Documentary Web Series
Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor
Illinois has not passed a real budget in over a year, the first state to do so since the Great Depression. The ongoing fight over the budget between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly has been covered widely, but what do the effects of this lingering crisis look like in people’s day-to-day lives? This new video series—a collaboration between In These Times and Kartemquin Films—follows the families, workers and students living through the de facto budget cuts, showing the ways it deteriorates the fabric of Illinois communities.
Director: Sergio M. Rapu (Mara Films / Kartemquin Films)
Eating Up Easter is the first documentary of its kind to break from sensationalizing the “mysteries” of Easter Island’s past, a remote Pacific island known for its massive stone statues. Instead, this film explores the raw realities of a modern indigenous community transformed by the globalizing effects of tourism. Native filmmaker, Sergio M. Rapu’s own intimate knowledge of island life and unprecedented access to the community provides an insider’s look into the contradictions and complexities his people face as they rapidly develop.
The film follows MAMA PIRU, a passionate hard-headed Rapanui who, as the head of the recycling center, is struggling to find ways to minimize the growing problem of trash. Pursuing change in the social realm are MAHANI and ENRIQUE, musicians devoted to re-uniting the community through their music school. The island itself becomes a character as the complexities of development slowly unfold through these members of the community. Eating Up Easter follows their struggle as they draw on lessons from their past about reuse and resilience to find solutions for the problems they face today, and work to address the universal issues of development with local solutions in order to re-cultivate a sustainable island life.
Documentary Web Series
Executive Producer: Danny Alpert
Veterans Coming Home is an innovative cross-platform public media campaign that bridges America’s military-civilian divide by telling stories, challenging stereotypes and exploring how the values of service and citizenship are powerful connectors for all Americans.
Throughout the spring of 2016, a team of photographers, writers, and filmmakers—both veteran and civilian— crisscrossed the country, creating content around issues of service, citizenship, and veteran’s lives.
CHECK OUT these links to a sampling of videos:
Documentary Television Series
Co-Director / Editor
Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Journalism Award
Nominated- Best Limited Series, 2015
International Documentary Association IDA Documentary Awards
Hard Earned, a six-part documentary series for Al Jazeera America, puts aside economic debates and follows five families around the country to find out what it takes to get by on eight, ten or even 15 dollars an hour. The series turns an intimate lens on this group of 21st century American dreamers. They fight against all odds to thrive, when it takes everything they have to simply survive.
EPISODE 1: As Emilia celebrates her 50th birthday, she takes stock of her career as a waitress and struggles to hold onto her house. DJ gets frustrated with working conditions at Walgreens and starts talking to his co-workers about how to make a change. Clerical worker Jose and his girlfriend Elizabeth look for a way to move out of their parents’ basements and give their son his own bedroom.
EPISODE 2: Hilton juggles two full-time jobs, and returns home at night to the one-car garage he calls home in the heart of Silicon Valley. Jose and Elizabeth try to qualify for a mortgage, Emilia reveals a troubling part of her past, and DJ and Takita try to start over in a new neighborhood.
EPISODE 3: A surprise on the housing front leads Jose to think about his future with Elizabeth in a new light. Hilton and Diana prepare for the birth of twins, while Hilton works hard for a promotion at work. Emilia pounds the pavement for a better-paying job. DJ fears recrimination at work for his union activity.
For more episodes and general info go to www.hardearnedseries.com
Editor / Associate Producer / Additional Camera
Director: Joanna Rudnick
“ ‘On Beauty’ is, quite simply, a masterful example of how cinema can serve as a humanizing force in the world. We need films like this. We can’t afford to lose them.”
More coverage of On Beauty: the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek, People, Upworthy, CBS Radio News, Mashable, Bustle, L'Etage, Afropunk, You Beauty, Indiewire, The Today Show, Yahoo! Style, The Huffington Post, Flickr, Popsugar, The Daily Mail (UK), Parents Magazine, and the film was given a 5-star review at Blogcritics.
Audience Choice Award- Best Short Film
Chicago International Film Festival
Jury Award- Best Documentary Short Film
Cleveland International Film Festival
Audience Award- Best Short
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival
Jury Award- Best Documentary Short
Geneva Film Festival
ON BEAUTY follows fashion photographer Rick Guidotti, who left the fashion world when he grew frustrated with having to work within the restrictive parameters of the industry’s standard of beauty. At the center of the film are two of Rick’s photo subjects: Sarah and Jayne. Sarah left public school for home school in eighth grade because she was bullied so harshly for the Sturge-Weber birthmark on her face. Jayne lives in Eastern Africa where people with albinism are highly discriminated against and are sometimes even killed for their body parts. Rick’s photos challenge both mainstream media’s narrow scope of beauty and the dehumanizing black-bar convention of medical textbooks. ON BEAUTY is part of his movement.
Editor (with Leslie Simmer and Katerina Simic)
Director: Maria Finitzo
In The Game is a Kartemquin documentary film that follows the ups and downs of a girls’ soccer team to reveal the very real obstacles that low-income students confront in their quest for higher education. Set in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood, Kelly High School on Chicago’s south side is an inner city public school struggling to provide the basics for their students, many of whom do not make it to college, either because they cannot compete academically or because their families do not have the financial resources to send them to college. The girls face an uneven playing field - or in the case of the girls at Kelly High School, no soccer field at all - little or no support, problems at home, uncertain futures, discrimination, and poverty, but remain undaunted thanks to their teammates and the dedicated mentoring of their coach.
Editor (with David Simpson and Katerina Simic)
Director: Steve James
A revealing documentary featuring never-before-seen neurological findings related to rugby and soccer players that will serve as a wake-up call for those who think that the devastating chronic effects of repetitive head trauma are only an American football and boxing injury.
Inspired by events from the book Head Games, written by former Ivy League Football Player and WWE Wrestler Christopher Nowinski, Head Games: The Global Concussion Crisis will capture the attention of a worldwide audience and expose a problem that has undeniably become a silent epidemic on a global scale. Internationally respected medical experts, professional and amateur athletes and their families will offer eye-opening insights and cutting edge science on head trauma that will demand that the perception of concussion change to guarantee the health and safety of athletes as a top priority.
Documentary Editor / Associate Producer
Director: Xan Aranda
“A cunning hybrid of documentary and concert film.” – Film Society of Lincoln Center / New York Film Festival
Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival - Illinois
Jury Prize, Best Documentary Film
Omaha Film Festival
Best Pop Culture Documentary
Documentary Edge Festival - New Zealand
Noise Pop Film Festival – San Francisco
Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival - Illinois
Southern Appalachian International Film Festival
Best Documentary Feature
SENE Film, Music, & Arts Festival – Rhode Island
Audience Choice Award: Best Feature Film
Gwinnett Center International Film Festival – Georgia
Golden Ace Award
Las Vegas Film Festival
Filmed during culminating months of the acclaimed singer-songwriter’s most rigorous year of touring, Andrew Bird crosses the December finish line in his hometown of Chicago – feverish and on crutches from an onstage injury. Is he suffering hazards from chasing the ghost of inspiration? Or merely transforming into a different kind of animal “perfectly adapted to the music hall?” FEVER YEAR is the first to capture Bird’s precarious multi-instrumental looping technique and features live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater with collaborators Martin Dosh, Jeremy Ylvisaker, Michael Lewis and Annie Clark of St. Vincent.
Editor / Second Camera
Director: Maria Finitzo
Filmed in the lowlands of the Bolivian Amazon, an innovative collaboration between the team of scientists and anthropologists from the Tsimane' Amazonian Panel Study, (TAPS) led by Dr. Bill Leonard and Dr. Mark Goodale, a cultural anthropologist, Living Revolution will explore the revolution through the experiences of women's rights activists, politicians, opposition intellectuals and the Tsimane', a group of Indigenous people who live in the lowlands. Living Revolution will follow the stories of selected individuals as they each in their own way navigate the rocky shoals of both hope and despair in a country in the midst of profound political transition, social change, and violent resistance. The Tsimane' are hunter-gatherers who once lived in and depended on the resources of the Amazon rain forest. Today, however they now find themselves forced to deal with an ever encroaching outside world. Retreat into the forest once an option is no longer possible. The Forest is gone. Social and political change means confronting the other, an encounter that in the past has brought them exploitation, loss of their cultural heritage and environmental degradation. The filming was made possible by a development grant from the NEH, and culminated in a short research film.
Director: Brad Lichtenstein
Political Thriller! – NY Times
Not to be missed! – Baltimore Sun
Must-See! – Indiewire
AS GOES JANESVILLE reports from ground zero of America’s recession-ridden heartland — the city of Janesville, Wisconsin. When bankrupt GM shuts down the community’s century-old plant, forcing workers to leave their families in search of decent jobs, local business leaders seize the moment to woo new companies with the promise of lower wages, reduced regulation and tax breaks. Their powerful alliance with newly-elected Republican governor Scott Walker starts with an “open for business” manifesto but soon morphs into a “divide and conquer” anti-union crusade that rips apart the state, triggers an historic recall election, and thrusts Wisconsin’s civil war onto front pages worldwide. A cautionary tale for a polarized country falling short of the American Dream, the film follows three years in the lives of laid off workers struggling to survive, business leaders trying to reinvent their local economy, and a state senator caught in the middle, trying to negotiate a peace for his warring state while protecting workers’ rights. AS GOES JANESVILLE, so goes America.
Director: Justine Nagan
Typeface focuses on a rural Midwestern museum and print shop where international artists meet retired craftsmen and together navigate the convergence of modern design and traditional technique. A crowd favorite, Typeface sparked a movement where graphic designers all around the world created hand-made letterpress posters for screenings.
...It's a Thursday afternoon and all is quiet in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Main Street is virtually empty, and there are “for rent” signs in several shop windows. In the last few years, the un-employment rate has been consistently on the rise in the region. Factories are leaving the heartland for cheaper locales and the little town of Two Rivers is struggling to re-invent itself. Jim VanLanen, one of the town’s most industrious entrepreneurs, began developing small museums as a way to bring tourists and industry to the area.
A few blocks off the main drag, in a section of the old cavernous Hamilton printing factory, a lone employee waits in the most popular of these museums for visitors to come. A couple of individuals straggle in every few days and then, come Friday, the museum fills with life. Machines hum, presses print, artists buzz about. One weekend each month, the quiet of Two Rivers is interrupted as carloads of artisans drive in from across the Midwest. The place comes alive as printmaking workshops led by, and filled with, some of the region’s top creative talent descend on the sleepy enclave. The museum is significant to the town’s history, but more importantly, its existence is critical to the worldwide design community who are passionate about the history of their craft and its function in the contemporary field. They believe the future of their industry may lie in the past.
Associate Editor / Post-Production Supervisor
Director: David Simpson
A ferocious kill on the Serengeti… dire warnings about endangered species… These clichés of nature documentaries ignore a key feature of the landscape: villagers just off-camera, who navigate the dangers and costs of living with wildlife on a daily basis. When seen at all, rural Africans are often depicted as the problem – they poach animals and encroach on habitat, they spoil our myth of wild Africa.
Milking the Rhino tells a more nuanced tale of human-wildlife coexistence in post-colonial Africa. The Maasai tribe of Kenya and Namibia's Himba – two of Earth's oldest cattle cultures – are in the midst of upheaval. Emerging from a century of "white man conservation," which turned their lands into game reserves and fueled resentment towards wildlife, Himba and Maasai communities are now vying for a piece of the wildlife-tourism pie.