—and then why did they stop being built. I mean it was such a short span, really: 30 years. And that’s it. So beyond just the general evolution of farming and the mechanization of farm equipment, I was surprised to learn that patent disputes seem to have been a big reason why they stopped being built and stopped so abruptly. That was uncovered by John Hanou’s research for his book Around Indiana: Round Barns in the Hoosier State.
What was your favorite or most memorable part of producing A Rural Revolution?
Well, from a personal standpoint I guess the most memorable part was being able to take a couple of my kids individually on a few of the filming trips around the state. My son went with me on a couple trips and then my youngest daughter went with me on another and that was a lot of fun spending time with them, just traveling the state, on country backroads for this project. From a professional standpoint, just seeing the state and exploring the barns and meeting the people who are so passionate about these barns. It was truly a memorable experience.
What do you hope viewers will learn from the documentary?
At the very least, I hope they come away with something that they find interesting—something that intrigues them. Maybe they’re like me and never really thought about or considered round barns before; but when they find out a little more about them, I hope they come to the same kind of appreciation that I’ve come to have for these very unique but fast fading old barns.