[FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, August 21, 2023] – O Pioneer, the latest feature documentary from Helvetia, West Virginia filmmakers Clara Lehmann and Jonathan Lacocque, is touring high profile film festivals with funding support from Country Roads Angel Network (CRAN), West Virginia’s only accredited angel investment network. Today, CRAN announced its $50,000 investment to support the promotion, marketing, and distribution of the film.
“This is a showcase investment for CRAN and marks our first entry into supporting the growing creative sector in West Virginia,” noted Kevin Combs, executive chairman of CRAN.
“We were totally wowed and inspired by the creativity put forth by Clara and Jonathan in creating this feature-length documentary which tells a 21st century story of pioneers and more importantly West Virginia pioneers,” said Scott Widmeyer and Ashok Aggarwal, deal leads for CRAN.
Co-directors Clara Lehmann and Jonathan Lacocque said “Filmmaking, while collaborative and rich during creation, can become lonely and wanting upon completion. With financial and authentic advisory support, Country Roads Angel Network has breathed life and inspiration into one of the hardest parts of filmmaking. Moreover, Appalachians, specifically West Virginians, deserve and need to see themselves in stories like O Pioneer because they defy the stale narratives that are so destructive to the region and its people. We want to sincerely thank Country Roads Angel Network for supporting our vision and for being the light West Virginia deserves. Long live the pioneer.”
O PIONEER Trailer
Lehmann and Lacocque are partners in the creative studio Coat of Arms, which is based in Helvetia, West Virginia. Coat of Arms developed O Pioneer over a three-year period and the film’s world premiere takes place August 27 and 30 at the prestigious Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival in San Jose, California. On September 28, O Pioneer will premiere at the Richmond International Film Festival in Richmond, Virginia. O Pioneer wraps up its tour at the Mtn Craft Film Festival in Clarksburg, West Virginia on September 30.
O Pioneer is a documentary that celebrates three Appalachians from West Virginia as they embark upon an important journey — a journey that unfolds in the midst of a pandemic and personal heartache. Weaving narration with archival pioneer footage, candid moments from each subject, poetic vignettes, and dream-like animation, O Pioneer redefines what it means to be a pioneer and asks viewers to courageously champion the pioneer within. Watch the trailer here.
The film also aims to rethink the stereotypical understanding of the American pioneer through a fresh and modern narrative set in West Virginia, which continues to experience a decline in population. In 2017, West Virginia ranked second highest in both numeric and percentage population decline. With this exodus and the grim facts about how opioids and joblessness ravage the state, those that stay face two paths—one of hopelessness and apathy, and the other of the pioneer.
With its support of O Pioneer, CRAN, which opened its doors in 2019, has now made direct investments of $1.2 million in entrepreneurs in life sciences, technology, food, energy and the creative sectors. This $1.2 million is in addition to nearly $8 million raised in matching capital for CRAN-supported programs. The other start-ups funded by CRAN include Parthian Battery Solutions (Morgantown), Mountain Steer Meat Co. (White Sulphur Springs), Iconic Air (Morgantown), Cox Telecom (Oak Hill) and Endolumik (Morgantown).