In addition to his role on the Board and his deep commitment to starting BYkids, the late Albert Maysles served as a Film Mentor to a New York City youth of Muslim background whose story sheds light on the issue of identity and faith in America today. Among the world’s pre-eminent documentary filmmakers and the dean of American documentary filmmaking, Albert is recognized as the pioneer of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of French “cinema verité.” His films include Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens and Oscar-nominated LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton.
“BYkids is one of the most exciting projects to come my way in a long time. The idea of giving youth around the world the tools to tell their own stories with the expert help of filmmakers is brilliant and will go a long way in opening the eyes of Americans to the voices of kids and to the richness of the world. I am thrilled to be part of this team. With Holly’s guidance, contacts, energy and vision, this is sure to be a widespread success.
Storytelling is crucial to our existence as humans and it is what deeply connects us. It is my pleasure to support such a worthwhile project, and I am doing everything I can to be sure this is a big success. I look forward to my work as a Board member and as a Film Mentor for BYkids.”
Susan was the first BYkids Board member and serves as a Film Mentor to María Ceballos Paz, a 16-year-old girl who is one of the estimated four million Colombians driven from their homes by decades of civil war. With Susan’s mentoring, María puts a human face on the cost of civil war and the drug trade.
Among Hollywood’s top TV producers, Susan has produced shows for Discovery, National Geographic, Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS. She received an Emmy nomination for Undercover Boss.
“I am truly excited to be a part of a project that provides a forum for children to tell their own stories, stories that are often the most genuine yet often misinterpreted or never even heard. By giving them the tools to create their own documentaries, these stories can finally be told from their perspective, a point of view that will hopefully strike a chord with others in similar situations throughout the world. By enabling such storytelling, BYkids will work to bridge cultural gaps, as well as help illustrate the universality of the human condition. At a time when people tend to focus on our differences as opposed to our similarities, such a contribution is invaluable.”
Joyce Chopra has produced and directed a wide range of award-winning films, ranging from Smooth Talk, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at the Sundance Film Festival, to the A&E thriller The Lady in Question with Gene Wilder. She has received American Film Festival Blue Ribbon and Cine Golden Eagle Awards for her numerous documentaries, including That Our Children Will Not Die, about primary health care in Nigeria, and the autobiographical Joyce at 34, which is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
“When we see the world through the eyes of these courageous young film-makers, we can all learn so much about different cultures throughout the globe and about the universal experiences that unite us.
I am thrilled to become a BYkids mentor to a young girl from India, who has an important story to tell us. As a film director, I have always been drawn to stories about vulnerable young people, from the rebellious teen played by Laura Dern in the fiction film Smooth Talk to the kids I’ve been privileged to work with in documentaries. Gramercy Stories, my most recent documentary, followed the lives of homeless gay and transgender kids in Manhattan, and I was constantly amazed at the courage these young people showed in the face of difficulties most of us would collapse under. BYkids’ mission to have young people from around the globe shape their own film stories so that we may learn from them is truly inspiring. I feel fortunate to be part of it.”
Anja Baron is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, producer and director whose work has been screened at prestigious festivals worldwide and shown on U.S. and European television to critical acclaim, including two Emmy nominations.
In addition to her documentary work, she has also worked as a correspondent for UNICEF reporting on crises concerning women and children around the world. Her extensive travels have influenced much of her work, giving it a strong multicultural component that covers a wide range of subjects with a focus on human rights particularly in regards to children.
“BYkids lends a voice to the often voiceless. BYkids empowers youth in lasting ways all the while creating an invaluable platform for the global issues of a future generation. In turn, the viewer is not only afforded a rare glimpse into often-marginalized existences but also given an opportunity to see important issues in a new light. Shining such a light on one story often shines a light on the greater whole. The results are genuinely powerful and empowering all at once.
I am honored to be working with BYkids to bring the story of one young Syrian refugee to this wonderful series. Through the eyes of this young man we are able to see and feel the inescapable effects of what has been called the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II – a crisis that is still ongoing as more refugees are trying to make their way to safety every day.”
Seven-time Emmy nominee Neal Baer was a writer/showrunner for ER; showrunner of the hit NBC series Law & Order: SVU for 11 seasons; and showrunner for Under the Dome for its entire run on CBS. Before his career in television, Neal was a practicing pediatrician and teacher.
Neal traveled to Mozambique in August 2007 to work with 16-year-old Alcides Soares. Our first BYkids youth filmmaker, Alcides tells his story of recreating family after having lost both of his parents to AIDS.
“Storytelling is our basic way of communicating our dreams, our hopes and our fears. Yet many stories go unheard, stories that could move us, stories that could motivate us to take action, because the poor and the disenfranchised too often do not have the technology to tell their personal tales. BYkids gives these youth a voice, by giving them a camera and a mentor. Now, through the work of BYkids, the world will get to see and hear their moving stories. What better way to share my love of storytelling than by helping young people who are aching to share their lives?”