Why We Are Making This Movie
About the Film
It's 1961 in the racially divided South Side of Chicago. Day after day, a white woman drives her big blue Suburban into the black neighborhood that borders her home in wealthy Hyde Park. Onlookers wonder, who is that crazy white lady? As she continues to come down their street the following months and then years, the children playing outside come to know this “crazy lady.” “Sue's here,” they say as she arrives. “There's Sue!”
Sue Duncan came from a life of privilege. Even still, Sue decided to become a teacher. At age 27, after teaching at various schools, a pastor friend asked if she could teach Bible school to nine young black girls. When she discovered that none of them could read, she decided she would start a children's center out of a local church basement and run it out of her own pocket. For the next 50 years, she spent her life at the Sue Duncan Children's Center teaching reading, writing and math as well as broader philosophies on the importance of education and discipline. Multiple generations of families adopted her as a mother figure and she became a mainstay in the lives of thousands of children. In addition, she raised her own biological children at the Center, and all three went on to careers in education themselves—her son Arne is now the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Tragically, in 2011 Sue was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and could no longer work at her Center. It is at this turning point in the Center’s history that the documentary investigates the role Sue plays in the lives of families in Chicago's black communities. The film will document Sue’s memories while she is still capable of cogently telling her story, while following the families and how they are carrying on without her.
For audiences, it will be a moving storyline that profiles the lives of women struggling and overcoming obstacles in a dangerous environment. It will address topics of race, social class, Alzheimer's and education, but also deeper questions such as: What do we do with the time we have? How can one person change so many lives? How do we move on when someone we love is approaching the end? Ultimately, the film demonstrates how one person made a difference, and will keep making a difference for these people even after she is gone.
An Edited Scene from the Film
The scene gives a raw look into Sue's personality and how her illness has changed life at the Center by contrasting the Christmas party of 2010 (before Sue's retirement) with 2011 (after 4 months of Sue's absence from the Center). It demonstrates the style of the film—the way interviews will be mixed with live action shots, the way we will depict a scene with establishing shots and b-roll—and how deep some of her relationships with the families goes. The conversation Sue has with Nicki is a teaser into what types of issues Sue has dealt with. In a longer movie, we would see previously shot footage of Nicki's children.
We are about 25% done with shooting our movie. We have a lot of footage from the past, now we need to capture the stories of the featured families and work on editing it all into a cohesive and moving storyline. If we make our fundraising goal, here is what the money will be used for:
- Hiring an editor to determine the best plan for shooting going forward and formulating a general structure for the movie
- Funding a shoot in Washington, D.C. to interview Sue's son and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan
- Funding several shoots over the next few months to interview Michelle Gordon in Chicago and one of the families in their home
- Funding initial editing and shooting costs for the footage already captured
- Hiring an associate producer to continue fundraising efforts with larger grants
We are so grateful that you have taken the time to read about our project. This is really something we feel needs to be done and we are determined to make Remember Me Sue a worthy and touching film. Please note that our funding goal is only meant to get us through the initial work needed to be done. Any extra funds that are raised beyond our goal will help tremendously with continuing our work beyond that point. Any amount you can give (or friends you can pass this along to) will help with this endeavor. Thank you for your support.
Risks and challenges
Producing a documentary is always a challenge. A large part of this project involves filming current people and events. For times when something unpredictable happens, we are ready to adapt the storyline. For instance, this summer one of our proposed interviewees, actor Michael Clarke Duncan, tragically died after a heart attack. We will now be interviewing Sue and children's center alumni for their reactions to tell Michael's story. The director is specially trained in journalism to react to quickly changing scenarios and tell whatever story unfolds in the most effective way possible. We are going to work our hardest to complete the film by the summer of 2014, but please bear in mind the unpredictability of documentary filmmaking and its production demands.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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