Filmmaker Scott Thurman on the Texas Textbook Wars

Independent Lens recently sat down with filmmaker Scott Thurman to discuss what went on behind the scenes of his documentary, The Revisionaries, which chronicles the oft-rancorous battle over Texas textbooks. The Revisionaries premieres on Independent Lens January 28 at 10 PM (check local listings).

head shot of filmmaker Scott Thurman

Filmmaker Scott Thurman

What impact do you hope the film will have?

I hope people pay more attention to public education and participate in local elections, especially the primaries for Texans.

What led you to make this film?

I was interested in evolution education and later heard about the 2008 Texas Board of Education’s controversial process for revising the science standards. At first I was looking to profile an energetic science teacher like the one I had in the fifth grade, Jerry Keller, but as I gained better access to politicians and people involved with the board of education, I decided to shift focus to the political issue as I recognized the dramatic ingredients for a more interesting and accessible story about the politics of education.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

Working with the other producers and our editor, Jawad Metni, for a year to create the most succinct representation of the educational standards review process from over a thousand hours of footage.

How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?

I started sticking around after the board meetings to meet board members, and after I was given a few initial interviews, I put together a short piece to apply for grants. I also showed it to subjects to help convince them that I was interested in presenting all sides fairly. I think this early trailer combined with my persistence over three years greatly contributed to my access.

What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

I filmed extensively with Ide Trotter, among other individuals heavily involved in the board’s process. But we decided to cut many of the public and experts because of our time restraints and also because we felt a flurry of characters was overwhelming and unnecessary when we could use four or five to walk us through a majority of our story. Continue reading

Inspiring Stories of People Living With MS

Filmmaker Jason DaSilva

Crisscrossing the country, by van and on scooter, ITVS-funded filmmaker, 30-year-old Jason DaSilva, is part of the three-person road crew for a new online project about Multiple Sclerosis.

Beginning today ––in honor of National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week (March 8-14) –– the National MS Society launched “We Keep Moving,” a journey across America that takes viewers into the homes of people living with MS.

Every week for ten weeks, three different stories and locations will be highlighted on the website. Visitors are invited to vote to select the story and destination for the following week’s short film.

“I don’t want to say that this? will be easy,” writes Jason. “Being completely able-bodied and traveling 10 different? places around the U.S. within 10 weeks is still a little bit much. Try doing the same with a scooter and MS symptoms!”

In addition to “We Keep Moving,” Jason, who was diagnosed with MS at the age of 25, is also working on When I Walk, his personal story of living with Multiple Sclerosis day-to-day. Jason is currently tracking his film and life on his video blog.

Learn more about “We Keep Moving” and choose the story you’d like to see next >>

Keep up with Jason on his blog >>

Two New ITVS Films Added to PBS’s COVE Video Player

Interested in watching full-length episodes of Independent Lens and other PBS series online for free? Look no further than PBS’s video player: COVE (Comprehensive Online Video Ecosystem).

Just added to the slate of Independent Lens titles on COVE is THE ATOM SMASHERS, about a group of scientists as they search for the Higgs boson: an as yet undiscovered subatomic particle that could explain how matter—and, therefore, life—can exist.

Variety writes “THE ATOM SMASHERS entertainingly brings particle physics—and the brainy geeks who’ve devoted their lives to its study—into sharp focus.”

Watch THE ATOM SMASHERS on COVE >>

Continue reading

Encore Presentation: THE ATOM SMASHERS Tonight on Independent Lens

In a leading U.S. government laboratory, physicists race to discover one of the biggest secrets in the universe before their European competitors. But, with a growing national deficit made worse by military conflicts and natural disasters, the lab struggles to survive. Will the discovery happen before the funds run out? Or will America watch the greatest minds in physics drift across the Atlantic?

Watch a preview below:

A special encore presentation of THE ATOM SMASHERS airs tonight at 10:00 PM on Independent Lens on PBS.