DGA members gathered in the Guild's New York boardroom on October 2 for a case study with Director Heidi Ewing about the making of Detropia, the new documentary she co-directed with Rachel Grady. Ewing covered the beginning concepts and how, as their filming progressed, the entire concept of the film evolved into something different than they had anticipated.
In Detropia, Ewing and Grady take a look at the struggle of the people of the Detroit, Michigan, to survive post-industrial America and seek a vision for their future. Nicknamed the "Motor City,” Detroit was the epitome of American automobile manufacturing, that is now a shadow of its former self. The once vibrant metropolis of two million is now fiscally depleted and filled with neighborhoods of empty, abandoned houses. The film follows the stories of people still fighting for the place they call home including the scrap metal salvagers, a union worker at a local auto factory, a waitress, a nightclub owner, young artists and the mayor.
Following a welcome from Director Linda Laundra (Another World), Ewing shared her experiences and insights on the making the film in a conversation moderated by Director Laura Belsey (Katrina's Children). One interesting choice she discussed was the decision, after debuting at Sundance, to self-distribute the film which turned out to be a success story for their project. The film is being held over in many cities when it is booked for a theatrical run. After the discussion, the floor was opened to questions from the audience.
Ewing and Grady are an award-winning team whose previous documentaries include 12th and Delaware, Freakonomics, the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp, and the Emmy-nominated The Boys of Baraka.
Both Ewing and Grady have been DGA members since 2009.