* in production
THE BOY UNDER THE BILLBOARD
For nine years, I documented the quest to discover the identity of a boy whose remains were found beside a North Carolina highway in 1998. Ultimately, the story made international news as one of the early cases solved by a DNA match on Ancestry.com. (The case was solved with the help of Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter, whose work identified the Golden State Killer.) The "Boy Under the Billboard" is now a true-crime feature-length documentary in production. A single phone call revealed the truth behind this 20-year-old cold case, and I have the only footage that captures the entire story. It’s a rare opportunity to witness a cold case solved through genetic genealogy in real time from start to finish. Our film honors the dedication of police officers, medical examiners, forensic investigators – and many others – who seek justice for the unknown dead. Ideally, they strive to return the remains to an agonized family and potentially put a killer behind bars. We will witness all these events unfolding in the story of the "Boy Under the Billboard". THE STORY: The skeletal remains of a child are found along the access road of a North Carolina highway in 1998. For 20 years, he is known only as John Doe #98-21372 -- “the boy under the billboard”. The lead investigator who collected fragments of the child’s skull and bones from the brush is haunted by the case. He’s given up hope that he will ever identify the boy and solve this horrific crime. But weeks from retirement, he gets a message that will forever alter the lives of everyone involved. A text flashes on his phone: “DNA results in. We found a match.” BACKGROUND: I followed the dogged detective work of Major Tim Horne - who collected the boy’s skeleton on the day he was found and spent the next 20 years chasing leads that went nowhere. Remarkably, on the eve of his retirement, Horne received a call from a relative of the boy. Over the next few weeks, he was able to identify the boy as Bobby Whitt and, also uncover the grisly murder of his mother Myong Hwa Cho – solving two twenty-year old cold cases within a few weeks. Then - in a drama filled afternoon – he coaxed a confession from the killer on the final day of his 30-year career. PRODUCTION STATUS: To date, I have shot and logged over 90 hours of raw footage. I have exclusive access to all key characters and long-established relationships with everyone involved. I also have the only footage of world-renowned forensic sculptor Frank Bender, just prior to his death in 2011, creating a facial reconstruction of the boy. To that end, I am currently seeing 245K in finishing funds to complete this 90-minute documentary film which still requires: the remaining interviews, crime scene recreations, B roll, drone footage, and all aspects of post-production. I’d love the opportunity to speak about this project in greater detail.
*seeking finishing funds
GIFT OF THE DRAGON KING
FILMED ON LOCATION IN BHUTAN: What happens when the king of an ancient culture -- who has controlled the rate of modernization in his country -- decides to peacefully hand over the reins of power to his people? THE STORY Gift of the Dragon King challenges Western culture’s definition of prosperity. In the Himalayan country of Bhutan, an ancient culture is undergoing a remarkable social and political transformation. One of the most remote and isolated cultures in the world, Bhutan has eschewed Western values, declaring that happiness – measured by its “Gross National Happiness” index - is a critical measure for the national’s success. In 1999, Bhutan's 4th Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, lifted a ban on television and the Internet, and in 2008 he voluntarily gave up power -- transforming Bhutan from a monarchy to a democracy, ending more than a century of absolute rule. In just one generation, the Bhutanese people have moved from relative isolation to a 21st century, digitally connected world. Our documentary follows a group of Bhutanese citizens as they are exposed to Western values and adapt to life in a democracy, exploring the existential search for happiness in an increasingly materialistic world. Gift of the Dragon King captures these changes and follows the strange twists and turns, illuminating and reflecting our own Western social values and priorities. What happened to “Gross National Happiness” in Bhutan? Is it time for us to reassess our definition of happiness and prosperity? Our main characters include a Buddhist monk, a television reporter, a farmer, two students, the first psychiatrist in Bhutan and the former tutor to the 4th King – a U.K. schoolmaster, one of the first westerners to live in Bhutan in the 1970s, now the first Honorary Consul of the United Kingdom in Bhutan. STATUS: We filmed on location in Bhutan for five months during 2007/2008 to witness the election and gain unprecedented access to schools, hospitals and monasteries. Our goal is to return to Bhutan and complete this once-in-a-lifetime story by discovering how life has changed for our subjects … the birth of children, divorce, students entering the job force, and a former monk who is now an IT specialist in the U.S. Funded to date by private donations, our compilation of compelling HD footage has been logged by the award-winning editor Sabine Krayenbuhl. We are seeking funding for the final location shoot in Bhutan and for post-production to complete Gift of the Dragon King. Please contact us to join our team and support this fascinating and timely film!
* short documentary
BOB & INGE
HALF-JEWISH IN WWII BERLIN: "Bob & Inge" is the moving love story of Bob and Inge Sommer, both born as “Mampes” (or “Half & Halfs”) - the children of mixed marriages - in pre-WWII Berlin. Fortunately, their mothers were Jewish, for although Judaism is passed through the mother, Hitler’s Germany was a patriarchy, and their families were able to escape the worst of the Final Solution. After 67 years of marriage, they recount memories of life in Nazi Berlin, and how they met in New York after emigrating to America.