Podcasts

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Headshots of a man.

Photo courtesy of Great Performances

Executive producer of Great Performances

Great Performances has been on the air for more than 40 years and Executive Producer David Horn has been there for 39 of them. In many ways, Great Performances, which is the longest running performing arts anthology on television, has been shaped by his vision. The series has brought the performing arts into American homes—from opera to dance, from musicals to drama to concerts. In this podcast, Horn takes us behind the scenes of Great Performances: he explains what goes into putting a Broadway play on television; why and how he brought Shakespeare back to public television with some major star-power; his experiences directing Chita Rivera, Tony Bennett, and Lady Gaga; and his embrace of new technology and new media to both enhance the viewing experience and build new audiences. He’s a deeply thoughtful man who has done a wide variety of extraordinary work for decades. He knows everyone, and I’m not sure when he sleeps.

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Photo by  Joanne Mullin

Filmmaker

Aislinn Clarke is the first Northern Irish woman to direct a feature-length horror film The Devil’s Doorway, and she brought a particularly female point-of-view by setting it in a Magdalene Laundry in 1960 Ireland. The Magdalene Laundries were institutions run by the Catholic church that were real-life horror stories for an untold number of women. They were essentially workhouses for women of “ill-repute” which could mean unwed mothers, prostitutes, women who wouldn’t get out of the way…the list of women who could be put away is quite long and varied. Aislinn Clarke feels connected to the laundries—shockingly, the last one closed in 1996—there was one in the town she grew up in and her father worked for a bakery and would deliver bread to the place. His stories stayed with her…as did his love for film, particularly horror films. Aislinn and I have a wide-ranging conversation about the history of the Magdalene Laundries, women in the film industry, what makes a good horror film and not a word about St. Patrick!

Documentarians

Documentarians Gordon Quinn and Tracye A. Matthews discuss their film ’63 Boycott—a documentary about one of the largest (and possibly most-under-reported) civil rights actions in the 1960s. On October 22, 1963, more than 250,000 students boycotted the Chicago Public Schools to protest racial segregation. Many marched through the city along with their parents demanding to be allowed to enter under-enrolled white schools. Standard policy had been to erect trailers on playgrounds and parking lots of overcrowded black schools rather than let students enroll in nearby schools populated by white students. It was an extraordinary political moment that laid bare the racism of Chicago’s public school system and changed the lives of many of the students involved. By some quirk of fate, Gordon Quinn, who would go on to found Kartemquin Films, was a student at the University of Chicago in 1963 and took his camera out on the street to film the demonstration. That footage is at the heart of ’63 Boycott along with the participants’ reflections of that astounding time. Gordon Quinn and Tracye A. Matthews, who is also a historian, take us through the process of creating this documentary, from locating the people who were in the original footage to getting the history of the boycott right to finding the money to see the film through. (Spoiler alert: The National Endowment for the Arts has a role!)

Director and cast of the documentary, Personal Statement

Director of the documentary Personal Statement Juliane Dressner and the cast students Karoline Jimenez, Christine Rodriguez, and Enoch Jemmott join me to talk about the film which documents the challenges New York public school students have when applying to college—especially when they are the first generation in their family to make the leap. There is a profound lack of college counselors in public schools which often leaves students on their own to negotiate applications, financial forms, and personal statements. But back in 2005, students themselves got together and created a peer counseling program where they can get the training to help not just themselves but their fellow students as well. Karoline, Christine and Enoch, although they’re facing challenges of their own and struggle with their own college possibilities, embrace their roles as peer counselors and pour their hearts and souls into helping their classmates succeed.

Documentary filmmakers

Documentary filmmakers Dana Nachman and Don Hardy have co-directed the award-winning film Pick of the Litter. The litter in question are five Labrador Retrievers bred by Guide dogs for the Blind (or GBD) for the specific purpose of becoming service animals. The film follows a litter of puppies from birth to their graduation and assignment to a person who’s visually impaired…that is if the dog makes the cut. Not every pooch is cut out for the rigorous training in which intelligence and perspicacity is valued as much as experience…which also makes for risky documentary filmmaking. When Dana and Don began, they had no idea if any of the dogs would pass muster. Tune in and listen to Dana and Don share their experiences of centering a film on five principal subjects who can’t speak for themselves.

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Photo courtesy of ilya Tovbis

Director, Washington Jewish Film Festival

The Washington Jewish Film Festival’s director Ilya Tovbis wants to open doors to Jewish life around the world. And for ten days, the Washington DC area is home to some 70 international films both documentaries and narratives from emerging and established directors. Ilya defines a “Jewish film” as a work with “ something deliberately to do with the Jewish experience, culture, history, which is a malleable concept.” Yet, he chooses not to aim the films at a Jewish audience exclusively. He wants the audience to be as diverse as the stories on the screen, which is neither quick nor easy. Now in its 28th year, the Washington Jewish Film Festival has established itself as a prestigious event for filmmakers. How then to reach out to the audience in its own backyard? That’s some of questions Ilya discusses in this podcast.

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Photo by Laurie Kieth

Cartoonist and Multimedia Artist

Cartoonist and multimedia artist Liz Reed is co-creator with her husband Jimmy of Cuddles and Rage—it’s a world inhabited by food with quirky personalities. Liz calls it “disturbingly cute,” which seems about right. In one-panel cartoons, dioramas, and animated short videos, Liz and Jimmy Reed create work that is cute—but it always has a twist. Take Dr. Taquito—a serial killer of food, who gives cooking lessons—ruthlessly shredding lettuce and chopping tomatoes as the poor vegetable victims try to get away. It’s an unashamedly playful and dark imaginative work. In today’s podcast, Liz takes through the creation and evolution of the singular world of Cuddles and Rage.

Watch video: Cooking with Dr. Taquito: 3 Ingredient Pancakes.

Film director

The making of the independent film Little Boxes.

Please note: This interview took place before the unexpected death of Nelsan Ellis who stars in the film Little Boxes.

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Photo courtesy of Seth Gadsden

Director: Indie Grits Labs

More than a film festival.

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Headshots of a man and a woman next to each other.

Courtesy of Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen

Documentary filmmakers

Their film Spettacolo  looks at a small Tuscan village where each year life is translated into art.

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