Sullivan County ‘strangers’ help launch documentary
January 12, 2012 —
ROSCOE, NY — What would you do if two total strangers came into your town, approached you on the street, began asking questions about the place where you live and then said they were looking for a night’s lodging?
That’s what Sarah Sellman, now 22, and Greg Grano, 21, did when they embarked on a journey in June 2010 to explore trust, fear and hospitality across America and between Americans. The initiative provided the basic framework for the film which they are now trying to finalize, “American Bear: An Adventure in the Kindness of Strangers.”
In the summer of 2010, armed with little but curiosity and a camera, Sellman and Grano traveled the country relying on the kindness of strangers for a home each night. Every day they were in a new town, meeting new people, and hoping that someone would be generous enough to open their home to two young strangers.
“I was expecting people to be more nervous than they were,” said Sarah. “But we’re both a little chubby, with curly hair and dimples, and we’re non-threatening, which helped. And we focused on learning about them. People want to talk; they want to share their deepest stories and be heard.”
As fate would have it
It all began a year earlier, when Greg spoke out in his sleep, saying “We have to go to Bear, Colorado!” After discovering that Bear, CO doesn’t exist, the couple instead defined a loop which included visits to five places named Bear in America. The trip would take them through 30 states, where they spoke with 711 people and were provided lodging for all but four of the nights.
Sellman and Grano spent the first day of their journey exploring Roscoe and meeting folks who now appear in the film’s trailer. Allowing fate to unfurl their course, they landed in Roscoe following a Google search meant to take them roughly four hours from their home base in Morristown, NJ toward the first “Bear” in Washington.
That night, they were hosted by Joe Modica, a Reiki practitioner (depicted in fourth photo from top at left).
“We tried to pick towns of various sizes and personalities, and Roscoe worked well,” said Sellman “All of our towns were great experiences. And in Roscoe we met our Tiresias—Joe Modica.”
In the film’s trailer, Modica prophesies, “You’re going to be directed and guided to people that are going to affect you in the most profound ways, so this whole journey is already mapped out. You’re living the American dream.”