The Storytellers: Amanda Page

Filmmakers Amanda Page and David Bernabo stand in front of a mural that reads '#Portsmouth.' Image courtesy Amanda Page

By Taylor Starek

Amanda Page didn’t set out to be a filmmaker.  

The 46-year-old is a Columbus-based writer and founder of Scioto Literary, a nonprofit that supports storytellers in Scioto County. She found her way to filmmaking thanks to a case of writer’s block.  

She was struggling to pen an essay on her hometown of Portsmouth, located in southern Ohio, when she came across the PBS documentary “Moundsville.” That film traces the history of Moundsville, W.V., through the rise and fall of industry.  

Page was inspired. 

“I’ve always enjoyed learning about what makes a place a place,” she said, “and what creates a sense of belonging to the people who live there.” 

She connected with David Bernabo, who co-directed “Moundsville” with writer John Miller, and told him, in so many words: Let’s do it for Portsmouth. Bernabo, a 39-year-old Pittsburgh-based filmmaker, was on board. 

Together, the two created “Peerless City.” It’s a documentary that looks past the surface-level narratives often told by politicians and parachute reporters—think Trump, opioids and poverty—and highlights the nuanced history of Portsmouth through the lens of its many slogans. A grant from Ohio Humanities helped to fund the making of “Peerless City.” 

The film has no narrator, instead letting the voice of residents lead the way. A story of resilience unfolds.  

“What we’re trying to convey is the diverse range of experiences that exist in a city,” Bernabo said. “And how nothing’s simple. Everything’s nuanced and complicated. Things change over time, and contexts change.” 

“Peerless City” premiered first in Portsmouth in March 2022 and will continue to screen at festivals around the state. A PBS edit is in the works as well.  

Now that the film is out in the world, both Page and Bernabo are wont to keep those threads of community, empathy and hope in their projects moving forward.   

Filmmakers Amanda Page and David Bernabo. Image courtesy Bentley Visual Storytelling.

Alongside her work as a writer, Page is set to direct another film about the struggle for retention in Appalachian communities and the role that plays in economic and workforce development.  

And Bernabo, who works in the Oral History Program at Carnegie Mellon, launched a podcast called “Cut Pathways” with his colleague Katherine Barbera, which details the diverse journeys of students and faculty through higher education. 

Both also see “Peerless City” and “Moundsville” as a template—something that might inspire a movement of future makers to tell the stories of their communities with compassion.  

“This is kind of a cool model for people to look at their own towns,” Bernabo said, “and their own experiences.”

Taylor Starek is a Senior Storytelling Strategist at Kristy Eckert Communications.