Case Study NEA
United States of Arts
• 2 Time Primetime Emmy® Award Nominee for Outstanding Short Form Documentary or Reality Series, 2016, 2017
• Producers Guild of America Award Nominee for Outstanding Digital Series, 2017
This highly acclaimed 66-part documentary series showcases the variety and vitality of the arts across the United States and shines a spotlight on the vital role the NEA has played in every corner of the country since its inception more than 50 years ago.
A vast production spanning over nearly 2 years of filming across all 55 US States and Territories in more than 400 locations from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to the beaches of Guam, and featured Gary Sinise, Jeff Perry and Terry Kinney, founders of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Robert Redford and the Sundance Institute, the American Film Institute, Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center, and the Boston Ballet.
United States of Arts explores the many ways art impacts the lives of everyday Americans from East St. Louis where school children are learning self discipline and self esteem through dance to the members of Los Angeles’ Street Symphony bringing their artistry and inspiration to the residents of Skid Row, and from Maya Lin, artist and designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the groundbreaking partnership between the NEA and the Department of Defense utilizing the power of art to help heal returning servicemen and women suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD, to a teacher in America.
For this mammoth undertaking, we collaborated with the NEA almost daily in terms of organizing approvals of scripts, cuts, and delivery.
This series of films not only required meticulous pre-production to insure we could film all of these places and people within the scope of the budget and timetable for delivery. The order of states filmed became a huge jigsaw puzzle that we needed to slowly assemble. We had to juggle not only the NEA’s delivery wish list, but availability of talent, interviewees, festivals, museum hours, premieres, openings, and location specific concerns.
For example, we learned that there are only TWO flights in and out of American Samoa each week. Due to time differences and technology available at the location, we had to fly our team in with the goal of creating and filming the entire piece on the fly with the help of the local Arts Council. And talk about cell service? There isn’t any! Internet? Remember dial up? We sent the President of the company because we knew we had ONE shot to get this piece locked and loaded. That also meant we LOST our President/Writer/Director for that week as we pressed ahead and created an additional 11 films while she was gone.
This was an amazing journey and life-changing lesson on the vital work of the NEA, and state of the arts in our country. Plus, it was a chance for everyone on the crew to spend a couple of years really enjoying their work and feeling like they were making a difference.