Gleason Documentary Team Visits Cinematic Arts
By Katherine Steinbach, Ph.D. Film Studies graduate student
Director Clay Tweel and producer Mary Rohlich shared their filmmaking expertise with Cinematic Arts students during a Q&A on Friday, August 26, 2016.
Iowa City native Rohlich brought the emotional documentary Gleason to the Englert Theater for a special screening and benefit for Tackling ALS. Steve Gleason, former New Orleans Saints defensive back, was diagnosed with ALS--also known as Lou Gehrig's disease-- in 2011. The documentary follows Gleason over five years, through the disease's progression and his family's expansion. He was given a life expectancy of two to five years, and the film is an intimate portrait of tenacity in the face of terrible odds. Gleason's powerful connection to his wife Michel and their child is central to his success.
Tweel and Rohlich answered questions from both undergraduate and graduate students about the challenges of funding documentaries, of attaining that crucial bond with their subjects, and of bringing lightness to a dark story. They shared their diverse backgrounds in both fiction and non-fiction.
Rohlich began in development, and has since partnered with director/ producer Seth Gordon on several successful comedies, including Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief. ClayTweel has primarily work in documentary, with films like Make Believe, Print the Legend, and the 2015 Sundance hit Finders Keepers on his resume. Rohlich and Tweel have worked together on several documentary projects.
Since Finders Keepers recently received high praise, and is readily available on Netflix, students had several questions for the team about this film and its quirky subject. The battle over a human foot found in a meat smoker is, after all, a unique controversy. The filmmakers addressed the wide variety of stories to be told via film, if you can just gather some meager funds, invest the time, and trust your team.
Gleason has since been released online and via DVD. Clay Tweel and Mary Rohlich live in Los Angeles.