East of the River is a short coming-of-age film about Teonna, a teenage girl, who is unexpectedly suspended from school and is faced with figuring out what to do with a day on the streets of the nation’s capital. Created in collaboration with local high schoolers, East of the River highlights the experiences of young students of color as they navigate Washington, D.C.'s overburdened public school system.
We launched under the Projects of Earth campaign, a group of projects that offer unique perspectives on humanity, culture, and life on Earth. East of the River reveals a day in the life of youth pushed out of the very institutions that we expect to help them flourish, and shows how, despite a disproportionate amount of obstacles placed on these young people’s paths, they still find ways to educate themselves and grow amidst a glaring absence of social and economic opportunities to pursue the lives they want to lead.
We couldn’t be more excited to make this film and need your support in bringing it to life. We made the decision to go all or nothing on a Kickstarter campaign because we believe East of the River features untold stories that deserve to be heard. Every contribution will help us to extend this project beyond the screen and into a tool to open up a critical dialogue and bring attention to the very real experiences of teens in the United States.
EAST OF THE RIVER AT A GLANCE
Genre: Coming of Age, Narrative
Expected Running Time: 15 minutes
Production Dates: October 6-10
Filming Location: Washington, D.C.
Tone: This film is backgrounded by harsh circumstances, but inside of the world of the young characters, there is playfulness, wonder, and all the humorous, awkward, lovable things that are a part of coming-of-age stories.
Five Feet High and Rising (2000) dir. Peter Sollett (short)
The Florida Project (2017) dir. Sean Baker (feature)
Heaven Knows What (2014) dir. Josh and Benny Sadie (feature)
WHY TELL THIS STORY, NOW
This is a story we have not heard: East of the River takes place in parts of the nation's capital that rarely receive coverage in media, yet we believe if heard, would resonate deeply with a wide audience. We are choosing to highlight the experiences of young, black female and gender non-conforming students and to cast actual DC youth attending public schools.
To expand the school-to-prison pipeline dialogue: In Monique Morris' book “Pushout,” she explains that “black girls are 16% of the student population, but nearly one-third of all girls referred to law enforcement and more than one-third of all female school-based arrests." East of the River offers a nuanced view of zero-tolerance school discipline practices that too often funnel students into the delinquency/criminal systems.
Film Should Be Inclusive: Movies belong to everyone, but not everyone’s story gets featured. Low-income neighborhoods and the people who live in them are not often portrayed with dignity and instead are often represented through violence and two-dimensional characters. We wanted to make this a narrative fiction film because we believe that gives audiences a chance to share in the experience of young people pushed out of schools rather than to see them as stark statistics.
To make is to take action: If you’ve read this far, there is a good chance we are on the same page in saying that the current political situation is really scary. Action can come in all forms, including the way we represent people, places, and circumstances in media. By contributing to this film, we entirely count you as collaborators in this effort.
OTHER WAYS TO CONTRIBUTE
One of the best ways to help us is by posting a link to this Kickstarter page [https://tinyurl.com/Eastoftheriverfilm] on Facebook, Twitter, or any of your favorite social networks and even by emailing someone you think might be interested in backing East of the River. Thank you!
Sample Facebook Post: Friends! Check out @EastoftheRiverfilm and be a part of bringing this untold story about teens coming of age in present day DC to the big screen! https://tinyurl.com/Eastoftheriverfilm #eastoftheriverfilm
Sample Tweet: What does a day in the life look like for teens pushed out of the public school system? @EastRiverFilmDC on Kickstarter https://tinyurl.com/Eastoftheriverfilm
MEET OUR CAST
Our method of casting has been essential to the making of East of the River. We decided to hit the streets of DC to find real youth to collaborate with. East of the River is about individuals whose opportunities have been taken away from them, and it was important to us to give opportunities back to DC teens. That means providing paid opportunities, giving in-depth acting workshops, and hands on experience on a professional set.
Ayiana T. Davis will be playing Teonna. Ayiana is a sophomore in the music dept. at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in DC. What we love about Ayiana is her intuitive grasp on the character, her inquisitiveness and readiness to collaborate.
Steloni Mason will be playing Sara. Steloni was born and raised in the DC area. She is an upcoming senior this year and recently started a business called Paws n Found. While she is an entrepreneur in school, she has always had a huge dream of becoming a big time actress and model.
Malachi Mack will be playing Malik. Malachi is 14 and loves to sing and meet new people. Malachi was one of the first people we auditioned and we have adored his charisma, sense of self and fashion, and humor ever since.
MEET OUR TEAM
Writer/ Director Hannah Peterson completed her BFA at the New School in New York where she studied documentary and experimental film theory. She worked as an apprentice to Alex Gibney on the feature documentary Going Clear, the Amazon series the New Yorker Presents, and the Netflix series Cooked prior to coming to California. Additionally, she served as a staff member for the 2015 Flaherty Film Seminar. Most recently she worked with writer and director Sean Baker on his forthcoming feature, The Florida Project which had it’s world premiere at Cannes Director’s Fortnight and was recently acquired by A24. She also worked with Baker on his award winning short film, Snowbird. In addition, she has worked in various roles such as cinematographer, AD, and producer in several short films. Currently, Hannah is completing her MFA in Film Directing at the California Institute of the Arts, School of Film/Video.
Co-Writer Stacey Eunnae is a Clinical Instructor and Supervising Attorney in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC- DCSL). Prior to joining UDC-DCSL, Stacey worked for two years as a staff attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. where she provided direct advocacy and support to more than 150 students and their families on critical cases involving educational placements, and she successfully represented clients in school discipline hearings before charter school boards and administrative law judges. Stacey has testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Education on legislative and policy matters and she has conducted multiple community trainings on representing families in school discipline cases. Stacey received her bachelor's degree in Women Studies at the College of William & Mary, and her Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Executive Producer Nasreen Alkhateeb is an award-winning Producer / Director, whose content has broadcast internationally for over 11 years. By motivating audiences, and empowering new voices, Nasreen thrives as a leader on diverse storytelling projects that include broadcast, digital, and film.
Nasreen has curated and created original content for NASA, BBC, NPR, The Atlantic, UNITED NATIONS, TED, SXSW, AMC, Coachella, Discovery Networks, American Film Institute, and IFC Films. In 2016, Nasreen was awarded Cinematographer of the Year by NASA.
Creative Producer Sinah Ober was born in Germany’s Black Forest to a carpenter and a tailor. She recently received her MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Last fall she participated in the 2016 Telluride Student Symposium and taught a semester long seminar class, Social Media and Storytelling, at CalArts.
Sinah has worked on over 40 short films. Her films as a director have screened at several venues, including the Student Experimental Film Festival at SUNY, the International Academic Video Festival in São Paulo, and the International Kansk Video Festival in Russia, among others. She is the producer of numerous short films, including The Sacred Disease and The Creature, and her films as a producer have recently screened at the Viennale, Portland Film Festival, Baltimore Film Festival, and elsewhere. Blanco Orejinegro will be her first feature.
Director of Photography Christopher Messina is a filmmaker and cinematographer, making experimental, narrative, and documentary films. His work has been programmed in festivals and galleries around the world. His feature film credits include For The Plasma (dir. Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan), If There's A Hell Below (dir. Nathan Williams), and the documentary features The New Radical, and Hot Sugar's Cold World (dir. Adam Bhala Lough). His recent short film work includes Dear Renzo (dir. Agostina Gálvez and Francisco Lezama), Dead Water (dir. Andrew Gilchrist), and The Clean Up (dir. Jesse Allen). Additionally, his work as a camera operator can be seen in Josh and Benny Safdie's Heaven Knows What and Good Time, which recently had it’s world premiere at Cannes. Chris also writes and directs films, including Beijing which won the first prize for best documentary short at the Rhode Island Film Festival.
Assistant Director Ryan Daniel Browne is an Australian-American filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is a musician and has directed over a dozen music videos. His most recent narrative film, Napalm, was successfully funded through a crowdfunding campaign, and explores teenage friendship, violence, and pyromania. It will be released in late 2017. Ryan recently received his MFA in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
Mentor Juan Pablo González, named one of the Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for 2015, is an emerging Mexican filmmaker whose work includes documentary, fiction and experimental films. His work and collaborations have screened at film festivals such as Cannes, Locarno, IDFA, Edinburgh, Slamdance, Morelia, Full Frame, among others. He has been a grantee of the Mexican National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA), the Austin Film Society, and received a Jesse H Jones Fellowship for his thesis project at the University of Texas at Austin. Juan Pablo currently teaches at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the MFA in Film Directing.
Advisor Sean Baker is a writer/director known for the Spirit Award nominated films Take Out (2004), Prince of Broadway (2008) and Starlet (2012) (winner of the Robert Altman Spirit Award). His film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released by Magnolia Pictures in the United States. Baker’s most recent film, The Florida Project premiered at Cannes Director’s Fortnight and will be distributed by A24. He is also one of the creators of the long running comedy television show entitled Greg the Bunny (2005) and its spin-off Warren the Ape (2010).
Advisor Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas has over 20 years of direct legal experience working in the DC's legal services community. She is currently the Executive Director for Advocates for Justice and Education where she has spent more than eleven years representing hundreds of parents/students in school discipline, special education and other educational matters. The DC Bar Foundation recently awarded Rochanda the 2017 Jerrold Scoutt Prize to honor her career-long compassionate concern for her clients while exhibiting a high degree of skill representing them. Rochanda is a native Washingtonian and graduate of a DC public high school, as well as the proud mother of four children who attend a public school in DC.
Our Youth Advisory board is group of DC youth that will meet a total of 3 times before production to assist in the research process in order to ensure that the plot and characters are an honest representation of teenagers growing up in the DC Public School system.
Music Supervisors Brandon Barnhart and Joseph Pollari are LA based visual artists and musicians.
WHAT YOUR FUNDS HELP SUPPORT
Your support will make it possible for us to work at the standard expected at A-list film festivals. Your support will help us fund equipment rentals, insurance costs, location fees, compensating the cast and crew, post-production and distribution.
East of the River has the support of the California Institute of the Arts where Hannah is studying for her Masters in Fine Arts, and they will help us get a good amount of the equipment and insurance. Now we need your help to complete our finance plan. Please give what you can, share our links, and help us reach our goal. Every little bit helps!
Contributions made to Kickstarter count towards our all-or-nothing goal. However, they are not tax-deductible. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so through one of our fiscal sponsors.
Please contact us here if you wish to make a tax free donation.
(Note: donations made outside of Kickstarter will not count toward our all-or-nothing goal but are very much appreciated!)
Risks and challenges
Films are unpredictable, and production is inherently a risky game, we’re also doing some pretty unconventional things like casting real high schoolers in D.C. and filming in the nation’s capital. But, we’ve worked hard to put together an all-star production team that is equipped and dedicated to bringing it into fruition, not to mention a board of advisors including faculty members, personal heroes, and scholars who are keeping us accountable.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)