Story & Pictures By
A documentary about the power and reach of children's picture books.
Story & Pictures By
A documentary about the power and reach of children's picture books.
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, November 23 2019 3:00 AM UTC +00:00.
"Proclamation: We are tired of hearing the picture book is in trouble, and tired of pretending it is not.” – Mac Barnett, “A Picture Book Manifesto”
Story & Pictures By is a feature-length documentary from Emmy®-nominated director Joanna Rudnick exploring the power and reach of children's picture books through the lens of three of today's most original authors/illustrators: Mac Barnett, Christian Robinson, and Yuyi Morales.
Uniquely created for children and reflective of the social and historical time through their eyes, picture books are in the midst of a Golden Age, eschewing traditionally "kid-friendly" narratives and pushing for more diverse perspectives; yet there is still a long way to go—of the characters represented in children’s picture books in 2018, only 10% were African American, 7% Asian, 5% Latinx, and 1% American Indian, according to statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).
Our society is increasingly polarized, and children are exposed to frightening news stories about everything from the climate crisis to mass shootings. They need tools to make sense of these realities. Picture books are one of those tools and they are also addressing an overwhelming need for the creation of empathy and for the exposure to a multitude of creators, viewpoints, cultures, and experiences.
Research continues to show that one of the most important determining factors in the trajectory of a child’s life is whether or not literacy is established at a young age. A 2015 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.
Picture books are the stories that put our kids to bed at night. They instill a love of storytelling; they teach visual, auditory, written, and emotional literacy; and they provide space and agency for children to better understand themselves and the world.
Story & Pictures By explores the raw power of children’s picture books to foster literacy and spark creativity, and to foment a more empathetic and diverse portrait of the world and our society in the minds of the next generation of its citizens.
The documentary is about halfway through production and is seeking $40,000 in funds to continue production in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020.
MEET CHRISTIAN, MAC, AND YUYI
Christian Robinson creates worlds made of collage and paint, where children of every skin color, faith, and ability co-exist, whether they are in a big city or in a make-believe world. When Christian grew up, he didn’t see many children like him—African-American, raised by his grandmother in a crowded apartment—in children’s picture books or popular media targeted to children. His work is among those driving a more diverse collection of children’s narratives that aren’t as much about the biopic as they are about universal themes of belonging, comfort, friendship, connection, and identity. Through his work, Christian is also beginning to share his personal experience of growing up with a mother addicted to crack, who was in and out of jail, and his struggle to read and discover a sense of self. He is on a journey to overcome his past and integrate into his work so that children not only recognize their physical selves, but their experiences of growing up in worlds that have never been fodder for children’s books. Until now.
Mac Barnett is a New York Times best-selling author. He is a master of narrative, and a champion of mischief, pranks, humor, and experimentation in children's literature. Following in the footsteps of authors from the first Golden Age, like Maurice Sendak and Margaret Wise Brown, he rejects the notion of moralistic, preachy stories, tidy endings, and talking down to children. "If they are not less than adults," he says, "why should their art form be less than adult literature?" Mac explores what it means to expel the adult perspective of what childhood is or should be, and to instead write purely for children.
Yuyi Morales fell in love with picture books after immigrating to the United States in her twenties. She crossed the bridge in Juarez carrying her newborn son. The library was a refuge for her isolation—the place where she and her son learned a new language and where she found her voice and a sense of purpose. In direct response to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the 2016 election, Yuyi created the children’s book Dreamers to share her personal immigrant story as well as to celebrate the culture that immigrants both leave behind and bring with them when they migrate across borders. Yuyi’s new book will take place along the U.S./Mexico border (more on this below).
A Reading of Mac Barnett's Picture Book Manifesto
As a filmmaker, a human, and a parent of two children, it’s hard not to feel at times that childhood is under siege. When I see my kids come home from active shooter drills or hear the rhetoric they pick up on the playground, I am reminded of the importance of art to help us make sense of a world that can feel beyond our grasp and out of control.
The team behind Story & Pictures By believes that children's books, and especially picture books, are foundational in a child's development and understanding of themselves and the world. We all read picture books at some point in our lives and have a treasured few that still evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia, yet we have little understanding of their unique role and impact.
Living in a society inundated by digital screens and the 24-hour news cycle, picture books offer safe spaces for children and adults to come together, have a digital time-out, ask questions, have difficult conversations, and perform the theater of reading together.
As we enter another Golden Age of picture books, where we are truly creating a more diverse canon, we want to be there to tell the stories of the authors and illustrators who are behind it while it is actually happening. Our children and our society need it!
We have had a wonderful community around us supporting the film with encouragement and ideas since its inception. It’s a film that people immediately get and want to be a part of because of a shared love and appreciation for picture books. They are treasured, timeless, and they are impacting the lives of children.
We need our community more than ever at this moment. We are past the halfway point of production, but we cannot move forward with production without additional funds, and so we are making our first ask for financial support. Raising funding for films is a lengthy process and while we are doing that through more traditional channels as well, we need to find a way to raise funds more immediately so we do not miss critical events that won’t wait for us. This brings us to Kickstarter and to you.
Here is what YOU can make possible when you help us reach our goal of $40,000!
We are looking for funds to support the continuation of production in the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020. We don’t want to miss out on capturing the evolving stories of Yuyi, Christian, and Mac. This includes following Yuyi as she creates her next book about the wildlife living along the U.S./Mexico border, Christian as he works on his most personal book to date, and Mac as he travels the country meeting with authors/illustrators from previous eras and releases new books.
Specifically, your production support would cover:
- Travel and transportation
- Crew (cinematographer and audio recordist)
- Equipment Rental
Interested in learning more about what we're up to next? Your support will allow us to film the following:
Follow Yuyi's New Book: Bright Star
Yuyi is working against a Fall 2019 deadline to complete her new picture book, which takes place in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, and tells the story of the wildlife that lives there. Yuyi will travel to the border region where she will meet with local wildlife scientists and conservationists who are studying the impact of the border wall on the local ecosystem, and activists who are supporting migrants and border communities. We aim to be alongside her as she illustrates and releases this timely new book.
Christian Releases Second Authored Book
We will follow Christian as he releases his second authored picture book, which takes the audience on a journey from the smallest creatures to the largest universe (think Eames’ Powers of Ten) and leaves us feeling that no matter how small or alone we feel, at the end of the day, we all matter. Christian will also be embarking on illustrating his next collaboration with Matt de la Peña, which addresses a topic that makes this one of his most personal books to date. We want to be there when Christian makes the first sketches!
Hear from the Greats
In the winter of 2020, we hope to travel with Mac as he visits some of the pioneers of children’s literature to capture conversations with the likes of Jon Scieszka (who inspired Mac to be a children’s book author) and many more, and to learn the evolution of the picture book from first-hand accounts.
Joanna Rudnick, Director & Producer
Joanna Rudnick is an Emmy®-nominated director and producer. In her directorial debut In the Family (POV|PBS), produced by Kartemquin Films, she told her personal story about coming to terms with learning that she had the BRCA1 gene that greatly increases a woman’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The film was the first to cover the world of predictive genetic testing via a vérité treatment, and was screened as part of the successful effort to pass the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) as well as challenge gene patenting, a case that went to the Supreme Court. Her producing credits include: Kartemquin Films’ Bill T. Jones: A Good Man (American Masters|PBS); Crossfire Hurricane, a documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones(HBO); and Robert Capa in Love and War (PBS,BBC) which premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was the presenting film for the 2003 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series among others.
Robin Mortarotti, Director of Photography
Robin Mortarotti is an award-winning filmmaker with over thirty-five years experience as producer and director of photography on feature, documentary, commercial, and promotional films. He has produced numerous international shoots and has earned a C.I.N.E. Golden Eagle, a local Daytime Emmy, and many other awards.
A Death in the Family won Columbia/duPont and Sigma Delta Chi awards for its examination of the effects of television on society and aired as a segment of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS. Enrique’s Story, produced for the California State Library Literacy Services and narrated by James Earl Jones, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Eli Olson, Editor
Eli Olson is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and storyteller. Most recently, Eli had four films she edited selected for 2018’s Mill Valley Film Festival: From Baghdad to the Bay, Time for Ilhan, I Am Maris, and Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Lt. Van Dorn won the Active Cinema Audience Award at MVFF; Baghdad to the Bay won Best Documentary at Cinequest 2018, and Time for Ilhan was an official selection for the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Eli won an Emmy for her work on My Flesh and Blood for HBO films, which also took Best Documentary honors as well as the Audience Award and Best Director prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. She also edited and co-directed Stories from Tohuku, which took the Jury Prize at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and later aired on PBS. Other projects include: Heaven Adores You (2014 SF International Film Festival); 3 Still Standing (2014 Mill Valley Film Festival selection); and Sam Cooke: Crossing Over (2010, PBS’ American Masters), among others.
Emma Hsu Jackson, Associate Producer
Emma Hsu Jackson is a producer, assistant editor, and documentary filmmaker. She has experience producing and editing story-driven content for documentaries, podcasts, non-profit organizations, and political campaigns. Additionally, she produced, shot, and edited a short film for the temporary exhibition Camilla’s Purse at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Story & Pictures By is being produced in association with Kartemquin Films.
We have many exciting rewards to offer! In addition to exclusive updates, behind-the-scenes photos and clips, and a link to stream the film, we have autographed books, posters, prints, original artworks, and more! Check below for further details.
This pin is hard enamel, approx 1.5" tall. Based on "Last Stop on Market Street" by Matt De La Pena & Christian Robinson.
You can also get a signed copy of the poster at the $150 reward level.
The Joanna Super Fan Package includes links to Joanna's past directed films, In the Family and On Beauty, and the forthcoming Story & Pictures By! Please note that our current documentary is still in progress, so backers will receive the links to past films sooner than Story & Pictures By.
This original artwork by Christian Robinson is an early exploration piece he created for his book, Another. Acrylic paint and paper cut-out/collage. Approximately 8 x 5 inches in size.
MORE WAYS TO CONNECT WITH US & SPREAD THE WORD:
Risks and challenges
We hope to bring you a final film in 2021, however, timelines vary depending on access to funding, schedules of the cast and crew, the needs of the narrative, and distribution partners. Because some of our rewards, namely the link to the final documentary, are dependent on the film's completion, we cannot guarantee a delivery date.
Additionally, these funds are going to support production, but we can not guarantee that everything we plan to film as listed on this page will make it into the final film. That is the nature of documentary filmmaking: the true narrative develops in the edit.
What will not change is our commitment to making a powerful film that explores the current climate of today's picture book golden age, the need for diverse stories, and our mission to encourage early literacy and supporting childhood reading.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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