Letting Others Tell Their Story: Justified Journey

Justified Journey is a unique project for me in a couple of ways. First, it’s my first documentary that was non-narrative; it does not include any narration from a host or reporter. And, second, it’s my first documentary that focused on a single individual, although that one person takes us through many aspects of life as a black American.

I’ve written and produced more than a dozen documentaries over the course of about 20 years. I guess due to my background and coinciding job as a news anchor and reporter, I had always approached my docs as projects designed to inform, even educate, about issues and events. And, as part of my job, I wrote scripts that used narration (my voice) to fill-in details and bridges between the people I interviewed. Justified Journey had none of that. Yet, it also wasn’t shot as a standard documentary film. Instead, it was essentially shot as a long-form news story and I assembled the interview elements to tell the story on their own.

I wanted to also include some of Alex’s thoughts and reflections to our filming experiences, so we did an interview after each trip to New Orleans and Mississippi. It worked well to talk with him after he had the chance (a few months) to process meeting his new relatives and visiting the place where his family began.

The documentary takes us from Wisconsin to Louisiana, back to Wisconsin, then to Mississippi. The visits were very impactful. I think Alex’s meetings and experiences stirred new emotions and thoughts in himself, such as his unexpected feeling of belonging in that part of the Deep South. And in the end, I think it gave him new perspective and insight into how his situation represents what’s faced by most African Americans and what he must do to affect change.

It takes a lot to bring an hour-long film from concept to a final production, but none of it could have happened without the help and dedication from a small group of professionals who gave of their time and expertise with no promise of payment. They made it their passion project, as it was mine, accepting the compensation of a finished documentary that aims to promotes better understanding of crucial issues and a marginalized group in our society. Jason Weiss (Jason Weiss Video) agreed immediately to be the videographer and editor. He did an outstanding job as both. My son, Sam Jeschke, was the editor of the documentary’s trailers; again, services free of charge. And once we had it all “in the can”, Ron Giordan (SynRG Marketing) stepped-up to lead the marketing and publicity of the program’s release on May 21, 2020.

Ordinarily, I would have had a public premier showing at a theater and shopped around to find a television venue. But, COVID-19 forced me to change those plans and instead take advantage of a nearly-captive audience watching lots of stuff online at home. So, that’s where we launched: on the website you’ve come to now. Although there’s great potential for many more viewers this way, it does leave a void for revenue. As a way to help defray production costs (I want to pay my aforementioned crew, regardless of their willingness to do it for free) I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page. If you appreciate the work done on Justified Journey, I hope you’ll give. It will also go a long way toward making similar documentaries possible in the future. I believe giving a voice to people who are often unheard as a way of promoting a better understanding of crucial issues and marginalized groups in our society. And I think that improved understanding will help us create a more equitable and inclusive world for all of us.

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