Spring, 2011

Kentucky—an American Story: the Land was broadcast on KET on May 24. Many thanks to Executive Director Shae Hopkins, Program Director Craig Cornwell and Producer Matt Grimm of Kentucky Educational Television for making it happen. Our partner on the project is writer/historian/film producer Daniel Blake Smith.

We also want to thank KET for entering our documentary Thoroughbred in the competition for a regional Emmy Award. The film was broadcast on PBS nationally the week before the Kentucky Derby. And we loved presenting it in April to our friends here in Charlottesville at the Paramount Theater, along with the "star" of the film, Arthur Hancock, and his wife Staci.

The other very nice news is that we have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete editing on Heartland Passage, our half-hour documentary about industrial decline along the Erie Canal. This is a project we’ve been working on with longtime friend and colleague Steve Zeitlin at Citylore. The grant was to our non-profit organization, American Focus, Inc. The project is a co-production with Steve’s New York-based non-profit, City Lore. We’ll be doing some archival research and pick-up filming along the canal later this year, then completing the editing in the spring of 2012.


Winter, 2010-2011

We’re happy to announce that we have received an excellent broadcast date for Thoroughbred on PBS—9:00 pm, Thursday, May 5, 2011. That’s two days before Kentucky Derby Day, exactly when you want a documentary about Thoroughbred horse racing to be broadcast! Many thanks to Craig Cornwell of Kentucky Educational Television for setting up the broadcast and distribution of the film with PBS.

We’re completing work on a new program for KET—the first episode of Kentucky – An American Story.  We recorded the narration with Ashley Judd just before Christmas and are delivering the program to KET shortly after New Year’s. Written and Exec Produced by Dan Smith, this first episode examines the complex story of land, what it has done to us and what we have done to it. KET anticipates a spring broadcast. Filming of the second episode, about the people of Kentucky, has been completed; we hope to raise funds to support the editing later in 2011.

We’ve also completed work on a “trailer” for the Legal Aid Justice Center, narrated by John Grisham. The trailer will be used by Alex Gulotta, Susan Kruse and our other friends at the LAJC to raise funds for the proposed half-hour film, entitled Justice Denied, about the challenges faced by low-income people who cannot afford legal representation.

Work continues on two other projects with old friends/colleagues. We filmed several days in November on the Erie Canal film in and around Buffalo, New York, with Steve Zeitlin of City Lore.  And we continue the editing of the Master Craftsmen in the Building Arts film with Margie Hunt of the Smithsonian Institution.

Best wishes in the New Year to all our friends!



Fall, 2010

For Fall of 2010, editing work continues on Master Craftsmen in the Building Arts with Margie Hunt and Kentucky—an American Story with Dan Smith.

Margie, Neil Means and I are editing the various segments of the Craftsmen film. Right now, for example, we’re cutting a scene about adobe craftsman Albert Parra in which he is seen working with a group of his hermanos penitentes replastering a morada in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Dan and I will be recording the Kentucky narration with Ashley Judd in Nashville later this fall and preparing the film for broadcast on Kentucky Educational Television in 2011.

Our big news here in Charlottesville is that Thoroughbred, our feature-length documentary that takes the audience inside the world of big-time horse racing, will receive its East Coast Premier at the Virginia Film Festival. The screening will be on Sunday, November 7 at 1:15 pm in the University of Virginia’s Culbreth Theater.

For ticket information, go to:

Of course, you can learn all about Thoroughbred here on the website at:

Ellen and I hope to see you at the Thoroughbred premier!

Paul Wagner


SUMMER, 2010

Summer, 2010 finds us heavy into editing on two exciting documentary projects—Master Craftsmen in the Building Arts and Kentucky—An American Story.

The Craftsmen film is a collaboration with our longtime friend and colleague Marjorie Hunt. Margie is a folklorist at the Smithsonian Institution, going back to the days when we collaborated on The Stone Carvers, our film that won the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. The new film could be considered a “sequel” to the Stone Carvers. It profiles eight master craftsmen in a range of building arts in various materials, including stone, terra cotta, plaster, metal, glass, paint and adobe.

The Kentucky film is a two hour history of the Bluegrass State (where Paul grew up) narrated by Ashley Judd and co-produced with colleague Dan Smith, former chairperson of the University of Kentucky history department. The film takes an innovative topical approach, suggesting how the state’s history is relevant to the present and how it mirrors the larger American experience.

Both films are slated for completion in 2011.

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