Story & Pictures By: The Documentary You’ve Been Waiting For
You may have heard a bit about this documentary floating about on the winds. Today I’d like to highlight this film currently in production. It has a Kickstarter going and needs your help. With 18 days to go, it’s a little more than halfway to its goal. If you can, please check it out:
A new Golden Age of children’s literature is here. And it matters.
Emmy®-nominated Director Joanna Rudnick follows three contemporary children’s book authors and sheds a light on the artistry and industry in Story & Pictures By.
“The stories that we read [children] are forming their worldview. They are the building blocks to how they make sense of the world and how they understand themselves. And the more diverse and expansive those stories are, the more diverse and expansive that worldview is going to be.” – Joanna Rudnick, Director
Director Joanna Rudnick is familiar with taking inspiration from her life and turning it into cinema. Her first film In the Family (PBS 2008) was a deeply personal exploration of living with an inherited risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Having survived breast cancer in her late 30s, coinciding with the birth of her two daughters, she threw herself into raising them and found that one of the most intimate experiences she had was reading children’s picture books at bedtime. This sparked a curiosity about the creators, history, and power of this often overlooked and underappreciated art form and became fodder for her current feature length film in production, Story & Pictures By.
The film explores the power of children’s picture books through the lens of three contemporary authors/illustrators: Mac Barnett, Christian Robinson, and Yuyi Morales. Together, they represent a new generation of storytellers who are working to challenge, transform, and expand the stories and experiences portrayed in children’s literature, marking a new Golden Age in the art form. From experimenting with gender identity to children visiting parents in prison—all creators, protagonists, and experiences are welcomed behind and in the pages of picture books.
Produced in association with Kartemquin Films, S tory & Pictures By officially launched a Kickstarter campaign this month. The filmmakers are seeking $40,000 in funds to continue production in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020. The film’s Kickstarter campaign is set to launch October 24, 2019 and run through November 22, 2019. The funds will go specifically to support the documenting of Yuyi Morales next book about wildlife living along the U.S./Mexico border whose lives are endangered by the creation of the border wall as well as a trip around the country to film Mac Barnett having conversations with aging author/illustrators who championed experimentation in the art form in the mid 20th century.
Our society today is increasingly polarized, and children are exposed to a 24/7 cycle of frightening news stories about everything from the climate crisis to mass shootings. They need tools to make sense of these realities. Picture books are one of those tools and they are also addressing an overwhelming need for the creation of empathy and for the exposure to a multitude of creators, viewpoints, cultures, and experiences.
Research continues to show that one of the most important determining factors in the trajectory of a child’s life is whether or not literacy is established at a young age. A 2015 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Nearly 85% of young people who face trial in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. Yet one out of every four children continues to grow up in America without learning how to read.
According to statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), in the past 24 years, only 13% of children’s books featured multicultural storylines or characters. In 2002, 5% of protagonists were African American, 3% Asian American, 3% were Latinx, and 1% were American Indian. In 2018 these numbers slightly increased to 10% African American, 7% Asian, 5% Latinx and 1% American Indian. While these gains in diverse representations mark progress, we still have a long way to go. In a world
where children of color continuously face increased levels of childhood trauma, it is incumbent upon children’s literature to represent their perspectives and experiences.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric of the last election drove Yuyi Morales to share her personal immigrant story through her latest picture book Dreamers , a book that shows what immigrants are forced to leave behind when they migrate and the gifts they bring with them. Christian Robinson includes characters of all skin colors, ethnicities, religions, and abilities in his stories. In his latest book Another, the protagonist of the story discovers a world through a portal where everyone has a double. It’s that universal feeling to
want to meet someone just like you! Mac Barnett’s The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown tells the story of a woman who changed and challenged every rule around writing for children, and whose life was littered with ups and downs, living outside of social norms, only to meet an untimely death (yes, it’s in the book) at a young age.
As the world continues to become more digital, nothing can emulate the power and suspense of the page turn, nor can it reproduce an experience of holding a book between the hands of adults and children. According to data from NPD BookScan and PubTrack Digital, children’s books and adult nonfiction have driven market growth for print books from 2015 to 2019.
Picture books are the stories that put our children to bed at night. They instill a love of storytelling; they teach visual, auditory, written, and emotional literacy; and they provide the space and agency for children to better understand themselves and the world.
In addition to following Christian, Yuyi, and Mac as they embark on the journey of crafting their next books and as they engage with children in schools and libraries across the country, the film explores the history and nature of the children’s picture book itself. Why do some become part of the canon and others are lost to history? How is a picture book made? Who are the creators and gatekeepers behind these powerful stories? How do they impact our children and how do they impact us?
The film’s audience is described by Joanna Rudnick as “anyone who loves picture books, who still remembers the characters who first made their hearts burst open, who has ever read to a child, or been read to, and who enjoys a window into a hidden world.”
Perks of donating to the film’s Kickstarter includes fan favorite signed books by Christian Robinson, Mac Barnett, and Yuyi Morales; a Christian Robinson READ poster, prints from Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, and
original artwork by Christian Robinson. The campaign runs until November 22nd.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
JOANNA RUDNICK (DIRECTOR/PRODUCER ) is an Emmy-nominated director and producer. In her directorial debut In the Family (POV | PBS), produced by Kartemquin Films, she told her personal story about coming to terms with learning that she had the BRCA1 gene that greatly increases a woman’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The film was the first to cover the world of predictive genetic testing via a vérité treatment, and was screened as part of the successful effort to pass the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) as well as challenge gene patenting, a case that went to the Supreme Court. Her producing credits include: Kartemquin Films’ Bill T. Jones: A Good Man (American Masters | PBS); Crossfire Hurricane, a documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones (HBO); and Robert Capa in Love and War (PBS,BBC) which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was the presenting film for the 2003 Emmy award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series among others.
ROBIN MORTAROTTI (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY) is an award-winning filmmaker with over thirty-five years experience as producer and director of photography on feature, documentary, commercial, and promotional films. He has produced numerous international shoots and has earned a
C.I.N.E. Golden Eagle, a local Daytime Emmy, and many other awards.
A Death in the Family won Columbia/duPont and Sigma Delta Chi awards for its examination of the effects of television on society and aired as a segment of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. Enrique’s Story, produced for the California State Library Literacy Services and narrated by James Earl Jones, was
nominated for an Academy Award.
ELI OLSON (EDITOR) is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and storyteller. Most recently, Eli had four films she edited selected for 2018’s Mill Valley Film Festival: From Baghdad to the Bay , Time
for Ilhan, I Am Maris, and Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn ? Lt. Van Dorn won the Active Cinema Audience Award at MVFF; Baghdad to the Bay won Best Documentary at Cinequest 2018, and Time for Ilhan was an official selection for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Eli won an Emmy for her work on My Flesh and Blood for HBO films, which took Best Documentary honors as well as the Audience Award and Best Director prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. She also edited and co-directed S tories from Tohuku, which took the Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and later aired on PBS. Other projects include: Heaven Adores You (2014 SF International Film Festival); 3 Still Standing (2014 Mill Valley Film Festival selection); and S am Cooke: Crossing Over (2010, PBS’ American Masters), among
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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