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Michelle Esrick - Director - Producer 

Michelle Esrick is an award-winning filmmaker, poet and social activist. 

Esrick immerses herself in stories that inspire and give her a clear knowing that it will help to serve a great many. She has seen first hand that honest stories can shift perceptions, change laws, transform our culture and even save lives.

Esrick’s recent film, CRACKED UP premiered at DOC NYC Film Festival (2018). In CRACKED UP, featuring Saturday Night Live veteran, Darrell Hammond, we witness the impact adverse childhood experiences can have across a lifetime. Courageous and passionate, Esrick’s groundbreaking storytelling is helping us understand childhood trauma, addiction and recovery, in a new light, breaking down barriers of stigma and replacing shame with compassion and hope.

Esrick’s social activism went all the way to the Capital with a successful presentation before Congress. Making the point that childhood trauma is a root cause of addiction which resulted in nine provisions for trauma-informed care being added to the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. October 24th, 2018 the President signed this bill in to law. 

Her willingness to share her research and personal journey with complete vulnerability, depth and humor delivers to survivors, their love ones, the professional community and the new learners, the public-at-large, a sense of hope, love and connection.

Esrick directed and produced the multi-award winning film, The Wavy Gravy Movie: Saint Misbehavin’, which premiered on Showtime, PBS and Netflix. The New York Times hailed, Saint Misbehavin’ is an unabashed love letter to the world that defies the cynicism of our age.” (2011). The Wavy Gravy Movie will be re-mastered and released this summer (2019).

Esrick Executive Produced the Netflix Original film, Ram Dass, Going Home. Widely acclaimed, the film was short-listed for an Academy Award. (2017) 

She directed the music video, LET’S RISE!  CNN called LET’S RISE! the anthem for the March For Our Lives Movement airing the segment internationally to 350 million viewers worldwide. Ranking LET’S RISE! among the most important protest songs of the year, CNN featured Esrick and her work in a 2018 year-end television special. 

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David Becker - Producer

David Becker is a documentary filmmaker and educator. His film To Be Forever Wild, about Catskill Mountains, aired on PBS stations and is available on DVD and online. David produced The Wavy Gravy Movie: Saint Misbehavin’, a documentary about counter-culture icon Wavy Gravy, which was directed by Michelle Esrick and executive produced by DA Pennebaker. The film premiered at SXSW, aired on Showtime and was released to home video by New Video/Docurama. David worked for many years with two-time Academy Award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple at Cabin Creek Films. He directed the PBS documentary Small Steps: Creating the High School for Contemporary Arts, which follows the creation of a small school located inside one of New York’s most dangerous high schools. Small Steps was produced by Ms. Kopple and is available on PBS Home Video. David coordinated the restoration and Criterion Collection DVD release of Ms. Kopple’s landmark documentary Harlan County USA. He has been on the production team of nonfiction projects directed by Barbara Kopple including Running From Crazy, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, My Generation and the Disney Channel special Confident for Life: Kids & Body Image. David’s work has shown at the Sundance Film Festival, the South by Southwest Film Festival, and on Showtime, Netflix, HBO, PBS and online. David also teaches Media Arts and Documentary Studies, formerly at the Woodstock Day School in upstate New York and the University at Albany-SUNY, and currently at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Co-Producers:

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D.A. Pennebaker

Donn Alan Pennebaker is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cinema verite filmmaking. Working with Drew Associates in the early sixties Pennebaker helped engineer the first portable 16mm sync sound camera rig. Their film subjects included the presidential campaign of John Kennedy, Primary, and the Broadway debut of Jane Fonda, Jane. Pennebaker’s 1965 portrait of Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back, broke box office records for documentaries and remains the definitive portrait of the musician. Monterey Pop, filmed in 1967 and regarded as one of the first rock festival films, introduced audiences to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. In the early seventies, Pennebaker directed Company, which documented the original cast album recording of Steven Sondheim’s Broadway show starring Elaine Stritch. And in 1973, Ziggy Stardust, which captured David Bowie’s final concert with his band. Since 1976, Pennebaker has partnered with Chris Hegedus. Together they shot and directed The Energy War series, Town Bloody Hall, Moon Over Broadway, Only the Strong Survive, Down From the Mountain and many others. The team received an Academy Award® nomination for their 1994 Clinton campaign film, The War Room. Pennebaker has received numerous lifetime awards including the IFP Gotham Award. In 2013 Pennebaker received the first Lifetime Achievement Academy Award given to a documentary filmmaker.

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Chris Hegedus

Chris Hegedus has been directing, shooting, and editing documentary films for over forty years. In 2002 she was awarded the prestigious Directors Guild of America Award for Startup.com, which chronicled the first Internet boom and bust through the adventures of two young entrepreneurs. With her long-time collaborator, D. A. Pennebaker, Chris directed the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign film, The War Room, which was nominated for an Academy Award®. In 2004, their HBO show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, won two Primetime Emmy® Awards. Chris has directed a host of acclaimed films including The Energy War series, Town Bloody HallDelorean, Moon Over Broadway, Depeche Mode 101, Down From the Mountain, Only the Strong Survive, Al Franken: God Spoke, and Kings of Pastry. In 2016 she directed the virtual reality short, Rescuing Tigers, and most recently she produced, directed and shot Unlocking the Cage, which follows attorney Steven Wise through his unprecedented legal challenge for personhood rights for chimpanzees. In addition to screening theatrically and broadcasting on HBO, the film was nominated for an Emmy as an Outstanding Social Issue Documentary. Hegedus’ career awards include, the International Documentary Association, Doc NYC, Critics Choice, and the Golden Eagle CINE. Chris taught at Yale University for years and received their Film Studies award.

Executive Producers:

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Regina K. Scully

Regina Scully is founder and CEO of Artemis Rising Foundation, a philanthropic organization that promotes media, arts, and education, that transform our culture. Ms. Scully is also the founder and CEO of RPR Marketing Communications, a PR and brand marketing agency specializing in premiere consumer brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Aveeno, and Neutrogena. A social entrepreneur and documentary filmmaker, Ms. Scully is a five-time Emmy award-winning and Academy-nominated producer. Some of her acclaimed films include: The Invisible War, The Hunting Ground, Fed Up, Eagle Huntress, The Bread Winner, STEP, Newtown, MissRepresentation, and Alive Inside. She is also the Academy-nominated executive producer of, “Til It Happens to You,” the theme song for The Hunting Ground, sung by Lady Gaga at the Oscars in 2017. Ms. Scully has produced over 125 documentaries, highlighting some of the most challenging social justice issues of our time.

Geralyn White Dreyfous

Geralyn White Dreyfous has a wide, distinguished background in the arts and participates on numerous boards and initiatives. She is the founder of the Utah Film Center and co-founder of Impact Partners Film Fund with Dan Cogan. In 2013, Geralyn co-founded Gamechanger Films, a film fund dedicated to women directors. Her independent producing credits include the Academy Award winning Born Into Brothels; Emmy nominated The Day My God Died; Academy Award nominated The Square, Academy Award nominated The Invisible War and multiple film festival winners. Geralyn was honored with the IDA’s 2013 Amicus Award for her significant contribution to documentary filmmaking. Variety recognized Geralyn in their 2014 Women’s Impact Report highlighting her work in the entertainment industry.

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Becky Newhall

Becky Newhall has always had a passion for filmmaking; After successfully producing three amazing daughters, Becky decided to follow her life’s ambition to produce movies. In 2013, she founded NewAley Pictures with the intent to produce high quality, commercially viable, and impactful documentaries. Becky’s first film, Misery Loves Comedy, took a look at the darker side of stand-up, and asked the question “do you have to be miserable to be funny?” This film was directed by Kevin Pollak and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Her second film, Prophet’s Prey, which also premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and was directed by Amy Berg, shed light on the sexual, financial, and spiritual abuses experienced by the members of the FLDS. Becky is currently working on her first independent film which will premiere at both the Woodstock Film Festival and the Austin Film Festival this year. Becky is married to Ashton Newhall and together they are raising their three daughters, Aley, Sydney and Brantley in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bill Benenson

Bill Benenson (Director/Producer) is best known for his award-winning documentary Dirt! The Movie. In addition to his recent The Hadza: Last of the First, Bill is currently working on a documentary about the search for a lost Pre-Columbian city in Central America using LIDAR technology, work for which he was awarded the prestigious Leading Global Thinkers Award from Foreign Policy magazine and garnered expansive media coverage. Bill, who served in the Peace Corps in Brazil, is a passionate environmentalist and supporter of The Nature Conservancy, The Natural Resources Defense Council, Conservation International, Bioneers, Rainforest Action Network, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Laurie Benenson

Laurie Benenson began her career as a journalist, founding Movieline Magazine in 1985 and serving as its editor-in-chief for 6 six years. She then went on to write for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section for five years as a West Coast correspondent on film and television. In 2009 she served as Executive Producer of the acclaimed documentary Dirt! The Movie, directed by her husband Bill Benenson and his partner Gene Rosow, and as a producer on the documentary The Hadza: Last of the First, also directed by Bill. She is currently the producer of the documentary Lost City of the Monkey God, and an Executive Producer of three other films: Fantastic Fungi, Kiss the Ground, and, of course, Cracked Up. She is Creative Consultant on the upcoming ten-part series on astrology and consciousness, Changing of the Gods: Planetary and Human Revolutions.

Cinematographers:

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Dan Gold

Daniel B. Gold (Cinematographer) won the 2002 Sundance “Excellence in Cinematography Award” for his work on HBO’s Blue Vinyl which also garnered Emmy Nominations for Research and Best Documentary. His 2018 4-part Netflix series shot in India called Daughters of Destiny and directed by Academy Award Winner Vanessa Roth won the 2018 Television Academy Honors Award. His PBS Special GI Jews broadcast nationally in 2018, then re-broadcast several times by overwhelming viewer demand. His short The Girl and the Picture premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and won the 2018 AM DOCS Special Jury Award. 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide was broadcast on HBO in 2017. Gold is currently shooting several feature docs including Roy Cohn for HBO, Bobi Winewith Christopher Sharpe, Love and Stuff with Judith Helfand, and nearly completed on Rabbi with Sandi Dubowski. Previous notable films include: A+E’S Toots Shore, Showtime’s Saint Misbehavin: The Life and Times of Wavy Gravy, A Place at the Table, Everything’s Cool, Indian Point, The Greater Good, HBO’s Coma, PBS’s Colonial House and Life in Pictures for the BBC.

Tom Bergman

Tom Bergmann is a Cinematographer for documentaries, narrative and experimental films. Three of his recent projects have been nominated for Academy Awards. Tom studied cinematography at the University of Film in Potsdam Babelsberg/Germany before studying Art History in New York City. He has been a freelance Cinematographer for the past 15 years with more than 30 shorts and features to his credit. Some of the directors he continuously collaborates with include Steve James, Eugene Jarecki, Roger Ross Williams, David France, and many more.

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Thorsten Thielow

Thorsten is a NYC based Cinematographer and Director making Documentary Feature Films and Commercials. His recent work, Robin Williams – Come inside my Mind, directed by Emmy Primetime winning Marina Zenovich and produced by Alex Gibney, premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Another recent project, Dirty Money, directed by Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Jesse Moss, is currently streaming on Netflix. Thorsten’s recent work screened also at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival with the documentary feature China Hustle, directed by Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Jed Rothstein, screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Other recent projects include Rancher Farmer Fisherman, a documentary feature directed by Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Susan Froemke and Water & Power, a documentary feature directed by Emmy Primetime Winner Marina Zenovich. Thorsten is currently working with Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Liz Garbus on a multi part documentary series on the New York Times – The Fourth Estate – premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. He is currently working with Academy Award winning Filmmaker Alex Gibney on a multi part series for Showtime and with Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Amy Berg on a Criminal Investigative HBO series and a Feature Documentary on the Women’s movement in America, as well as a new six part Netflix Series with Academy Award Nominated Filmmaker Jesse Moss. He recently finished principal photography on O.G., a narrative feature starring Jeffry Wright, directed by Emmy Winning Madeline Sackler premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. He is a founding member of the NYC Kamera Kollektiv, a boutique agency for documentary cinematographers.

Editors:

Mark Jeurgens

Mark Juergens has been a filmmaker in New York since 1982.  He’s edited documentaries, feature films, broadcast series, music videos and episodic television. 

Some of his projects have aired on HBO, Comedy Central , MTV, Bravo, A&E, Discovery, History Channel,  MSNBC, Logo, Lifetime and PBS.  Films he’s edited have screened at Sundance, the New York Film Festival, South by Southwest, DocNYC and Berlinale.  Many have won awards and had theatrical distribution.

Adam Yaffe

Adam Yaffe is a writer, director and editor in feature film, television and documentary. As an editor, his work includes the upcoming documentaries, American Hunter (dir. Alex Kershaw) and Patent Man (dir. Robert Lemelson). His work as a writer includes creating the Canal + animated drama series Hard Apple and the RAI mini-series Via America. His directing work includes the dramatic feature, Book of Danny, and the upcoming documentary series Dislabeled. He received his MFA in filmmaking from Columbia University where he received the New Line Cinema Award and currently teaches Television Writing at NYU and Stonybrook Graduate Film programs.

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Social Impact Producer:

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Bonnie Abaunza

Bonnie Abaunza has dedicated her life to humanitarian work, human rights and social justice advocacy. Founder of Artists for Amnesty International, she ran the program for seven years, followed by leadership of Social Action for Participant Media. Before founding the Abaunza Group Bonnie directed the philanthropic foundation for Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer. She has served as a consultant for the United Nations’ International Labour Organization. Bonnie’s work has touched nearly every aspect of human rights, as she has brought hard-hitting campaigns and major celebrity engagement to issues as diverse as child slavery, campus sexual assault, ethnic cleansing in Indonesia and much more.

Film Team:

Director: Michelle Esrick
Producers: David Becker and Michelle Esrick
Co-Producers: Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker
In Association With: Artemis Rising Foundation
Executive Producers: Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous,
Becky Newhall, Laurie Benenson, Bill Benenson
Composer: David Robbins
Original Song and Lyrics: Diane Warren
Executive Music Producer: Bonnie Greenberg
Editors: Mark Juergens and Adam Yaffe
Additional Editor and Post Supervisor: Brian Miele
Cinematographers: Chris Hegedus, Thorsten Thielow, Daniel B. Gold, Tom Bergmann,
Joan Churchill, Zac Nicholson, Martina Radwan, Kristen Johnson
Animation: Jason Van Conradt
Impact Campaign Strategist: Bonnie Abaunza   
Public Relations: Teri Kane

Featuring: Darrell Hammond, Lorne Michaels, Steve Higgins, Christopher Ashley, Dr. Nabil Kotbi, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry Laskowski (Darrell’s childhood friend).