About this project
Sunset and the Mockingbird is a feature documentary that tells the love story of legendary jazz pianist Junior Mance and his manager and soulmate, Gloria Clayborne Mance.
As Junior loses his mind to dementia, Gloria is challenged to maintain her husband's personal and professional life without losing her own mind in the process.
Junior Mance has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington and Charlie Parker and recorded over 100 albums. His career spans more than 70 years.
In 1997, Junior met Gloria Clayborne at a gig. They married exactly one year later and soon after she became his manager. For 15 years, she says, their life together was perfect.
Then in 2012, Junior had a stroke which led to the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia. Though his musical abilities were untouched, his gradual mental and physical decline has forced Gloria's role as manager, wife and soulmate to take on a whole new meaning.
Now she is tasked with winding down Junior’s legendary career as he loses his identity -- while still, somehow, maintaining her own.
Sunset and the Mockingbird is a celebration of Junior Mance, but also of the love between Gloria and Junior, and of Gloria’s strength in keeping everything going, including herself.
When we began shooting two years ago, even as Junior’s mind was slowly slipping away, he still performed every week and his musical ability remained sharp. He has since incrementally declined, and the film bears witness to how Gloria has adapted to these changes, in ways both heartbreaking and humorous.
We see the hard decisions she must make, her coping mechanisms, and how she and Junior relate and survive the profound loss they are both experiencing in their own ways.
This is a film about dementia but is not a “dementia movie.”
It celebrates jazz, but isn’t a “jazz film." It focuses on an African American couple, but this is not a film explicitly about race, which is far too often a prerequisite for people of color being shown onscreen.
Sunset and the Mockingbird is a love story, pure and complicated.
WHY WE NEED THIS STORY.
There are numerous reasons why this story is timely, relevant and necessary.
Junior is one of the last living jazz legends. His story is critical to jazz, American music, black history and U.S. history.
Gloria and Junior’s story of love and loss is perennially timely. But we so rarely see stories of people of color outside of commentaries on race.
The success of recent films and television shows focusing on people of color is proof that audiences have been clamoring these accounts. This is a document of two people who have shared a life together as their time comes to a close. It is a universal story that deserves to be told.
It’s estimated that as many as 5 million Americans have age-related dementia. The effects of dementia are far-reaching, rippling across families and relationships. Gloria’s strength and endurance offers a portrait that is both moving and inspiring.
There are many films about great men. Some are about the wives of great men. This is not one of those movies.
This movie is about a couple, each of whom has a story that is equally compelling.
Gloria is much more than the proverbial strong woman behind the great man. In order to balance the scales, we are pointedly focusing on Gloria’s perspective and giving weight to her experience.
The inner lives of women are so often ignored, particularly when they are in partnership with someone famous. Gloria’s story is equally as important as Junior’s, and offers much to learn about how to maintain your identity in a role that often asks you to be second.
The film is a testament to her strength, vulnerability and humanity.
PLEASE HELP US TELL THIS IMPORTANT STORY.
WHERE WE ARE NOW.
We began filming in February 2015 and to date have captured over 100 hours of footage, from the intimate world of Gloria and Junior’s apartment, to Junior’s final public concert, and everything in between.
We plan to continue filming until we come to a natural conclusion, but we need to start editing our material now so we can assess what we have and what we need in order to do justice to Gloria and Junior’s story.
Our trailer was edited by Federico Rosenzvit (see bio below). He is an amazing editor who immediately understood the subtleties and complexities of the story, and captured the essence of what our feature documentary will be, and he has signed on to cut the film. Your donation will enable us to begin this process.
HOW YOU CAN HELP.
We’ve set our Kickstarter goal to cover the cost of a three month edit, (plus the 5% charges on funds raised by Kickstarter.) During that time, our editor will be able to watch all of the material we’ve created, collaborate with us to make decisions about future shoots, and create a rough assembly of scenes which we will use for future fundraising and grant applications.
You can help make that happen in two ways:
Donate. Please consider giving whatever you can -- any amount is appreciated.
Share. If you cannot donate, WE GREATLY APPRECIATE (and rely on) you helping spread the word and share this campaign widely.
WHO WE ARE.
JYLLIAN GUNTHER (Director-Producer) is an Emmy‐winning director, writer and producer. She specializes in verité documentary and has a keen interest in exploring the stories of young and old people. Sunset & The Mockingbird is her third feature. Her last film, The New Public, was critically acclaimed, aired on PBS, available on Netflix, Itunes, Amazon, and is distributed by Kino Lorber. It has been added to the collections of libraries at more than 100 educational institutions nationwide. Her first doc, Pull Out, was an official selection of numerous national and international film festivals, also available online. She was Director/Producer for multiple short docs for the JigSaw/New Yorker/Amazon Studios’ series, The New Yorker Presents; she won an Emmy for her work on an PBS educational PSA series. Also for PBS, she directed multiple episodes of the Emmy award‐winning series Postcards from Buster. She was reporter/co‐producer for multiple NPR's This American Life. She was supervising producer/director on multiple episodes of the TLC Emmy‐winning series, Who Do You Think You Are? She runs the production company, Wonderful6, Inc.
ADAM KAHAN (Director-Producer) was the recipient of a NYSCA Individual Artist grant for his latest film - The Case of the Three Sided Dream. The film premiered at the 2014 SXSW film festival, went on to play multiple festivals worldwide, won two Best of Festival awards (LA's Pan African Film Festival and Germany's Soundtrack Cologne), was named one of the top music docs in multiple polls and publications (including Esquire and Downbeat), and was released commercially in 2016. Prior to this, he made a series of notable documentaries on contemporary artists for arts channel Gallery HD. These films were programmed both nationally and abroad, on television and in festivals. Artists Adam profiled for the series include Andres Serrano, Fred Tomaselli, Urs Fischer and others. In addition to his film work, Adam has worked, and continues to work, for various giants in the television industry such as AMC Networks and HBO.
KALI HOLLOWAY (Producer) is Senior Writer and Associate Editor of Media and Culture at progressive news site AlterNet. Previously, she was Director of Outreach and Audience Engagement for the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and the Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. She worked in production and programming on the long-running PBS documentary film series POV. Prior to that, she was speechwriter for a New York City Commissioner and Deputy Director of Communications for the New York State court system. Her writing has appeared in Salon, The Guardian, TIME, Huffington Post, The National Memo, Yahoo! News, Jezebel, Truthout, Raw Story, xoJane, Google Music, Rhapsody and numerous other outlets.
SARIT WORK (Co-Producer) is compelled by strangers and inspired by the variances in our shared experience. Most recently, she was co-producer on the feature documentary The China Hustle, directed by Jed Rothstein for JigSaw Productions and 2929, to be released in the Fall of 2017. She produced several documentary shorts for the Amazon/JigSaw/New Yorker series, The New Yorker Presents. She was the Associate Producer on multiple episodes of the Al Jazeera America series, The Edge of Eighteen, as well as on 48 Hours and Brooklyn DA for CBS News, and on After The First 48 and Find My First Love for A&E Networks. Sarit lives in Brooklyn and can usually be found on a bicycle.
FEDERICO ROSENZVIT (Editor) Federico Rosenzvit is an editor from Buenos Aires, now based in New York, whose work has screened at festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, and Cannes. The most recent feature documentary he edited, "Dancer," was acquired by IFC/Sundance Selects and it's playing theatrically in over 50 countries. " Rosenzvit edited the shorts "Trece Años" and "Laredo, Texas," which premiered both at Sundance. Rosenzvit also edited the documentary feature "When the Drum Is Beating," which had its festival premiere at Tribeca and received the Grand Jury Prize at SilverDocs, as well as the Best Editing Award at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival. He has edited the narrative features "Putzel" and "Booster," which won a special jury award SXSW. A fiction short he edited, “BOY,” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. His commercial work includes clients such as Adidas, St. John, Bottega Venetta, and Calvin Klein. Rosenzvit also edited David Letterman's come back to TV in Season 2 of the Emmy-winning climate change series "Years of Living Dangerously," produced by James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger and collaborated on Fox Searchlight's acquired film "Step", which premiered at Sundance 2017 and has another film premiering at Tribeca where he was a consulting editor.
Risks and challenges
We have completed and self-financed all shoots to date. We’re both able to handle multiple roles -- check out our bios below -- which helps keep costs down. But we feel strongly that the film needs a third eye in the form of an editor to objectively and sensitively approach this story, as Federico has done already with the trailer.
As we mentioned above, we think it’s imperative to begin our editing process now while we are still in production. Our story is a time-sensitive one about human lives that are rapidly changing and, plainly put, we do not know how long Junior will be with us, in mind or in body.
Our challenge is to raise the funds we need to begin the edit right away. Our track record is a testament to our ability to garner support complete our projects and get them into the world. Between us, we have successfully completed numerous short and feature films. Those films went on to be award winning, critically acclaimed and distributed nationally and internationally.
With your help and between us, we know that we will meet our goal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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