Gerald R. Ford: A Test of Character

Aired on National Geographic in May 2016

Although President Ford is often overlooked in the pantheon of U.S. presidents, his story illuminates a vital and fascinating moment in U.S. history. Ford assumed the presidency when the twin crises of Watergate and Vietnam threatened to undermine our democracy. Having never stood for election to national office, Ford was all but unknown to the American public. Whether he had the skill and character to steer the country through this period was an open question.
 

The film features in-depth interviews with major figures from the period, including Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather, who covered the Ford presidency as young reporters; Ford’s cabinet members and staff including Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld; two of Ford’s children, Steven and Susan; and the historian, Richard Norton-Smith, among many others.

The Italian Americans

THE ITALIAN AMERICANS (2015)
AIRING FEBRUARY 17TH AND 24TH AT 9PM

Written and Directed by: John Maggio

Produced by: Muriel Soenens and Julia Marchesi

Edited by: George O'Donnell and Seth Bomse

Co-Producer: Josh Gleason

Associate Producer: Hannah Olson

Directors of Photography: Sam Russell and Stephen McCarthy

Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Narrated by: Stanley Tucci

THE ITALIAN AMERICANS (2014) is a four-hour documentary series, which chronicles four generations of Italian-American lives, from the massive late 19th century wave of immigration to the present day. This great sweep of history provides the backdrop for the stories of families, both ordinary and well-known: their departures and reunions, their struggles to stay connected to their homeland while making their way in America, their entry into labor, entertainment, politics, and war. The Italian Americans will tell stories of people both famous and ordinary. Their everyday struggles with family, work, identity, and belonging, mirror the experience of millions of immigrants, past and present.

The film, distributed by WETA in Washington DC and produced with Social Media Productions, is slated for prime-time national broadcast in 2015.

Finding Your Roots: Season 2

Season 2 of Finding your Roots aired in the Fall of 2014. With Senior Producer John Maggio at the helm, Season 2 will feature such guests as Anderson Cooper, Ben Affleck, Billie Jean King, Anthony Bourdain, Jessica Alba and many more. Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. will travel across America to trace the family histories of celebrity guests and tell the intertwined stories of race, class, place, and culture from across the globe that brought them here. In all, each episode is a journey through one branch of the American past leaving audiences all the more curious about their own past and eager to unearth their own family roots.   Film Website: Click here

Makers: Women Who Make America (2014)

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin
Produced: Leah Williams 
Director: Jamila Wignot.
Narrator: Julianna Margulies. 

MAKERS is a landmark television and digital-video initiative that aims to be the largest and most dynamic collection of women's stories ever assembled. Expanding on the critically acclaimed three-hour PBS documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, which premiered in February 2013, and told the story of the American women’s movement over the last half-century, Ark Media has produced two of the six new MAKERS hours to be broadcast this Fall. MAKERS: Women in Space traces the history of women pioneers in the U.S. space program. Produced by Michael Epstein and Sara Wolitzky. Directed by Michael Epstein. Narrated by Jodie Foster. The documentary is scheduled to air October 14 on PBS at 9pm. MAKERS: Women in Business tells the story of the exceptional women—past and present—who have taken the world of business by storm. Told by female business leaders themselves, this is a candid exploration of what it takes to make it and a celebration of the extraordinary individuals who, over the course of 50 years, have proven—on Wall Street, in corporate America or business empires of their own—that a woman’s place is wherever she believes it to be. 

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin 
Senior Story Producer: Leslie Asako Gladsjo
Directors/Producers: Phil Bertelsen, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, Sabin Streeter and Jamila Wignot
Co-Producers: Talleah Bridges McMahon, Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Leah R. Williams 
Edited by: Paula Heredia, Kim Miille, Nancy Novack, Howard Sharp and Bruce Shaw 
Original Music: Paul Brill

THE AFRICAN AMERICANS: MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (2013) is a six-part series scheduled for national, primetime broadcast on public television in the fall of 2013. It will be the first documentary film series to chronicle the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent over four centuries of remarkable historic events right up to today–when America has a black President, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race. Hosted by noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and drawing on some of America's top historians and heretofore untapped primary sources, the series will guide viewers on an engaging journey across four hundred years and two continents to shed new light on the experience of being an African American. Episodes include "The Black Atlantic" (1500-1800), "The Age of Slavery" (1800-1858), "Into the Fire" (1858-1896), "Making a Way Out of No Way" (1896-1940), "Rise!" (1940-1968), and "It's Nation Time" (1968-2013). The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross is a joint production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, WNET, and Inkwell Films in association with Ark Media.

WINNER OF A 2013 PEABODY AWARD: MORE INFO
WINNER OF A 2014 EMMY FOR OUTSTANDING HISTORICAL PROGRAM - LONG FORM

Film Website: Click here

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Written and Directed by: John Maggio 
Co-Producer: Josh Gleason 
Edited by: Ilya Chaiken
Narrated by: Michael Murphy

Long before Paul Newman and Robert Redford immortalized them on screen, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid captivated Americans from coast to coast. In the 1890s, their exploits robbing banks and trains in the West and then seemingly vanishing into thin air became national news and the basis of rumors and myth. But who were Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh? How did they come together to form the Wild Bunch gang? And how did they manage to pull off the longest string of successful holdups in history while eluding the Pinkertons, the nation's most feared detective force? Separating fact from fiction, the latest installment of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's popular The Wild West series explores the last pair of outlaws to flee on horseback into a setting sun.

Makers: Women Who Make American (2013)

Hours 1 & 2 Written and Produced by: Barak Goodman
Hour 3 Written and Produced by: Pamela Mason Wagner
Co-Producer: Jamila Ephron
Edited by: Ilya Chaiken and Pamela Scott Arnold
Associate Producer: Jessie Beauchaine
Original Music: Joel Goodman

MAKERS: Women Who Make America tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy. It's a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. MAKERS brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine. Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.

Film Website: Click here

Finding Your Roots

Senior Producer: Rachel Dretzin
Senior Story Producer: Leslie Asako Gladsjo
Producers: John Maggio, Julie Marchesi, Jesse Sweet, Caitlin McNally

Finding Your Roots focuses on the diversity of the American experience, uncovering the many ways in which our identities are forged by culture, race, and history. Presented by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., each hour of this 10 episode series features a different pair of celebrity guests, who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden, link - whether it be as old friends, through long lost relatives, or a common past. Celebrity guests include Barbara Walters, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Bacon, Robert Downey, Jr., John Legend, Cory Booker, and Martha Stewart, among others. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and his production team work closely with the country's leading genealogists (including the New England Genealogical Historical Society and Johni Cerny) as well as a host of ancestry experts around the world, to uncover lost family stories from that the guests never knew existed. When the paper trail runs out, Gates and his research team turn to top geneticists and DNA companies such as 23 & Me to analyze each participant's DNA, digging deeper into their family trees -- sometimes even debunking family secrets. Gates shares his findings with each guest, and in many cases, travels with them behind the scenes as they process what they've learned, accompanying John Legend to a rock concert, talking to Samuel Jackson backstage at his Broadway play, joining Cory Booker as he reveals the results of his family history to his parents, and trailing Sanjay Gupta and Geoffrey Canada to memorable family reunions. Gates also reaches beyond these celebrity stories to seek out everyday individuals wrestling with similar questions of identity. He visits with barbers at his favorite barber shop in Cambridge and engages students in Harlem curious about their genetic makeup. In all, each episode is a journey through one branch of the American past leaving audiences all the more curious about their own past and eager to unearth their own family roots.

Film Website: Click here

Clinton

Written and Directed by: Barak Goodman
Produced by: Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance
Co-Producer: Jamila Ephron
Edited by: George O'Donnell and Nancy Novack
Director of Photography: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Joel Goodman

A biography of a president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history, and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage. The biography of a president who rose from a broken childhood in Arkansas to become one of the most successful politicians in modern American history, and one of the most complex and conflicted characters to ever stride across the public stage. From draft dodging to the Dayton Accords, from Monica Lewinsky to a balanced budget, the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton veered between sordid scandal and grand achievement. Clinton had a career full of accomplishment and rife with scandal, a marriage that would make history and create controversy, and a presidency that would define the crucial and transformative period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9-11. The latest installment in the critically acclaimed and successful series of presidential biographies, Clinton follows the president across his two terms as he confronted some of the key forces that would shape the future, including partisan political warfare and domestic and international terrorism, and as he struggled with uneven success to define the role of American power in a post-Cold War world. Most memorably, it explores how Clinton's conflicted character made history, even as it enraged his enemies and confounded his friends.

Film Website: Click here

Billy The Kid

Written, Produced and Directed by: John Maggio
Associate Producer: Julia Marchesi
Edited by: George O'Donnell
Director of Photography: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Billy The Kid is a fascinating look at the myth and the man behind it. An outlaw with a deadly reputation, Billy the Kid was gunned down by an ambitious sheriff on July 14, 1881. The felling of one of the most notorious criminals of the age was instantly national news. First demonized by the lawman who killed him, the Kid was soon mythologized by a never-ending stream of dime store romances and big-screen dramas. Billy the Kid features interviews with a wide variety of Western historians and writers, and puts a human face on the legend who in just a few short years transformed himself from a skinny orphan boy to the most feared man in the West to an enduring icon. 

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Football High

Written and Directed by: Rachel Dretzin
Produced by: Rachel Dretzin and Caitlin McNally
Co-Produced and Edited by: Seth Bomse
Camera: Samuel Russell
Original Music: Gary Lionelli

Corporate sponsorships, nationally televised games, minute-by-minute coverage on sports websites -- for players, parents and coaches, high school football has never been bigger. But is enough being done to ensure players' safety as the intensity of the sport grows? In Football High, FRONTLINE investigates the new face of high school football. Football observers and sports journalists alike agree that on average, high school players' size, speed and strength have increased dramatically over the past five to 10 years. At Euless Trinity in Texas, which has been ranked the No. 1 high school team in the country, 18 of the 89 varsity players weigh over 250 pounds. "The ramping up of pressure on high school kids ... and the increase of media attention on high school football, my God, in the last 10 years, it's become like a little NFL," says Gregg Easterbrook, a writer and columnist for ESPN. "If you look at it position by position, you can only compare it to NFL teams," says trainer Kelvin Williams. "It's just crazy. They are huge." FRONTLINE centers its investigation in Arkansas, where two players collapsed from heatstroke last year while practicing during one of the hottest summers on record. The players were placed in the same intensive care unit in Little Rock, both having suffered extensive damage to their internal organs. One boy survived, but the other boy died in the hospital three months after his collapse. "There should never, ever be a person [dying] from exertional heatstroke, because it's 100 percent preventable," says Dr. Doug Casa, a leading expert on heatstroke. In the wake of the tragedy in Arkansas, FRONTLINE investigates the differences in the two boys' fates. Only one of the boys' teams had an athletic trainer on staff, which reflects the reality in most of Arkansas: Only 15 percent of the schools in the state have a certified medical professional at games and practices, slightly below the national average. The program also investigates the estimated 60,000 concussions suffered each year by high school football players. In 2010, researchers discovered a degenerative mental disease in the brain of 21-year-old Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide last year -- and had never reported a concussion throughout his football career. Thomas' brain showed evidence of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the same mental degenerative disease rampant in the brains of NFL players with serious mental problems. "It has totally changed what I thought about this game," says VA researcher Dr. Ann McKee. "Anybody who's playing the game, this could happen; this could be the result."

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My Lai

Written, Produced and Directed by: Barak Goodman
Edited by: Nancy Novack
Associate Producer: Jamila Ephron
Camera: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Joel Goodman

What drove a company of American soldiers--ordinary young men from around the country--to dehumanize and murder more than 300 unarmed civilians? Were they "just following orders," as some later declared? Or did they break under the pressure of vicious war in which the line between enemy soldier and civilian had been intentionally blurred? Today, as the United States once again finds itself questioning the morality of actions taken in the name of war, Barak Goodman focuses his lens on the 1968 My Lai massacre, its subsequent cover-up, and the heroic efforts of the soldiers who broke rank to halt the atrocities. My Lai draws upon the eyewitness accounts of Vietnamese survivors and the men of Charlie Company and recently discovered audio recordings from the Peers Inquiry to recount one of the Vietnam War's darkest chapters. On the morning of March 16, 1968, a company of American soldiers entered the village of My Lai, located in Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam. Frustrated by their inability to directly engage the enemy and emotionally devastated by the ongoing casualties their unit had sustained, the men had been told that this was their chance to finally meet the Viet Cong head on. By the end of the day, they had shot and killed between 300 and 507 unarmed and unresisting men, women and children, none of them apparently members of the enemy forces. Most of the survivors hid under the dead bodies of their families and neighbors. The incident, subsequently known as the My Lai Massacre, would only come to light more than a year later, when shocking photos of the atrocities were splashed across the pages of national newsmagazines and the evening newscasts, further eroding public support for the war in Vietnam. The U.S. Army commissioned an investigation, eventually charging over 20 men of wrongdoing. The commission concluded that there had been widespread failures of leadership, discipline and morale. On March 29, 1971, Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison, causing a firestorm of public outcry. Anti-war Americans saw Calley as a scapegoat for a corrupt military; those in favor saw him as a dedicated soldier who had only been carrying out orders. Public sentiment overwhelmed the White House, and President Nixon ordered Calley released and confined to his quarters pending a review of his conviction. In total, he ended up serving four and a half months in a military prison. Captain Medina was acquitted, having denied that he gave any orders for the massacre. None of the other military men initially charged were ever convicted. My Lai had a lasting impact on a war-weary American public. Demands for withdrawal from Vietnam continued to grow, while others questioned the idea of blind loyalty to military leadership, the effectiveness of a military draft for finding suitable recruits, and the wisdom of a war whose success was measured on the nightly news by body counts. Today, the My Lai Massacre is still considered the worst case of an American war atrocity.

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Faces of America

Produced and Directed by: John Maggio, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, Sue Williams, Stephen Ives and Amanda Pollak
Senior Producers: Barak Goodman and Sue Williams
Editors: Ed Barteski, Jr, Joanna Kiernan, Merril Stern, and George O'Donnell
Co-Producer (Episode 1): Julia Marchesi
Coordinating Producer: Stephen Altobello
Associate Producers: Konstantinos Kambouroglou, Titi Yu and Lindsey Megrue
Camera: Stephen McCarthy and Sam Shinn
Original Music: Michael Bacon

What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Building on the success of his series African American Lives (called by The New York Times "the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time,") and African American Lives 2, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. again turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of twelve renowned Americans. Our American Stories - Episode One explores the dynamic and shifting relationship America had with her new immigrants in the 20th century. World war tore apart families; and sundered the fabric of many lives; but America beckoned and millions came. Yet, America was an ambivalent host. At its best, a place of refuge and salvation, as for film director Mike Nichols whose entire family escaped Nazi Germany. At its worst, a country that would imprison two generations of Japanese Americans, like the ancestors of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. Along the way, we'll discover the buoyant American optimism that shaped chance - as in a single encounter that changed cellist Yo-Yo Ma's life forever - to pave the road to success. Becoming American - Episode Two explores the many journeys to becoming American that defined the "Century of Immigration" (1820s - 1924) and transformed the United States from a sleepy agrarian country into a booming industrial power. Stephen Colbert's Irish great-great-grandfather escaped poverty and religious oppression in Limerick and never looked back, whereas Mario Batali's great-grandfather, who left the place where his family had lived for centuries, struggled to survive in the quartz mines of Montana. Her Majesty Queen Noor's Syrian great-grandfather quickly found his footing in New York's first Arab American community, while Kristi Yamaguchi's grandfather faced exclusionary laws and racially-defined barriers to citizenship for decades. The obstacles, short-cuts, tragedies and successes encountered or created by the guests' ancestors from around the world reveal the complexity of our shared history and identity as Americans. Making America - Episode Three tells the story of the peopling of the New World, of how land came to define the settling and identity of America, and of how the guests' ancestors were part of this history. We discover descriptions of Meryl Streep's eighth great-grandfather who fought in Metacom's War; records of a land dispute in Spain that pushed Eva Longoria's ancestors to leave for the New World; a treaty that Louise Erdrich's Native American ancestor was forced to sign; and Yo-Yo Ma's family genealogy in China, which gives insights into his identity he has longed for his whole life. Know Thyself - Episode Four takes up the search for the guests' ancestries where the historical record leaves off and links their distinctive family histories to the broader history of "the family of man." Combining the documented stories of some of the guests' last known ancestors with DNA evidence, the series travel backward through time to reveal both distant relatives and surprising shared ancestral connections. Elizabeth Alexander learns that she is a direct descendent of Charlemagne, and that her paternal roots are not only European, but Jewish. Meryl Streep and Mike Nichols discover that they are distant cousins, as do Yo-Yo Ma and Eva Longoria. Interwoven with these stories and others is the journey of the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he and his father and brother undertake an historic project to have their entire genomes mapped, and thereby to learn everything they possibly can about their own family. This episode offers a compelling and thought-provoking meditation on the importance of ancestry, the meaning of family and the role of both in creating identity.

 

Film Website: Click here

Digital Nation

Produced and Directed by: Rachel Dretzin
Written by: Douglas Rushkoff and Rachel Dretzin
Correspondents: Douglas Rushkoff and Rachel Dretzin
Edited by: R.A. Fedde
Co-Producer: Caitlin McNally
Associate Producer: Jeffrey Irvine
Directors of Photography: Sam Shinn and Stephen McCarthy
Camera: Samuel Z. Russell
Original Music: Joel Goodman

Digital Nation is a new, open source PBS project that explores what it means to be human in an entirely new world -- a digital world. It consists of a Web site as well as a 90-minute FRONTLINE documentary. Our production team posted rough cuts and raw footage on the web for a year leading up to the broadcast, gathering input, feedback and stories from users along the way. Within a single generation, digital media and the World Wide Web have transformed virtually every aspect of modern culture, from the way we learn and work to the ways in which we socialize and even conduct war. But is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained? In Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier, FRONTLINE presents an in-depth exploration of what it means to be human in a 21st-century digital world. Continuing a line of investigation she began with the 2008 FRONTLINE report Growing Up Online, award-winning producer Rachel Dretzin embarks on a journey to understand the implications of living in a world consumed by technology and the impact that this constant connectivity may have on future generations. "I'm amazed at the things my kids are able to do online, but I'm also a little bit panicked when I realize that no one seems to know where all this technology is taking us, or its long-term effects," says Dretzin. Joining Dretzin on this journey is commentator Douglas Rushkoff, a leading thinker and writer on the digital revolution -- and one-time evangelist for technology's positive impact. "In the early days of the Internet, it was easy for me to reassure people about what it would mean to bring digital technology into their lives," says Rushkoff, who has authored 10 books on media, technology and culture. "Now I want to know whether or not we are tinkering with something more essential than we realize."

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Looking For Lincoln

Produced and Directed by: John Maggio and Muriel Soenens
Senior Producer: Barak Goodman
Edited by: R.A. Fedde
Associate Producers: Konstantinos Kambouroglou and Ben Robbins
Camera: Stephen McCarthy
Original Music: Joel Goodman

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels the country in search of the "real" Abraham Lincoln in this ground breaking two hour television special. The film shows how the Lincoln legend grew out of controversy, greed, love, clashing political perspectives, power struggles, and considerable disagreement over how our 16th president should be remembered. Gates' quest to piece together Lincoln's complex life takes him from Illinois to Gettysburg to Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and beyond and face-to-face with people who live with Lincoln every day – relic hunters, re-enactors, and other surprising guests for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion. Public media provider WNET.ORG is playing a major role in the nationwide Lincoln Bicentennial celebration in 2009 with LOOKING FOR LINCOLN, an unprecedented two-hour broadcast, online, and outreach project that explores the life and legacy of the man widely considered one of our best and most enigmatic presidents. The documentary, presented and written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.(African American Lives, Oprah's Roots), addresses many of the controversies surrounding Lincoln – race, equality, religion, politics, and depression – by carefully interpreting evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today. Among those weighing in: Pulitzer Prize winners Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner; presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; and Lincoln scholars including Harold Holzer, vice chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; Harvard University's president Drew Faust and history professor David Hebert Donald; Yale University history professor David Blight; and Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College. Former Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett challenges Lincoln's record on race; writer Joshua Shenk talks about Lincoln's depression; and New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik illuminates how Lincoln's words changed the course of history.

Film Website: Click here