Podcasts

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Headshot of a woman.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Mangin

Documentary filmmaker

Unladylike 2020 is the brainchild of documentary filmmaker Charlotte Mangin. It's an innovative multimedia series about little known but extraordinary women at turn of the 20th century whose legacies we all benefit from today. There are 26 ten minute films that combine archival footage, diary entries, animation, and dynamic artwork (funded by the NEA). Narrated by actors Julianna Margulies and Lorraine Toussaint, Unladylike 2020 puts the biographies of women like aviator Bessie Coleman, politician Jeannette Rankin and actor Anna May Wong in their historical and social context. But they also include interviews with contemporary women who are the direct beneficiaries of these trailblazers' legacies. The series began on March 3--with a new episode dropping each week at Unladylike 2020 and PBS American Masters. Both websites are packed with information, so if you're home with the kids visit the websites. These films are perfect for family viewing, and they can open the door to thoughtful conversations. In this podcast, Charlotte Mangin takes us "backstage" and walks us through how Unladylike 2020 came to be. We talk about some of the women she chose, the innovative techniques she used to bring these women to life digitally and the joy of working with a team of women on stories about women.

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Photo by Keith Bormuth

Television writer

Cord Jefferson began his career as a journalist, but six years ago he began writing for television. Since that time, he has put together a jaw-dropping resume—writing for shows like Succession, Master of None, The Good Place (for which he just received an NAACP Image Award) and the ground-breaking series Watchmen. Watchmen is a super-hero series set in an alternative world that nonetheless shares much of our racial history. In fact, the series opens with 1921’s Greenwood Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma—where whites rioted and razed Greenwood, a prosperous black part of town, killing hundreds of African Americans and destroying the community. A bold way to begin a super-hero series—but then Watchmen is a smart and profound examination of African-American history and how it shapes our world today. In fact, the episode Jefferson wrote with showrunner Damon Lindelof has a character living out her grandfather’s memories of vicious racism in the 1930s. In this podcast, Jefferson takes us inside the writers’ room of Watchmen; we talk about Lindelof’s vision for the series and how the writers worked together to bring it to fruition. We also talk about the process of collaboration, world building, and weaving real history into a fantasy series. Jefferson is immensely talented and a great storyteller.

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Photo Courtesy of Trey Ellis

Filmmaker, writer, teacher

Filmmaker, writer, and teacher Trey Ellis knows how to tell a story—whatever the genre. He recently moved into documentary filmmaking, working with the acclaimed documentarian Peter Kunhardt on what became the award-winning King in the Wilderness. They joined forces again almost immediately for the documentary True Justice--about Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)-- which opened the 2019 AFI Docs Film Festival (a long-time National Endowment for the Arts grantee). The film looks at Stevenson’s work tackling death row appeals at EJI as well as his more recent work as a public historian. Stevenson is also responsible for both the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which commemorates the nearly 4,000 persons lynched in the south, and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which spotlights how the effects of slavery and Jim Crow reverberate through the criminal justice system today. In this podcast, Ellis talks about bringing Stevenson’s work to the screen, how his approach to filmmaking changes based on the visibility of his subject, and the ways in which his films have profoundly changed his life. He also discusses writing for screen versus for the stage and the challenges of teaching screenwriting in a quickly-changing media landscape.

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Photo courtesy of Jenifer McShane

Documentary Filmmaker

Documentary filmmaker Jenifer McShane’s new film Ernie and Joe puts the viewer in the car of two police officers who are part of the San Antonio Police Department’s ten-person mental health unit. As partners they respond to to 911 calls involving people in emotional distress not as enforcers but as resources working to de-escalate situations and lead people to much needed mental health services. McShane spent three years, on and off, riding with Ernie and Joe--chronicling their work and their partnership. In this episode of the podcast, McShane talks about riding along in the police car and filming the titular duo as they worked patiently and compassionately with people who were despondent, despairing, or violent; and, she talks about Ernie and Joe themselves, their relationship and the ongoing banter that allows them to decompress. We also discuss how she filmed Ernie and Joe without compromising their work, and the emotional reception the film has received at festivals across the country. Ernie and Joe has been picked by HBO where it is now streaming.

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Headshot of a woman.

Photo courtesy of Vermillion Films

Documentary Filmmaker

Documentary Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky is the daughter of two deaf parents and the mother of a deaf son. Clearly she has thought long and deeply about deafness; as she says, “I’ve never known a life without deafness in it.” Her first feature documentary, the award-winning Hear and Now, told the moving story of Brodsky’s deaf parents, their decision in their mid-60s decision to have cochlear implants that allowed them to hear, and the consequences of that decision. In some ways she has returned to that topic with her latest film, Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements. It’s another family story that centers on her deaf son’s desire to play Ludwig von Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" interwoven with the story of her father growing old and forgetful, and Beethoven's life the year he was affected by deafness and wrote the iconic sonata. In this podcast, we go behind the scenes of the film with Brodsky and discuss it as a portrait of the place of sound and silence in life.

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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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Headshot of a woman.

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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