Introducing Lifecasters

Posted on: Tuesday, December 04 2012
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By Matt Sussman, Marketing and Development Associate

Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly are old friends of BAVC. Their film The Way We Get By came through the 2009 Producers Institute and now Gita and Aron are the executive producers of LIFECASTERS, a BAVC and Sunny Side Up Films production that will air nationally on PBS (and stream on pbs.org) on February 7, 2013.
 
LIFECASTERS is an innovative public television program that unites fiction and documentary filmmakers to tell the stories of Americans who have discovered creative ways of realizing their dreams – a bit later in life.
 
Each of LIFECASTERS’s three segments is directed by pairs of award-winning filmmakers from different professional backgrounds, giving each team a platform to tell an inspiring story in their own voice. 
 
LIFECASTERS's subjects include African-American dancer Sherri “Sparkle” Williams, one of the oldest female professional dancers still practicing in the United States; former MC5 guitarist and punk pioneer Wayne Kramer; and Albert Hurwit, an 80-year-old retired doctor who could not read or write music, yet composed an award-winning symphony.
 
We interviewed Gita and Aron about the genesis for the program; what it was like working with a team of award-winning, high profile filmmakers; and what it took to successfully pair inspiring film subjects and filmmakers.
 
Can you talk about your approach to this project?
 
Aron: Two years ago, Sunny Side Up Films teamed up with BAVC to work on Lifecasters. The goal of the program was to share inspiring, innovative stories of incredible people, overcoming the odds, and finding ways to reach their goals and dreams.  We knew in the 60-minute program that we wanted different storytellers with varying creative visions so each film represented the thoughts and feelings of the subject and the filmmakers.
 
Gita: We also really wanted to bring new voices to PBS-- not just documentary filmmakers but also other talented filmmakers from different genres. We were hoping to make this as high profile as possible so as we explored possible filmmakers and subjects, we were looking at who might be good candidates.
 
How did you find the subjects and the filmmakers?
 
Gita: We took a two-pronged approach to finding the best people to profile. We asked festival programmers to recommend filmmakers, we asked filmmakers to pitch us stories, and we even put out queries to various sites and associations including my alma maters-- the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University, asking for suggestions on stories.
 
Aron: Oscar nominated filmmakers, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, pitched us multiple stories. We asked them to focus on a story near their hometown, something that represented a piece of the Midwest. Together, we discussed a story about Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the oldest modern dance company in Ohio. They really connected to Sheri "Sparkle" Williams and when they looked into her story in more detail, they really became fascinated by it and wanted to share more of her story with a national audience.
 
Gita: Yeah, and with Wayne Kramer [formerly of MC5], it was through his wife, Margaret Kramer. Margaret is a music supervisor in LA and she was talking to us about her husband and we just really connected to his story and thought it would make a wonderful additional film in Lifecasters. Margaret and Wayne wanted Adam McKay and Shira Piven to tell their story and we knew that they would be able to create a very intimate and personal profile on Wayne given the already established trust that existed between the filmmakers and the film subjects. And the film that we did-- on Albert Hurwit-- we had actually been working on doing something special with him for a few years. We found his story incredible. A couple of people in the industry introduced us to him and given how rare and inspiring his story was, we felt like we could tell his story and showcase his music.  We partnered with Connecticut Public Television on his film.
 
Aron: We felt these three stories really programmed well together. The theme around Lifecasters really became these inspiring people later in life through sheer hard work and determination finding ways to overcome their greatest fears and accomplish their goals.
 
What do you hope audiences will be able to take away from LIFECASTERS?
 
Aron: We hope all three of these film subjects-- Wayne Kramer, Sheri "Sparkle" Williams, and Alby Hurwit-- will inspire people in the US and overseas to find ways to achieve their own personal goals and dreams. There are people beating the odds, finding innovative approaches and creative strategies to overcome tremendous obstacles. By sharing these stories, it makes these goals and dreams that seem so hard to grasp actually possible. And when that happens, that makes for a better community...a better society.
 
Gita: We've worked with this program and concept now for over two years and we continue to be inspired by the three film subjects and our incredible filmmakers. We hope this concept of bringing award-winning filmmakers together to share in these stories continues and has a place on television for years to come.
 
[Note: This interview is cross-posted on the LIFECASTERS website.]