The second annual 2018 “Meet The Press” Film Festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute was presented this October in Washington D.C. The festival featured 23 films that highlighted critical issues ahead of the midterm elections, including gun violence, immigration, voting rights, the changing economy, poverty, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As part of ongoing work to tell meaningful stories and support communities in need, NBCUniversal commissioned and submitted its own project, “Insecure”, to the festival. The documentary, directed by Cayman Grant, explores important issues of poverty, immigration, and the elusive quest for the American dream.
NBCUniversal sat down with “Insecure” director Cayman Grant about her experience documenting such a gripping and heralding story.
Tell us about the motivation behind this project and what you hope the viewers walk away with:
The motivation behind this project was to create a short documentary highlighting child poverty in America. Since NBCUniversal partners with Red Nose Day each year, with the mission to end child poverty, it seemed fitting that we explore these avenues. We wanted to create a story that would resonate with people. People think of child poverty as homelessness, but these families are the working poor.
Fifteen million children in the United States are at or below the poverty line. There is work that needs to be done for the working poor. Those who are not in extreme states of poverty. They have a home and a car but that isn’t enough for them to feed their families. How does that impact the family and their children? Our goal is to highlight this issue through an individual family’s story and their struggle.
People should see this film and walk away with an intimate understanding of this family’s struggle, empathize with others – could be your neighbors or anyone in your community – and ask the question, “how can I help?” We hope this begins to shine a light on the different faces of poverty in this country.
Tell us about the challenges in filming “Insecure” in today’s climate and how they were overcome:
While filming, I learned that families living in poverty live paycheck to paycheck, somewhere in the 70th or 80th percentile. A lot of challenges we faced were getting to know that the solution is to ignite grassroots movements that will make a difference in their lives. People need to be activated across the spectrum.
We hope the film also clears a lot of misconceptions about poverty. A lot of families don’t choose their circumstances, they fall victim to it. We spent a lot of time with local leaders and politicians to learn more about poverty. There are laws at the local and state level that hinder people from breaking out of poverty. Regardless of your political ideology, good people want to remove obstacles for other people to succeed. With the current infrastructure, folks are barely able to break ground.
Tell us about the Meet The Press Film Festival and its significance to this project:
The Meet The Press Film Festival has cemented itself as a prestigious festival. Everybody knows about it. With the content alone stretching across topics of social impact and the upcoming election, this is where we wanted to be. The film festival gave us a voice to make an impact. During our screening, we made an emotional impact on the audience. We felt a very positive and strong reaction from the crowd. One of the audience members even told us, “I didn’t expect to come to here to cry.” We attempted to give viewers something to think about as they walked away and humanize these important issues.
This film festival is an incredible event and I personally feel proud that we were able to screen it here. There are many submissions each year and we feel privileged. It is important for filmmakers to know that there is a platform like this that exists, that gets our films out there.
Any advice for aspiring social impact filmmakers:
If it’s in your heart to do this, then you should keep doing it. Even if you can change the minds of a few, that’s where it starts. As social impact filmmakers, we are educating and showing people both sides to the issue. We focus on humanity and the stories of these folks and help them resonate with everyday people.
A limited-edition showcase featuring "Insecure"and additional Meet The Press Film Festival footage is available here.