Dark clouds hang over the vast cornfields of Storm Lake, Iowa, which has seen its fair share of change in the 40 years since Big Agriculture came to town. Farmers blow their life savings on new equipment they hope will keep their livelihoods intact. Migrant workers flock here—welcome and not—for their slice of the American Dream. State and county politicians make compromises to appease growing commercial interests. The people of Storm Lake confront a changing community as corporate, political and environmental forces threaten to overwhelm their already precarious existence.
Enter: 62-year-old Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Art Cullen and his family-run newspaper, The Storm Lake Times. Day-in and day-out, the Cullens deliver the hard facts and biting editorials on a shoestring budget for their 3,000 readers. By hook or by crook, they’ll fight to preserve the communal values and pragmatic lifestyle of the town they call home. More than that, they stand for credible local journalism at large—as the presidential election looms, there’s simply too much at stake.
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JERRY RISIUS, DIRECTOR/DP
With over 25 years experience as a Director of Photography on such projects as GENERATION WEALTH (Sundance 2018), SEEING ALLRED (Sundance 2018/Netflix), BRAVE NEW VOICES (HBO 2009), THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK (Sundance 2007), and more recently, as a Field Producer/DP on ANTHONY BOURDAIN: NO RESERVATIONS and PARTS UNKNOWN series, Risius brings a depth of filmmaking experience along with a local knowledge and perspective that very few can. He grew up on a small hog farm outside Buffalo Center, Iowa, a town of approximately 1,000 people about an hour from Storm Lake, and knows this northwest corner of the state as few do.
BETH LEVISON, PRODUCER/CO-DIRECTOR
Beth Levison is an Emmy and Peabody-winning producer/director based in NYC with a track record of delivering films to public television. Her most recent producing effort, MADE IN BOISE, premiered at the 2019 AFI DOCS film festival and will open the Independent Lens’ 2019/2020 season. Prior to that, Levison produced the Emmy-nominated film PERSONAL STATEMENT (PBS 2018), a feature-length documentary about three high school seniors who fill the college guidance gap in their under-resourced schools. Levison’s additional independent producing credits include 32 PILLS: MY SISTER’S SUICIDE (Director Hope Litoff, HBO 2017), THE TRIALS OF SPRING (Director Gini Reticker, PBS 2019), and her documentary directorial debut LEMON (Co-Director Laura Brownson, PBS 2011). Levison is the founder of Hazel Pictures, a co-founder of the Documentary Producers Alliance (DPA), producing faculty with the School of Visual Arts MFA program in Social Documentary Film, and as of 2019, a member of AMPAS.