The goal of most of my creative work is to share information about topics, which are widely discussed yet misunderstood. The three documentaries I have directed and produced – The Library That Dolly Built, 7 Days in America, and Reaching Recovery – fit this description, though in different ways.
With 7 Days and Reaching Recovery, we were addressing issues in the news – refugee resettlement and babies born drug dependent, respectively – which, though widely discussed, were not well understood by the public. For both these issues, legislation was being drafted or in the process of being renewed, and we made the films in order to provide in-depth explanation and allow for full discussion of the topics.
While seemingly very different, The Library That Dolly Built is strikingly similar. The Imagination Library is a nearly ubiquitous program in East Tennessee. For example, in Knox County nearly 80 percent of children receive books from the Imagination Library. Nationally, around 8 percent of all children get books from Dolly. Despite being one of the largest literacy programs in country, I found that many participants, administrators and fans of the program didn’t really know a lot about the program. We made the film in order to fill these gaps and demonstrate how impressive of a program the Imagination Library is.
I am also lucky enough to get to support films by students, alums and other faculty members. Through these projects, I hope to provide the filmmakers the space and support to find their voice and share their story.
The Library That Dolly Built is a feature length documentary about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The film was directed and produced by Nick Geidner, edited by Clinton Elmore and crewed by University of Tennessee students. Author and actress Danica McKellar narrated the documentary. The film was originally supposed to screen in 330 theaters nationwide. The COVID-inspired online premiere reached more than a million viewers and raised more than $250,000 of the Imagination Library. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and Kanopy.
7 Days in America follows a case worker from Bridge Refugee Services as she helps a family of Burundian refugees as they resettle in Knoxville, Tennessee. The film aired on East Tennessee PBS, screened at the Knoxville Film Festival and the Immigration Film Festival in Washington D.C. It also won an award of excellence in the Broadcast Education Association’s Media Arts Festival faculty competition.
In the year we produced this film, nearly 1,000 children in Tennessee were born drug dependent. Reaching Recovery examines this terrible phenomenon plaguing our state. This half-hour film presents a comprehensive view of the problem and documents the struggles addicted mothers face in reaching recovery. Reaching Recovery aired on WBIR, Knoxville’s NBC affiliate, as part of an hour-long primetime special.
Along with long-form documentaries, I also like to experiment with short-form content made for social media spaces.
This video is part of a pilot project to produce short, localized explainer videos for distribution on social media platforms.
This video was part of a five-video series highlighting local individuals’ experience during the pandemic.
This is a video essay I produced about standardized testing in K-12 education during the pandemic. It was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.
I also regularly work with local non-profits and community groups to provide video resources and support. Here are a couple of the videos I’ve produced recently.