published Friday, June 21st, 2013

Pickin' Up Tennessee crisscrossing state to deliver message, record music, make film

Mindflow Media films the Booker T. Scruggs Ensemble at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza for a scene in a documentary they’re making for Pickin’ Up Tennessee.
Mindflow Media films the Booker T. Scruggs Ensemble at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza for a scene in a documentary they’re making for Pickin’ Up Tennessee.
Photo by Connor Choate.
  • photo
    Crews picked up litter in Meigs County Thursday for the Pickin’ Up Tennessee tour and documentary. Photo by Susan Sizemore

On the Web

Learn more about the tour and meet the filmmakers and their children at www.pickuptn.org.

Jane and Harlan Porfiri have been traveling the state with their parents, filming a fairly elaborate documentary with a simple message.

"Never, ever, ever, ever litter," 8-year-old Harlan says.

"And always recycle," 10-year-old Jane adds.

On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the two were sitting in the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza next to their mother, Linda Duvoisin, and watching their father, Dave Porfiri, film the Booker T. Scruggs Ensemble as it performed the hymn, "Closer Walk With Thee."

The performance is one of 20 such songs being recorded as part of the Pickin' Up Tennessee tour, now traveling across the state to promote the message "Love the Land. Lose the Litter." Before the tour made it to Chattanooga, an all-girl rock band was filmed in Nashville and a few artists have written original songs just for the project.

"The music has been awesome," Porfiri says.

The tour, running from June 1 through Wednesday, is being pushed by Scenic Tennessee, a citizen's organization devoted to keeping the state's highways beautiful, and is being paid for by a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Beautification Office. TDOT was given $1 million and allocated that money to 15 grantees, including Scenic Tennessee, which was given $100,000.

The idea of recording musicians in 20 counties while picking up trash and spreading the don't litter message offered several advantages, Porfiri says.

"It ties in the regions and adds to the scenic beauty of the state," he says. "Plus, music helps the medicine of the message go down easier."

Porfiri's film will be available for viewing on the website alongside stories that are being filmed in another 20 counties. The remaining 55 counties in the state are being asked to submit their own video projects to be included in the overall package online over the next several months.

"This tour is designed to be a jumpstart," Porfiri says.

Duvoisin and Porfiri are Chattanooga-based documentarians. After discussions with Scenic Tennessee Director Marge Davis, it was a decided that traveling across the state in an RV, documenting the trash they find along the way and filming the various musicians was the best route to take.

"My kids are at a great age to become role models," Porfiri says. "They are the youth ambassadors of the project."

What they've found -- whether visiting inner-city Nashville and Memphis or more rural areas in Dickson, Hickman and Marshall counties -- is that plastic bottles are the biggest source of litter.

"And a lot of Bud Light beer cans," he says. "It seems to be the most popular."

Davis says that "at least 60 percent of the litter is recyclable. That is the biggest message we want to impress upon people. That is a shame."

As might be expected, areas that don't have dedicated trash cleanup crews have the most roadside litter, Davis says.

Porfiri says the plan is use the film, social media and the website over the next two years to continue to promote the message.

"It takes time to change people's habits."

Duvoisin says the trip has become a working vacation, but she has been surprised at the stories, people and beauty they've come across.

"I wasn't sure about combining the kids with work, but it has been fun," she says.

While in Memphis, the girls were introduced during a church service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church and were asked to speak to the congregation.

"We've seen the world's largest treehouse [in Crossville], and we went to a church and heard a lot of gospel music," Jane says. "That was great."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@times|freepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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