From Flint tells the story of the Flint water crisis from the perspective of the citizens who experience this crisis first hand.
Interview with Producer Liv Larsen
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We originally made it as part of our documentary capstone class at Michigan State University, but the whole crew understood right away that this film was bigger than just a college class, to us, it was never a student film. We were tackling a topic that had gained national attention and was being talked about all over the world! There were many other film crews and news crews covering the scene as well, so we had to get out of that “it’s for a college class” mindset and tackle it like professionals! I think we gained a lot of respect from the others working in the field when they did eventually find out we were still students.
We also decided to do a film on this topic because we felt that while the Flint water crisis was gaining such national attention that the individual stories of the citizens were being lost. We also hoped that by doing a film on it and putting it out to as many festivals as possible it would help keep Flint in the spotlight a little longer until the issue is resolved, because nothing still has been fixed for the Flint residents. They needed a voice, and we were prepared to help them with that.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
What happened in Flint is happening everywhere. People are finding out all around the country that their water has high levels of lead and other toxins, and the city has known about it all along. Flint is ground zero for this kind of thing. If the nation turns its back on Flint, it’s going to continue happening. It’s important to be aware of this issue!
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I was once told that the strength of documentary lies in finding a story that no one is telling and then telling it so that people can learn from each other. Flint’s story was being told, and being told everywhere, and in our opinion, it was being told wrong. We heard a lot of comments from people outside of flint “oh if my water looked like that I would never give it to my child,” but a lot of residents had pure clean tasting water that was crystal clear, because lead is metal that dissolves. A lot of people were willing to pass judgement on Flint before learning the facts.
We want people to walk away from this film educated, and ready to take action. It’s to easy to let hindsight rule your perceptions of the world. We see mothers, we see activists, we see the city of Flint coming together breaking barriers of race, class and gender in the face of this crisis, that kind of unity should be achievable without poison in your pipes.
How did the script evolve over the course of its development and production?
The arc of the film molded and changed so much throughout production because the crisis was unfolding as we were filming, it was difficult to pick one direction and go with it. There’s thousands of ways you can tell the story of the Flint water crisis, but we chose to go with the one that brought the most voices and perspectives to the table to be talked about, especially while focusing on the experiences of the citizens suffering during this crisis.
We knew right away that we were not going to focus on the governmental perspective and role of the crisis, we wanted to give the voice back to the people of Flint, and I think we ended up choosing the best arc/narrative to do that.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Mostly very positive feedback! Aside from most people saying they loved the film, we even had a few people take the film as a call to action, which was wonderful. It was great to see our work inspiring people to help make a difference to those who truly need it! We did have some constructive criticism after our first premiere, and we went back and expanded the project a bit after that (the second cut will be released and submitted to festivals shortly).
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
A lot of feedback we’ve gotten sparked constructive and educational conversation. We loved hearing from the citizens of Flint, and we are so honored that they have trusted us with this story, we want to make sure that we are depicting the city of Flint as a whole. Telling the story of a city that is so diverse, and has such a complicated past is difficult to do in 23 minutes.
We have over 500 gigabytes of footage, all of it fascinating. It’s always hard to see what ends up on the cutting room floor but the story arc we chose didn’t encompass every detail of this crisis, not by a long shot, and we would encourage anyone who has seen this film to go out and do their own research, test their own water, learn for themselves how you can help Flint because the story that we told is only a fraction of what Flint has to offer.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We would love more people to hear the story of the Flint water crisis and know that the fight for clean water is not over. People are still living off water bottles, still not being taught how to properly use filters, people are still getting sick and still dying. It’s not getting better. The Flint residents were in the spotlight for a moment, but now are forgotten as more tragedy in the world unfolds...I hope that somehow this film can help make a difference in this crisis.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Distributors and buyers would be excellent. It would be awesome to have the funding to expand this to a full length film and get it out to multiple platforms. Really anyone who can help push this film to the next level. We were so limited on time and funding when we made this cut, that I think there’s more that could be done! I think that the crew did amazing with the funding and time we had, but there’s always room to take it to the next level.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would love for this to be seen in as many places around the country as possible! Flint is ground zero for clean water rights and it needs to continue being a point of discussion!
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Why have the media, government, and the nation turned their backs on Flint when the crisis is far from being resolved?
Would you like to add anything else?
We’d like to thank the Flint residents for trusting us with their stories and letting us into their lives, especially during a time when they had already been so hurt. We hope we did your stories justice and we hope that a resolution for this problem will come in the near future.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We just expanded the project and plan on submitting to our second wave of festivals.
Our team has unfortunately disbursed for the moment, our producer Liv Larsen, is working out in NYC, our director, Elise Conklin, is working out in LA before wrapping up her final year at MSU, and our lead editor Lauren Selewski is filming a documentary in Belgium.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City
Length: 23 min 46 seconds
Director: Elise Conklin
Producer: Liv Larsen
About the writer, director and producer:
Elise Conklin - MSU senior - She has always had a love for telling untold stories and hopes to pursue film directing and editing.
Liv Larsen - Recent MSU grad. She has recently moved to New York City to chase her dream of becoming a documentary producer, director, and storyteller.
Key cast: Melissa Mays, Michael Hood, Kathi Horton, Ed Mcbroom, Alexis Harvey, Julie Durbin, Charlotte Lancaster-McCann.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, festival directors, journalists): all of the above.
Funders: Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences
Special thanks to those who contributed to the Indie GoGo campaign.
Release date: April 28th 2016 (New York City Premiere August 9th)