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Documentary on Pittsburgh Native Will Air on PBS’ American Masters


Documentary on Pittsburgh Native Will Air on PBS’ American Masters

PITTSBURGH – WQED Multimedia has been awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support production of a national documentary on the life and work of Pittsburgh native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson.

August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand will be a 90-minute high-definition television documentary and the first in-depth exploration of the life, work and cultural impact of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning African American playwright and Pittsburgh native (1945 – 2005). The program will be a co-production of WQED and the PBS series American Masters and will air in 2015.

NEH reviewers were deeply impressed by the imagination and rigorous scholarship that informs this documentary film.

“August Wilson helped to foster the creative work of several generations of African American actors and writers,” noted Karen Mittelman, director of the Endowment’s Division of Public Programs. “This project captures both Wilson’s significant contributions to American culture, and the complexities of African American life during the twentieth century.”

“This documentary will be the definitive story of the most prolific playwright of the last half of the 20th century,” said Deborah L. Acklin, President and Chief Executive Officer of WQED.

“We are deeply honored to have been chosen to co-produce this distinguished project in partnership with American Masters. As a storied producer of PBS programming, WQED will tell this story using the high-quality standards for which we are known. As an educational institution, we will use the finished documentary as the centerpiece of a multi-platform educational outreach program.”
August Wilson was a Pittsburgh native who grew up in the Hill District. From the 1980s into the first decade of the 21st century, he was the most produced playwright both on Broadway and in regional theaters, creating his unprecedented ten-play Century Cycle, all but one of which take place in Pittsburgh. The series chronicles the economic, historical, social, and spiritual life of African Americans through each decade of the 20th century.

” This is the story not only of one man, but also of his success in putting the lives of ordinary, yet complex people on the national stage. It is a quintessential Pittsburgh story and we are delighted to have the opportunity to produce it,” said Darryl Ford Williams, Vice President of Content at WQED.

“This grant from the NEH is the result of more than seven years’ work on the part of WQED to develop a treatment, align partners and submit a proposal. While this grant makes the project possible, significant funds will still need to be raised jointly by WQED and its co-producers, American Masters.”

Media Team

August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand will air on American Masters, PBS’s long-running, widely acclaimed and frequently awarded series.

The following team will lead the project:

Darryl Ford Williams, Executive Producer, is Vice President of Content for WQED Multimedia and responsible for television, radio, interactive & education. She oversees the creation, development, production and delivery of all new and existing local, national, international and syndicated programming on all media platforms for WQED. Under her leadership, productions have taken WQED documentary teams across the country and abroad to Kenya, Poland, Vietnam and Austria. Her background as a television news producer and news manager is extensive. She has held key management and production leadership roles with CBS News in its coverage of September 11; ABC’s Good Morning America; WJLA-TV in Washington, DC; and KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. Her work has been recognized with many awards throughout her career, numerous Emmy Awards and nominations.

Susan Lacy, Executive Producer, is the creator and Executive Producer of American Masters on PBS. Awards for the series are legendary – 50 primetime Emmy nominations with a total of 23 wins, including for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series eight times in the past 11 years; an Academy Award; three Grammy Awards and 11 Peabody Awards. Also a filmmaker, Lacy has been recognized in Directing and Writing for her films on Leonard Bernstein, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Joni Mitchell, Rod Serling and Paul Simon, all for American Masters.

Sam Pollard, Producer/Director, is an accomplished feature film and Emmy Award-winning television editor and documentary producer/director whose work spans almost thirty years. His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton's Blackside production, Eyes On The Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads. For one of his episodes in this series, he received an Emmy. Between 1990 and 2000, Mr. Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee's films: Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, and Bamboozled. Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lee have also co-produced documentaries for the small and big screen, including Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Mr. Pollard recently completed as a producer/director the 90-minute documentary Slavery By Another Name, a 2012 Sundance Film selection.

Stephen Stept, Writer, is an award-winning filmmaker who has been a principal in three major television projects funded by NEH: writer-producer-director of A Vision of Empire: Henry Luce and Time Life’s America for American Masters;, writer-producer-director of To Be Somebody, a one hour episode in Blackside Productions' PBS series The Great Depression; and creator, co-producer and co-writer of Darrow, a feature-length dramatic biography of Clarence Darrow, for American Playhouse. His writing awards include: the Writers Guild Award for Non-Fiction for Hoover Dam (PBS’s American Experience); an Emmy as co-writer (shared with Ms. Lacy) for the American Masters special, Judy Garland: By Myself; and finalist for the Humanitas Prize for his teleplay for Darrow. He has earned two more Emmy nominations for writing and has been a writer-producer on two DuPont-Columbia Award winning series -- The Great Depression and CIA: America’s Secret Warriors for Discovery -- and on the Peabody Award winning series, ESPN SportsCentury.

About WQED Multimedia

WQED Multimedia (www.wqed.org) has a proud history of honors, including 128 National and Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Awards, an Academy Award, and many, many others, including two Emmy® Awards for Station Excellence. WQED was founded in 1954 as the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster. The people of WQED create, produce and distribute quality programs, products and services to engage, inform, educate and entertain the public within their community and around the world. WQED Pittsburgh is one of the first broadcasters in the country to be fully high-definition (HD) in its studio and field production capabilities. It is the parent company of WQED-TV (PBS); WQED: The Neighborhood Channel; WQED: The Create Channel; WQED Showcase; Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; the Pittsburgh Concert Channel on HD radio and online; Classical WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive and The WQED Education Department.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

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