Posts

The Drunk Projectionist

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The Drunk Projectionist is my newish film podcast. I interview directors, actors, preservationists and others about their work. Early episodes (seven so far!) have focused on Charles Burnett, Barbara Kopple, Frederick Wiseman, the restoration of a new version of the French silent film Napoleon and more. This is very much a passion project and would love for you to sample, subscribe and share.

Black Gold Boom streaming online

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Black Gold Boom, a documentary film I produced and directed, is now available for streaming online. Some Native American tribes have banned fracking on tribal lands. With vast deposits of oil underneath its borders, Three Affiliated Tribes is at a crossroads. Should the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in western North Dakota drill for black gold or outlaw oil exploration on its land? Tribal member Marty Young Bear worries about environmental effects. Meanwhile, local leaders rush to form a tribal-owned oil company with the motto “Sovereignty by the Barrel.”Some Native American tribes have banned fracking on tribal lands. With vast deposits of oil underneath its borders, Three Affiliated Tribes is at a crossroads. Should the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in western North Dakota drill for black gold or outlaw oil exploration on its land? Tribal member Marty Young Bear worries about environmental effects. Meanwhile, local leaders rush to form a tribal-owned oil company with the m…

Reuters: The Trial of Jeronimo Yanez

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In June 2017, Reuters hired me to cover the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a black motorist, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop.

Selected stories are below.

Minnesota patrolman acquitted in traffic-stop slaying of black motorist

Jurors in manslaughter trial of Minnesota cop review videos

Minnesota cop's fatal shooting of black motorist not justified: prosecutor

Minnesota policeman feared for his life in fatal traffic stop: lawyer

More here.

Photo by Todd Melby

Rough Ride: The Oil Patch Tour

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Dirty. Loud. Male.

Those are the three words I often choose to describe what life is like in western North Dakota’s oil patch. Grease and invert stick to clothes and men’s faces like flies on cattle on a scorching August afternoon. On gravel roads, tankers on their way to oil wells kick up blizzard-like plumes of dust. Drilling wells groan and grind as drill bits dig deep into the earth. Massive trucks carrying trailers, pipes, hay bales, giant barrels — pretty much everything — rumble and screech on narrow two-lane highways.
And men? They’re pretty much everywhere. They wear fire-retardant jump suits and climb down from their rigs in search of man-food and conversation. They drive pickups with macho one-liners like “I Came For the Cash ‘Cause I’m Oil Field Trash.” When they see a woman working at a cafĂ© or truck stop, their eyes light up. They chat. They flirt. Sometimes they’re crude and gross. Newcomers joke about being promised a woman behind every tree. The punch line: In oil cou…

In Bob Dylan's hometown, an awkward embrace of it Nobel son

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On the morning the Nobel Prize folks awarded Bob Dylan, formerly Bob Zimmerman, a Literature prize, I headed to his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. After meeting one of Bob's old high school friends and bandmates, I filed this report for Reuters.

We Don't Talk Like That: 'Fargo' and the Midwest Psyche

The 1996 movie "Fargo" stirred widespread curiosity about snowy winters, funny accents and bloody mayhem on the frozen tundra of North Dakota and Minnesota. The film won two Oscar awards and inspired a popular television series of the same name. But how well did it actually capture and reflect the region? In this documentary, 2 below zero producers Diane Richard and Todd Melby unravel the mystery behind the parkas, prowlers and wood chippers in interviews with actors William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson), Stephen Park (Mike Yanagita), Tony Denman (Scotty Lundegaard), dialect coach Liz Himelstein, women in law enforcement, and many more. Narrated by Bruce Bohne (Deputy Lou). Essential listening for diehard fans of "Fargo." (Photo courtesy Gramercy Pictures.)

Minn. governor walks through crowd of protesters

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I shot this video for The Washington Post of Minn. Governor Mark Dayton walking through a crowd of protesters after meeting with family members of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot by police in Falcon Heights, Minn.

Child Victims Act stories for MPR News

In the spring of 2016, I reported three stories on childhood sexual abuse for MPR News, the statewide public radio network in Minnesota.

Sex abuse victims say Minn. law brought hope, chance for justice

Children's Theatre awaits final sex abuse lawsuits

Beyond clergy: Ex-Boy Scouts tap Minn. law to press sex abuse claims

Hello USA

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"Black Gold Boom," a television documentary airing on PBS stations nationwide, has aired on PBS World Channel, statewide networks in New Mexico, North Dakota, Alaska and Wyoming and individual PBS stations in Minneapolis/St.Paul, Denver, South Texas and Daytona Beach, Florida. It's also airing soon Sacramento, California. The documentary centers on the debate over fracking among the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people of western North Dakota. I worked on this project for two years so I'm really happy people are getting to see it. There's more information here.

This Is Our Home Now

Kendra Hill moved to the Bakken with her husband a few years ago. Thanks to a high-paying oilfield job, the young couple could afford to start a family and buy a house. No matter what happens in oil country, they’re planning to stay in North Dakota. This story aired on Prairie Public and Marketplace as part of my "Black Gold Boom" series.

Hoping The Downplay Hurts The Greed

Don Williams offers up an unexpected side effect to the oil patch slowdown: lower prices. When the boom was churning at full speed, rents were too darn high. And now? Williams still has job at transload company in Ross, North Dakota, and things aren’t so expensive. This story aired on Prairie Public and Marketplace as part of my "Black Gold Boom" series.

Oil To Die For

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For the third year in a row, North Dakota ranks as the most deadly place to work in America and its oilfields are nearly seven times more dangerous than elsewhere in the U.S. “Oil To Die For,” a new interactive documentary from Black Gold Boom, examines how Dustin Bergsing died of hydrocarbon poisoning at a North Dakota well site just days before his 22nd birthday. He was engaged to be married and the father of an infant. The interactive examines the circumstances surrounding Bergsing’s death, including accusations by a Marathon Oil whistleblower who says his safety warnings were ignored by company bosses. “Oil To Die For” is compatible with all devices, including Apple and Android mobile phones and tablets. Experience it now.

Sounds of Silents

Silent film may be a thing of the past, but scoring music to flickering screen classics isn't. This documentary focuses on three Minneapolis bands who are intrigued, perhaps even obsessed, by silents.

Night with the Projectionist

A night inside the projectionist's room at the Trylon Microcinema in Minneapolis.

The Other Boomtown Hamm

Billionaire oilman Harold Hamm has made a name for himself in the Bakken. As CEO of Continental Resources, his company is the biggest oil producer in western North Dakota. But he’s not the only Hamm in town. A man named Phil Hamm lived in Williston before the boom came to town. He stills lives there today. In this interview I produced for Prairie Public and Marketplace, it’s clear he’s got something to say about the changes the boom has brought.