Loading Doc: Educate and Activate
September 24, 2015 by Todd Lillethun
Building the Pink Tower
St. Paul-based filmmaker Jan Selby found her next feature project where her kids went to school: BUILDING THE PINK TOWER dives into the philosophy and impact of a Montessori education. Her kids attended Montessori schools, and her co-director Vina Kay is a fellow parent who was also inspired by learning styles that invigorated their kids’ classrooms. They will be profiling schools in four different cities, including St. Paul, St. Louis, Missouri, and East Dallas, Texas to highlight similarities between the institutions, and impacts on the surrounding communities, especially around social and racial justice issues. Selby’s previous feature, BEYOND THE DIVIDE, won Best Feature Documentary this year at the Peace On Earth Film Festival in Chicago, and will be airing November 9 on Twin Cities public television. Given all the controversies around current issues in education, Selby hopes her film will offer a fresh perspective to the conversation by examining an educational model that has been around for over 100 years.
Today Show correspondent and Winnetka resident Mike Leonard has turned his interest in everyday people and the American panorama into the documentary anthology show INCOMMON, which airs monthly on PBS. Produced by Chicago-based Picture Show Films, each episode uses a framework of common wisdom and shared experience to explore stories from people around the U.S. In the upcoming episode “Awe,” airing October 1 on WTTW, a team of stargazers travel from Chicago to Utah and Nevada in order to capture breathtaking views of the night sky. For most of the population and city-dwellers especially, clear views of the night sky are impossible to find, and can only be found in the most remote locations. “We didn't know exactly where we were going to shoot or how we were going to pull it off,” says director Jamie Fleischel. “The number of stars visible at night was absolutely astounding and what we were able to capture on camera stands as one of the highlights of my professional life." The sparkling vistas are accompanied by music from Chicago-based trio Bronte Fall performing live in Thalia Hall.
The Summer Help
Director Melody Gilbert has successfully completed her Kickstarter campaign for THE SUMMER HELP, a documentary following two Bulgarian college freshmen who come to work in the hospitality industry for four months in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina. Formerly of St. Paul, Minnesota, Gilbert began the doc in 2012 while teaching at the American University in Bulgaria, and is now living in Chicago during a one-year leave of absence from her post. The two young women she follows come from a poor rural village where opportunities for employment are low. Having never traveled out of the country, they became interested in a visa program offered by the U.S. government designed to bring in foreign workers to work in hotels and resorts over the busy summer months. The film captures a series of their personal milestones while examining a widespread but seemingly anonymous labor market. A rough cut of the film was finished with a team in Bulgaria, and finishing will be completed at NuBoyana Film Studio in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Todd Lillethun is a freelance producer and editor at Flicker Effects and student advisor at Northwestern University's MFA program for Documentary Media.