"Best Documentary Feature Film"

Turns out that Waking the Sleeping Giant received the "Best Feature" award at the Thin Line Fest! We are feeling humbled and grateful, and especially appreciative of the many people who worked on the crew or contributed financially. And we are deeply grateful to the many, many folks who allowed us into their lives to film, or sat down for interviews, or helped us make crucial connections.

And just as importantly, we are pleased because we feel so strongly that these are stories in need of telling. This was a great way to begin sharing the film with the world.

Thank you Thin Line Fest (and special thanks to the inimitable Stanton Brasher, the festival's programming director, for taking such good care of us)!

 

Thin Line Fest: Travelogue

We can't say enough about our time in Denton, Texas. The Thin Line Fest team was terrific and super friendly and did a great job with the festival. Everyone we met in Denton, including other filmmakers, festival-goers, and random Denton residents, were super friendly as well. The festival itself was loaded with great films and music. It was a perfect festival for our U.S. (and world) premiere.

And what a premiere it was! Amy Goodman joined by Facetime and offered an enthusiastic introduction to the film. The theater itself was a gorgeous mid-century art house, and Sleeping Giant looked and sounded really, really good. The large audience (despite the late 9pm start time) seemed genuinely moved, we had a bunch of engaged questions during the Q&A, and the entire time afterward at the festival afterward people kept talking to us about the film.

We couldn't have asked for a better premiere - thank you Thin Line and Denton!

 

 

"UVM Faculty Member to Release Documentary on Resurgent Progressive Movement"

Today's University of Vermont press release about the film:

University of Vermont Professor Jon Erickson has never been a fan of the status quo. 

As an ecological economist, his national and international scholarship has challenged the core assumptions of mainstream economics. As a social entrepreneur, he has helped build interdisciplinary research-to-action collaborations between reluctant academic, government and civil society partners. Now as an up-and-coming independent filmmaker, he’s gauging the strength a new era of progressive politics in America he thinks may be waking at just the right moment to seed the social movement of a generation.

“Waking the Sleeping Giant: the Making of a Political Revolution” is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the growing strength of the American progressive movement. Erickson wrote, directed and filmed the documentary over the last three years with former Senate staffer Jacob Smith, veteran political consultant Kathryn Goldman, and a team of cinematographers from around the country.

The film will be released on April 19 when it opens the Thin Line Fest in Denton, Texas, followed on May 11 by an international premiere at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver in the event's “Spotlight on Troublemakers” series. A Vermont premiere is in the works for late May and a screening is planned for the People’s Summit in Chicago in June, an annual gathering of thousands of progressive activists.

The film is structured around the arc of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid, beginning in January 2015 before Sanders had officially announced his candidacy, following him to the Iowa caucuses and through the primary campaign to the Democratic National Convention in July 2016.

Along the way, it chronicles the elements of a re-energized progressive movement in America through personal stories of struggle for democractic principles and reform, including Black Lives Matter activists in Los Angeles fighting institutionalized racism in the police force; a grassroots political candidacy of a West Virginian rising from generational poverty against all odds to run for state office; and a wave of progressive activism among Millennials to protect voting rights and confront the corrupting influence of money in politics head on.  

The film features interviews with notable progressive thinkers and commentators, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Dream Corps co-founder Van Jones, Democracy Now!’s host Amy Goodman, and host and founder of The Young Turks Cenk Uygur. Rising voices in the progressive movement appear along the way, including Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, and key players in the Sanders “Political Revolution” such as The People for Bernie’s Winnie Wong and Becky Bond and Zack Exley, co-authors of the new book Rules for Revolutionaries.

Erickson, who crisscrossed the country making the film, says it was a “crash course in the state of American politics,” but also a reminder that, “we are a democracy that still aspires to care for and love our neighbors, all our neighbors and all our communities.” He witnessed firsthand, “the insurgency of the Sanders campaign on first principles of justice and respect that we should take to heart against a backdrop of a two-party system that has lost touch with basic grade-school lessons on the aspirations of American democracy.”

The core filmmaking team also includes Smith, former senior adviser to Sen. Sanders and former mayor of Golden, Colorado; Goldman, a campaign consultant in Idaho who helps progressive candidates campaign in red states; Brad Johanson, nine-time Emmy award-winning editor; and Erickson’s son Jon as director of photography. 

Erickson has collaborated on eight documentary films in the past with Vermont-based non-profit Bright Blue EcoMedia as a producer and cinematographer, including the Emmy award-winning PBS series “Bloom” on the problem and solutions to Lake Champlain pollution. He is the David Blittersdorf Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and fellow of UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment.

"Documentary about Sanders, left-leaning activists gets world premiere at Denton's Thin Line Fest"

In today's Denton Record-Chronicle:

Filmmaker Jacob Smith said the crew behind Waking the Sleeping Giant wasn't sure what kind of movie they were making back in 2014.

"When we started, it was clear something important was happening," Smith said. "I was working for Bernie [Sanders] when this started. He was doing these town hall meeting that were incredibly well-received. ... But it was more than that, bigger than that. In red states, we were seeing minimum wage initiatives pass at the polls. And in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chevron basically bankrolled a city council election, and they lost and lost in a major way."

Waking the Sleeping Giant: The Making of a Political Revolution opens Denton's Thin Line Fest with a world-premiere screening at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.

 

The Sleeping Giant International Premiere: Vancouver!

Big News! Waking The Sleeping Giant's international premiere is at the 16th annual DOXA film festival in Vancouver, Canada on May 11 (with a second screening on the afternoon of May 12).

DOXA is a documentary-only festival, which one participating film director describes as "a mind-feast." Our film is part of DOXA's Spotlight on Troublemakers series, celebrating "people who act up, resist and fight on."

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The entire team is headed to Texas in a couple of weeks for the US premiere at the Thin Line Fest. A lot is happening. Please check out the first teaser for the film that we just posted on our website--and know that you helped make it happen! 

Waking The Sleeping Giant will be screening at The People's Summit in June in Chicago. Some of the remarkable people in the film will be at the summit, including Bernie and Van Jones. Bernie is actually headlining the summit!

Stay tuned for more updates about premieres. A Vermont premiere is in the works now, and we will keep you posted. Follow us on Facebook for the timeliest updates regarding festival happenings and for details about a premiere coming to your town!

The U.S. Premiere: Sleeping Giant Will Open the Thin Line Doc Festival

We have some great news: Waking The Sleeping Giant has been accepted to another film festival, the Thin Line Fest in Denton, Texas.  This is Texas' largest documentary film festival, and it also includes a music and photo festival. 

And we are even more thrilled to announce that our film will be the opening film for the 5-day festival on April 19, 2017. This is our U.S. premiere! We will share more details about this particular festival and others in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Our First Film Festival Acceptance!

We are thrilled to report that Waking The Sleeping Giant has been accepted in to our first film festival!

Details are embargoed until the festival officially announces its selections and we will share them as soon as we are allowed to. Hint: it's a great festival, this spring, in a very fun city!

 

Jon Erickson and Brad Johanson editing like mad in Vermont.

Jon Erickson and Brad Johanson editing like mad in Vermont.

Jacob getting it done in Golden, Colorado.

Jacob getting it done in Golden, Colorado.

Kathryn Goldman reviewing footage in Idaho. 

Kathryn Goldman reviewing footage in Idaho. 

This festival accepted the film based on a rough cut, and the team is feeling a little extra inspiration in the post-production phase with a world premiere locked in.

It's all because of you donors, crew, and volunteers! We absolutely could not have done it without your support. Thank you so much!

It's a Wrap!

"It's a wrap." Those are exciting words for any group of filmmakers and the Waking the Sleeping Giant team was incredibly excited to say them out loud. We have completed production (which is just film-speak for being done with filming)!  

We closed out the production phase of the film with an interview of Slate's insightful chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, filming in Washington, D.C. during the inauguration and the Women's March, and our final day was in Los Angeles at an L.A. police commission meeting.

Producer Jon Erickson interviewing Slate's Jamelle Bouie. January 4, 2017.

Producer Jon Erickson interviewing Slate's Jamelle Bouie. January 4, 2017.

Waking The Sleeping Giant was on the scene at the Women's March on Washington. January 21, 2017.

Waking The Sleeping Giant was on the scene at the Women's March on Washington. January 21, 2017.

Marchers united. Women's March on Washington. January 21, 2017.

Marchers united. Women's March on Washington. January 21, 2017.

We are going back in to the editing suite this week to finish crafting the film!

Thank you to our donors, our crew and volunteers, and our families for believing in this project and stay tuned for more important milestones!

The Home Stretch

Waking The Sleeping Giant is in the final phase of production and we can see the home stretch. We filmed on election night in key locations, and we now have 70 minutes of the film cut! 
 
The November election’s outcome has highlighted how relevant and urgent our film is—the progressive movement must figure out how to move ahead at this critical juncture and our film is documenting the struggle. 
 
Recent interviews include former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, actor and activist Danny Glover, and veteran political organizer and creator of the #FeelTheBern hashtag Winnie Wong. Last week, we filmed an extraordinary meeting of progressive activists from around the country working on where we go from here.

We have started submitting “work in progress” versions of the film to festivals around the country as we close in on the end of production!

Deepest thanks to you all for supporting this important project!

Director/Producer Jacob Smith with Robert Reich at his office, University of CA, Berkeley.

Director/Producer Jacob Smith with Robert Reich at his office, University of CA, Berkeley.

Tim Wilson on the scene in DC at the Hands Off Medicare press conference last week.

Tim Wilson on the scene in DC at the Hands Off Medicare press conference last week.

The crew in DC last week: Kate Williams, Tim Wilson, Jacob and Chris Downing. 

The crew in DC last week: Kate Williams, Tim Wilson, Jacob and Chris Downing. 

Jacob, Danny Glover and sound recordist extraordinaire Chris Downing.

Jacob, Danny Glover and sound recordist extraordinaire Chris Downing.

Winnie Wong discussing the future of the progressive movement beyond 2016. 

Winnie Wong discussing the future of the progressive movement beyond 2016. 

The "Work-in-Progress" Cut

We want to share some exciting news about our documentary film Waking the Sleeping Giant and to ask for your help.

When we started working on the film more than two years ago, we felt that something important was happening across the country even before Bernie announced his historic presidential run. And indeed something remarkable is happening. Bernie’s incredible race established, as Van Jones said to us so eloquently, an elevated set of aspirations across an entire generation of people hungry for big ideas.  Those aspirations will influence our politics for decades. And we’ve been bearing witness to bottom-up movement building all over the country, from Bernie’s campaign to Democracy Spring and Black Lives Matter, to the fight for economic fairness.

Dr. Melina Abdullah, an activist and leader with Black Lives Matter, speaks at the ongoing protest/occupation of Los Angeles City Hall demanding the firing of the police chief in response to repeated police shootings of an unarmed African-Americans.

Dr. Melina Abdullah, an activist and leader with Black Lives Matter, speaks at the ongoing protest/occupation of Los Angeles City Hall demanding the firing of the police chief in response to repeated police shootings of an unarmed African-Americans.

We are now cranking hard on a work-in-progress version for submission to a number of festivals this fall. We’ll continue to film through the fall and complete the final version of the film in December. As soon as we premier the film at a festival in 2017 we’ll hit the road with a festival tour and kick off our outreach campaign, inspiring and engaging some of the many millions who were fired up by Bernie’s race, by one of the remarkable emergent movements like Democracy Spring and Black Lives Matter, or by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to become the first female President. 

Brad and Jacob, getting it done in the editing suite. 

Brad and Jacob, getting it done in the editing suite. 

Because of our relationship with Bright Blue Ecomedia your contribution is tax-deductible, and every dollar you contribute will go to making a great work-in-progress version for festivals this fall and an amazing final version that we premiere next year.

Thanks for your support!

The Movements That Matter

Greetings! Our crew has been busy this month. We interviewed Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!  Goodman, a giant who has been documenting the movements that matter for 20 years, spoke eloquently about the the time we are living in now, the importance of the Sanders Revolution, the other social and political movements happening now, and the value of independent media.

Producer Jon Erickson and journalist Amy Goodman on the set of her award-winning show, Democracy Now! in New York City.

Producer Jon Erickson and journalist Amy Goodman on the set of her award-winning show, Democracy Now! in New York City.

Democracy Spring in DC

Democracy Spring march to the Capitol

Democracy Spring march to the Capitol

Democracy Spring has arrived, and the Waking the Sleeping Giant team were along for the ride. In March we filmed organizers at their home base -- the infamous Pink House in DC -- and then we caught up with them outside Baltimore on their march from the Liberty Bell to the Capitol. On April 11th we joined the rally outside Union Station and marched the last leg to the Capitol where over 400 people where arrested in a mass, peaceful sit-in. The protestors are demanding Congress take action against big money in politics and restrictive voter laws. 

Among those arrested for the first time included Harvard Law School professor and former Democratic presidential candidate Larry Lessig. In the USA Today interview, Lessig quipped, "I'm a law professor. I don't get arrested."  Actress Rosario Dawson summed up the feeling of many sitting-in: "This week, we're taking back our democracy."

Crew member Tim Wilson with Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers.

Crew member Tim Wilson with Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers.

After a week of sit-ins and mass arrests, Democracy Spring joined with Democracy Awakening for a April 17th rally on the National Mall to keep the pressure on Congress.  Our DC crew member Tim Wilson filmed the rally and caught up with some of the activists and reformers we've been interviewing, including United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta.

This spring, democracy is the giant and the people are awakening. 

  

 

Idaho Caucus Makes History

The Waking the Sleeping Giant team filmed Western Tuesday's action in downtown Boise, Idaho, documenting the largest caucus in U.S. history. Thousands of voters waited in line for several hours to vote in the Democratic caucus. Our crew captured an awakening in Idaho, as citizens caucused throughout one of the most conservative states in the nation. Results were not available until early Wednesday morning!

The caucus was full of first-time voters and caucus participants. More than one person we interviewed spoke about the potential impact at the state and local level that this historic turnout could signal for Idaho, as more people become active voters. The Sleeping Giant Wakes!  

Idahoans doing democracy at the 2016 Ada County Democratic presidential caucus, the largest caucus in US history.   

Idahoans doing democracy at the 2016 Ada County Democratic presidential caucus, the largest caucus in US history. 

 

   

Breaking the Poverty Cycle in West Virginia

Inequality, money in politics and a host of other issues are driving people to tackle our problems at the grassroots level -- one community at a time. 

We recently interviewed Sabrina Shrader, a community organizer helping people take back their power in an economy that has left them behind. Sabrina's work with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign was featured in the West Virginia PBS documentary The First 1,000 Days.

She's also speaking out about the vicious cycle of poverty that leaves entire communities in places like McDowell County, West Virginia further and further behind. We first heard about Sabrina when she testified in the US Senate on the impact of poverty on health.

"I was born into a family that was afflicted by domestic violence, child abuse and mental illness," Shrader told the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. "Some say poverty is a death sentence. Frankly, I don't know how many times I have been given that death sentence." (Reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.)

We'll be following Sabrina's work throughout this election year because she is Waking The Sleeping Giant! Check out this short clip from our visit with Sabrina in her hometown in McDowell County, and speaking at a community forum in Charleston.

The Caucus Is Raucus In Colorado

Waking The Sleeping Giant Producer and former Mayor of Golden, Colorado, Jacob Smith, reports from his Super Tuesday caucus at the Golden High School Theatre that the venue is beyond full. Five hundred people are waiting in the cafeteria and hundreds more are lined up outside. From our crew at the Denver Metro area precinct in Commerce City: it's packed. If these two venues are any indicator, turn out in Colorado is heavy!  

Golden, CO High School Theatre is packed on Super Tuesday for the March 1, 2016 caucus.  

Golden, CO High School Theatre is packed on Super Tuesday for the March 1, 2016 caucus.  

Commerce City voters doing democracy at the caucus.

Commerce City voters doing democracy at the caucus.

Colorado’s Caucus on Super Tuesday

The Waking the Sleeping Giant crew is headed to Denver on Super Tuesday, March 1, 2016. This is our first chance to film in a state where the Latino vote could be very important, even "decisive," as Priscilla Alvarez of The Atlantic notes in a recent article on the Nevada caucuses' outcome. We will be hot on the trail of the revolution at pre-caucus events and a caucus location covering multiple precincts, talking to Latino voters and many others who turn out to vote in this early contest.  

Zephyr Teachout Interview

Zephyr Teachout, scholar and activist, sat down to talk with Producer Jacob Smith about populism, the progressive movement, and what lays before us in the 2016 election and beyond.  An activist who is concerned with big money in politics, she is the author of Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's snuffbox to Citizens United. Teachout challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2014 primary, running on a progressive campaign platform. 

Zephyr Teachout, speaking with the Waking the Sleeping Giant team, in 2015.  Teachout recently declared her 2016 candidacy for US Congress. 

Bob Herbert Interivew

During a road trip that took him to West Virgina, Jon Erickson stopped in New York to speak with Demos Senior Fellow Bob Herbert about the important steps we can all take to ensure the future of our democracy. Herbert had a lot to say, but one thing was very clear: Vote, at every level, in every election. Herbert is author of Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait Of A Troubled America.  

Bob Herbert speaks with Producer Jon Erickson on the emergence of a progressive revolution.

Bob Herbert speaks with Producer Jon Erickson on the emergence of a progressive revolution.