Test Run at Harvard

Yesterday my editor Shondra and I made a field trip to show our rough cut of THE CIRCLE to Ross McElwee's Fundamentals of Filmmaking (as in 16mm - they shoot and edit a group documentary on celluloid!) class at Harvard.  We are both big fans of Ross's work, and I also taught with him and edited his film IN PARAGUAY.

This was the first time we have shown the film on a big screen to an audience.  It was wonderful to see that Janet's story is really moving viewers.  The students were really interested to see more in the film by some of the other subjects - like Clarissa Turner, founder of the Legacy Lives On survivor support circle, Strong Oak Lefebvre, an indigenous restorative justice leader, and Ismael Fortunato, a young man who struggles with anger after a close friend was murdered and another friend stabbed.

Ismael is a participant in a violence prevention circle that has been running every other week out of Margarita Muñiz Academy.  I have filmed several of their circle gatherings - facilitated by Janet, Clarissa, and another mother-survivor named Charmise - and it has been such a powerful journey.  These mothers can move mountains in people's hearts!

Ross's students are making a documentary about the Bernie Sanders campaign in Massachusetts.  They said they often get privileged access at campaign events when the other reporters see their Aaton!  Shondra and I showed them the photo of our index card wall to talk about how we are finding the structure for our film.  A lot of rearranging of those cards yet to come...

First Rough Cut!

We have finally reached a first rough cut of my new documentary film The Circle: Stories of Murder and Justice!  It’s been a long time coming.  I began exploring indigenous peacemaking circle work in 2007 with support from MassHumanities and LEF Moving Image Fund, as an exciting example of traditional culture being “repurposed” to address contemporary social issues.  After observing several amazing programs in Oakland, Chicago, Boston, and Nogales, AZ, I met Janet Connors, was amazed by her story, and began filming with her in December 2012.

Several years and 60 hours of powerful film material later, I was feeling frustrated at constantly juggling this documentary work with freelancing, teaching, and non-profit media production.  So I rented a little house on Cape Cod and my editor Shondra Burke and assistant Anna Graham holed up for a week last December to pull our first (five-hour!) assemblage together.  It was so fun going back to old-school index cards to build our structure.

That really jump-started the process.  We have now shaped our material into our first 90-minute rough cut of the feature film.  We’ve also come up with a long list of short videos we can create to help schools, prisons, and other groups develop their restorative justice programs.

Full steam ahead!