95 – America to Steve James

Steve James is one of the most recognizable names in documentary. Many of us #doclifers have been inspired by his films and the way in which he makes them. He was on TDL back on the eve of the Academy Awards for his doc, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. Not surprisingly, Steve had some great insight into the industry and into doc filmmaking, as a whole. And he related much of this with candor and clarity that was appreciated by all of us doc filmmakers.


And so, on the weekend before the finale of his magnificent documentary series, America to Me, we thought it an appropriate time to reconnect with our brother-in-doc.


Topics Discussed

  • why & how Steve maintains relationships with his subjects
  • his choice to recruit younger, diverse filmmakers to help him with the series
  • why he shows scenes to his film subject, believing that they have agency in how they are represented
  • how weekly meetings with school admin was necessary for filming the series
  • how & why America to Me was the most difficult undertaking of his film career


Related Sources

Watch the trailer for America to Me


Sponsors & Thank Yous

° Episode #90 is proudly brought to you by BlackBox Global, creators of the easiest way to turn your filmmaking skills into passive income!

Go to BlackBox, Create a Free Account, and start selling your footage today!


° Free Music ArchiveSpecial Thank You to recording artist, Dlay who supplied music for this week’s episode of TDL. You too can download his music or other artist’s music by going to Free Music Archive today!



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Host and TDL Founder, Chris G Parkhurst

Chris is a documentary filmmaker and the founder and host of The Documentary Life, a platform which aims to inform and inspire documentary filmmakers from around the globe.

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