Independent Films

 

Stewart Lupton Documentary

Producer/Director: Sarah Lupton

Producer: Kelsey Koenig

In the wake of Stewart’s death in 2018, the director, Stewart’s cousin, unexpectedly assumes the role of PR spokesperson for the family, launching her into a deeper discovery of her cousin’s life and work. Grappling with recent information that Stewart’s addiction was the result of a lifetime of self-medicating deeper mental illness, she embarks on a series of loose, conversational interviews with his inner circle of widely-known musicians, artists, and poets as they go through their personal archives, drafts, and artifacts to understand the context of his disease. In the process, she constructs Stewart’s biography while simultaneously revealing something more powerful - a documentation of his legacy in the work of other significant artists. Playing with the stylistic tropes of music and historical documentaries, the film embraces the subjective and defines Stewart’s body of work through the intangible -through the memories of others, through the way he made them feel and think, and through the worlds that Stewart opened up to them in the course of his life. When Jamie Hince from The Kills points to a lyric that he claims he couldn’t have written without knowing Stewart, or Karen O of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs describes the practiced way she holds the mic, Stewart’s legacy emerges beyond the records he left behind.

 

Through these conversations and a rich exploration of Stewart’s musical archive, the film will be  a poignant meditation on the idea of legacy. The film builds toward an exploration of how art is carried on through the work of others, including this very film. As the story unfolds, the filmmaker’s personal connection to Stewart and the influence he had on her as a filmmaker becomes increasingly transparent through off-camera soundbites and powerfully placed fourth-wall breaks. Reflections on this relationship, enriched by Stewart’s most searing lyrics, such as “Are you locked into a projection booth that shows the films of your troubled youth?,” culminate in a redefinition of legacy, art, and artistic collaboration, through the nexus of grief and life.

Interested in learning more? Contact the Producer/Director, Sarah Lupton, at sarah@shiftcreativeagency.com.

 

The Defenders

Director: Sarah Lupton

Producer: Amanda Stronza

Emerging from thick rainforest, an old man sighs and wipes his brow. His breath is heavy and his gaze drops down in sorrow before rising again. The scene before Victor Zambrano, celebrated grassroots conservationist, is post-apocalyptic. Skeletons of trees hang lifelessly, stacked along a crusty surface. An orange, chemical river winds and stagnates into muddy craters. Abandoned wooden bridges lead to nowhere and dilapidated wooden rafts sit beached and pillaged. Ten years ago, this place was vibrant Amazonian rainforest, home to thousands of species per square kilometer. Today, throughout Peru, this rich ecosystem is critically threatened by the illegal gold mining industry - the result of a complex web of economic and political pressures, ruled by violent mafias. The consequences are dire, not just for the downstream communities who are being poisoned by mercury, or the people who are forced into slavery as miners or sex workers, or the plant and animal species that are slowly being decimated. The Amazon rainforest is the single most important land ecosystem in preventing global climate change, and the greatest repository of biodiversity on the planet, and its destruction has devastating effects on us all. But the fight isn’t over. 

The Guardians is the feature-length documentary that champions the heroes fighting against illegal gold mining in Peru through character-driven storytelling and harrowing informant reporting. Intimate first-hand accounts of these charismatic frontline leaders shrewdly establish an army of unlikely activists, banded together to protect the forest that is their homeland. The narrative is driven by the formation of a covert grassroots informing committee, led by Zambrano, and its quest to receive adequate national and international support to protect their land, and their lives. Involving the highest levels of government all the way down to the undercover, on-the-ground informants who act as eyes and ears of the illegal mining operations, these frontline activists put everything at risk by capturing images of police corruption, poaching, murder, prostitution, and slave labor – activities inherent to the illegal gold mining industry. Interviews and verite scenes with top Peruvian scientists and government officials who are searching for solutions explain the mechanisms of the trade, its devastating environmental impact, and how our own consumer choices in the U.S. can affect change. 

Presented against the backdrop of the recent UN warning that “there is only a dozen years” to prevent climate change catastrophe, as well as the critical loss of biodiversity the forest faces, the narrative culminates in a desperate but heroic stand against illegal gold mining to protect our future. Skillfully interweaving the stories of these humble heroes with tactile visuals, first-hand informant imagery, and epic aerial photography, The Guardians builds the pacing of a thriller, while the narrative finds its heart in the deeply human motivation for survival at all costs. 

Check out the film website.

 

MIRRA

Director: Sam Evoy

Producers: Ally Cuervo, Miranda Kahn, Jeff Spivack

Executive Producer: Sarah Lupton

A narrative short.