CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Elaine McMillion sounded bone-tired, but for all the best reasons.
The self-described "documentary storyteller" had just left McDowell County last week after shooting almost daily there since mid-May for her interactive documentary, "Hollow." She and her crew also put cameras in the hands of more than a dozen residents, showing them how to capture their own view of the places and lives they lived.
"I've been insanely busy. I think I filled up around eight hard drives. It was really fun," the 24-year-old filmmaker said by cellphone from Beckley.
She was headed for a short visit with family in Charleston. Then, it was on to Boston, where she was going to miss the first day of classes at Emerson College, where she's working on a master's degree in visual and media arts.
All that hard-drive space is in service to an innovative documentary project that now moves to postproduction in Boston and elsewhere, boosted by a high-profile national grant. "Hollow" recently won a large grant from the Tribeca Film Institute's New Media Fund, founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and the Ford Foundation, among six projects across America that received between $50,000 and $100,000.
"I didn't think we had shot at all because I'm a nobody in the world of film," said McMillion, whose self-effacement shouldn't lead you to discount two previous award-winning documentaries.
But the grant does place her and her team in notable company. One of last year's winners of the New Media Fund grant was celebrated documentary filmmaker Steve James, director of "Hoop Dreams" (1994) and "The Interrupters" (2011).
"Even more than it being a personal honor, I was so full of pride and happy that they chose a project about West Virginia. This is exciting that people want to see another side of the state, a more uplifting side of the state than what you typically see," said McMillion.
The grant is a significant injection of cash for a project whose successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year brought in $28,000. The Kickstarter money was used to get the ambitious project off the ground, as well as onto the ground in Southern West Virginia.
The New Media Fund grant is also a vote of confidence for a West Virginia-centric project that uses the latest digital tools to boost the hopes of a place usually consigned to despair and hopelessness in most media accounts.
"Hollow" will certainly have to tackle the nitty-gritty devastation in a county "hollowed" out by remoteness and decades of coal extraction, which seemed to leave nothing in return except shuttered storefronts, impoverishment and a plummeting population.