Loading Doc: News from the North + Angelou Doc
November 23, 2015 by Todd Lillethun
The Maya Angelou Documentary
Chicago-based directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack (pictured here with DP Keith Walker, right, and Ms. Angelou) are raising finishing funds for the first documentary on literary icon and activist Maya Angelou, which is slated to air on the PBS series American Masters in 2016. Angelou’s remarkable life story will be told by Angelou herself in interviews captured before she passed away in 2014, as well as by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and many other celebrities who have been influenced by her work. Even though the film features many wealthy and influential people, PBS rules dictate that the filmmakers cannot accept funds from interviewees, so the directors are turning to crowd funding to get the job done. Angelou published 37 books in her lifetime; her first memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for two years. She also acted in many films, and directed DOWN IN THE DELTA (1998) starring Alfre Woodard. Rights clearances for archival footage are one of the main costs of completing the project, without which there will be no broadcast. The fundraising campaign ends December 1.
Minneapolis-based production company Werc Werk Works is deep into post on PROJECT NODAK, which explores the impact of the oil boom in North Dakota from four different perspectives. Known as “Kuwait on the prairie,” the mining towns of North Dakota have been exploiting newfound repositories of oil and gas since 2006, and attracting migrants from all over the country with the promise of high paying jobs. Native Minnesota directors James Christenson, Elliot Popko, Jonah Sargent, and Lewis Wilcox all shot their segments separately through summer 2014, and are now trying to find the strongest voices and storylines within hundreds of hours of footage. A short they created about a female truck driver who had arrived from the west coast and found new hardships in North Dakota was featured by the New York Times Op Docs in January 2014; other subjects in the film currently include a local head of economic development, a newspaper publisher, and high school principal, all of whom describe the wide ranging and chaotic transformation of their state. The film is expected to be finished by early 2016.
When Claude Got Shot
Milwaukee-based filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein is currently in production on WHEN CLAUDE GOT SHOT, an examination of crime and its consequences. In 2014, Claude Motley, a Milwaukee native now living in North Carolina, returned home for a class reunion, and found himself the would-be target of a car jacking. After he parked briefly to check his phone, a young man tapped his driver side window with a gun. Claude drove away right as the gun went off, but a few blocks later, he realized he had been shot through the jaw. He managed to drive himself to a nearby hospital before he passed out. Shortly afterward, the shooter, a young man named Nathan, age 14, was eventually caught after his next intended victim shot him and left him paralyzed from the waist down. Lichtenstein is examining the incident from multiple perspectives in order to illustrate the complex realities of what is often simplified as “black on black crime.” For him, the story reverberates among larger themes of poverty, inequality, education inequities, and segregation issues that have plagued Milwaukee for decades. After learning about Nathan’s troubled background and reflecting on his own experiences growing up in Milwaukee, Claude asked the judge for leniency on the case, but the judge refused and tried Nathan as an adult earlier this year. Lichtenstein expects filming to continue through 2016.
Todd Lillethun is a freelance producer and editor at Flicker Effects and student advisor at Northwestern University's MFA program for Documentary Media.