JOEL MCEWEN, DIRECTOR
Joel McEwen started out living the American dream, not questioning it.
His parents built their quintessential dream home in a nice community in the Midwest. His stepfather was a building contractor, and his mother loved to shop—hey, it was the 1980s, and everything was going along just fine. Joel spent much of his youthful years creating short films and making music. But a devastating financial recession soon arrived, and Joel’s family lost house, cars, and even the white picket fence. This financial setback caused his parents’ divorce, after which Joel moved out and began supporting himself while still a young teen, ending for a long while the many artistic pursuits of his earlier years. These ups and downs only strengthened Joel’s belief that maximum earning—and high spending on always more material comfort—was central to happiness.
Joel dropped out of college to devote himself full-time to the construction business he founded, and which he managed to make successful before he was twenty-five. But building high-end, custom waterfalls for tech tycoons in Silicon Valley, and the 70-80-hour work weeks that required, eventually caused Joel to ask whether amassing money and stuff was really even satisfying for him. And if it wasn’t right for him, were others questioning such pursuits as well? And where was the American dream in all this?
After selling nearly everything he owned, Joel set out across America with just a camera seeking answers to these questions. And along the way, he discovered more questions: How did we come to agree upon an American dream? Are current understandings of that dream part of its original intended meaning? What is its cost to individuals, communities, and our environment? What other roads in life can lead to meaning and feelings of community?
To bring American Dream the Movie and future films about similar important topics to wide audiences, Joel created Wolf & Moon Productions, Independent Films for Independent Minds.
KURT ENGFEHR, PRODUCER/SUPERVISING EDITOR
Kurt Engfehr grew up next to ‘The Black Lagoon’ an EPA Superfund site in a working class suburb of Detroit. After working in New York City as a promo editor for HBO, MSNBC, NatGeo and other places, he became senior editor on Michael Moore’s Emmy nominated show The Awful Truth (1999). Kurt then accidentally made a career change from TV to documentary films. His best known work is as an editor and co-producer on two of Michael Moore’s films, Cannes Palme d’Or winning and box-office smash, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Oscar-winning, Bowling For Columbine, for which he won the American Cinema Editors award for best documentary editing.
In addition to his collaborations with Moore, Kurt also co-directed, The Yes Men Fix The World, which won the audience award at Berlin and aired on HBO and, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, a humorous doc about weight loss and self-realization that was released theatrically in 2011 and has become an on-line and world-wide sensation, being seen by over 20 million people. He then produced and edited the documentary No Manifesto (2015) about the band Manic Street Preachers, which had a successful theatrical run in the UK. Kurt‘s latest film, which he directed and shot, The Kids Menu, will be released in 2016.
Brian Singbiel, Editor
Brian Singbiel received his formal film education in the Los Angeles area at Chapman University, earning a student nomination at the 2003 A.C.E. Eddie Awards. After graduating, Singbiel traveled to New York City and was mentored by Kurt Engfehr on the fashion documentary Seamless. Singbiel honed his craft by editing short films, spec commercials and music videos, while assisting established editors on feature documentaries such as America the Beautiful and narrative films, including Nick Cassavetes’ Alpha Dog. Singbiel’s first feature documentary as lead editor was the Sundance hit Bigger, Stronger, Faster. He has since gone on to edit such successes as Dirt! The Movie, Cool It and Exporting Raymond.
Elizabeth Marcus, Assistant Producer & Assistant Editor
Elizabeth first dipped her toe in the documentary waters as an audio editor and researcher on the Oscar winning documentary, Bowling For Columbine. She followed that up with Production Assistant gigs on the docs, A League Of Ordinary Gentlemen and Fahrenheit 9/11. In addition, she has worked as a field producer and assistant editor on the films, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2, The Kids Menu, 40 Weeks, and The Jackson 5 Million.
She has also directed a documentary film of her own, No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers. Filmed over a 7 year period, No Manifesto was released theatrically in the UK in 2015 to great reviews, and it has played in festivals all over the world.
John Raatz, Marketing
Founder and President of The Visioneering Group and GATE, John’s real expertise is in social change marketing, where companies and talent such as Weinstein corporation, Leonardo Dicaprio, Jim Carrey and Forrest Whitaker have hired him to market their social change projects. Since 1988, John has represented many of the foremost authors, books, films and musical projects, including The Real Dirt On Farmer John, Leo Dicaprio’s The 11th Hour, What the Bleep Do We Know?!, Baraka, Eckhart Tolle, Fritjof Capra, Deepak Chopra, Dead Can Dance and Madonna.
John’s new global distribution company, GATE combines celebrities, visionaries and leaders in the film world to create transformative media throughout the globe. Some of the people involved in GATE are Jim Carrey, Eckhart Tolle, Melissa Ethridge, Carlos Santana and Jackson Browne.
KATRINA ZAVALNEY, FILM AMBASSADOR & COMMUNITY COORDINATOR
Katrina is a change agent with a Masters in Organization Development from Sonoma State University. With 15 years of experience, she is skilled in community development, facilitation, strategic planning, program management and sustainable event management. She is known as a connector and educator in the sustainability network at large and for her can-do attitude. Most recently Katrina lived in the Mississippi Delta as the Director for the City of Clarksdale’s Revitalization Program, supporting economic development and quality of life. She consults with organizations as well, currently developing the strategic plan for both the Alabama and Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network and is helping develop a job training program through gardening skills.
Katrina worked with The Walt Disney Co. developing internal communication protocol for their Environmental Policies and resources to aid in these activities, most notably the Paper Policy in 2012. Katrina has a high level of enthusiasm and loves to find creative solutions to challenges. She works internationally and enjoys working on projects that have a high impact and are focused on localization. Katrina is on the Board for Planting Justice a non-profit in Oakland, CA that creates equal access to food, jobs, and education. Katrina has a love for the expressive arts such as dance and theater. She has lived all over the west coast working with many communities and enjoys empowering youth through creativity. Katrina’s Website: www.AranyaSolutions.com
RICHARD PRITZLAFF, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
President, BIOPHILIA FOUNDATION
A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Richard grew up in the then desert open spaces on the slopes of Camelback Mountain. There were lizards to chase, snakes to play with and snakes to avoid, coyotes, javelinas, and what had to have been the last mountain lions on Camelback Mountain that would come down from the mountain and drink from his family’s pool from time to time. It was these early experiences that set Richard on a path to work as a conservation biologist dedicated to enhancing and protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat, especially on private lands.
In particular, from 1993 to 2002, he raised funds and helped to manage many wildlife habitat restoration and conservation projects while working for Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage. Also during this time, through a demonstration project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Richard substantially initiated the Maryland Department of Environment’s Water Quality Linked-Deposit Loan Program. Other policy work included being appointed by the Governor to the Maryland Wetlands Restoration Steering Committee. In 2002 and 2003 he was a Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land where he became familiar with complex public land acquisition to compliment his private land conservation experience.
Since 2004 he has worked full time as the President of the Biophilia Foundation. Among various projects, the Foundation has worked hands-on and with partners to buy, restore, and resell farms and ranches totaling over 6300 acres of high quality wildlife habitat. They have initiated several successful projects in support of land conservation and restoration. Two good examples of this work are the Living Lands Project with Defenders of Wildlife and Borderlands Restoration L3C in Patagonia, Arizona.
Richard has a M.S. degree in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.S. in Engineering Science from Vanderbilt University. He has served on the Defenders of Wildlife Board of Directors, and is currently a member of the Wildlands Network Board and the Treasurer of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network Board. He is also a former Board member of the Ploughshares Fund, and the past Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Shipboard Education, which operates the Semester at Sea program in academic partnership with the University of Virginia. Richard also served on the Board of Directors of the University of Maryland’s Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology.
BIOPHILIA FOUNDATION, FIlm partner
The primary mission of the Biophilia Foundation is to support efforts that protect, restore, enhance, and preserve wildlife habitat for all species of native plants and animals. Their secondary mission is to help reconnect individuals with nature through advancing biodiversity conservation on private land. Read more about their work at www.BiophiliaFoundation.org.