The Projections of America films are twenty-six brilliant but forgotten documentaries that helped to change the world. As a passionate fan of non-fiction film, this was an irresistible subject for me to take on.
I was approached about the project by the Berlin-based documentary company Docdays Productions and its producer, Antje Boehmert, who had discovered this untold story. Antje had seen an earlier documentary I had made that, by coincidence, featured a short clip from one of the Projections films. I had known nothing about the Projections series, but as soon as I learned about it, I was convinced that its story needed to be told. And when I watched the films themselves – beautifully crafted, character-driven stories that reflected what America could be if it lived up to its ideals – I was hooked.
Our filmmaking work reflected the international spirit of our subject. We produced the film in Berlin and New York. We tracked down eyewitnesses to our story, including children from France and Germany who had watched the Projections films in bombed-out theaters during the 1940s. Our chief historian was from Manchester, England, and we filmed with members of Robert Riskin’s family and his filmmaking team from Southern California to Northern Vermont. Our film editor, Amy Linton, cut the documentary in Atlanta, and our original score was written and performed in Berlin.
The story of these forgotten movies is of great filmmaking, high ideals, and the audacity of imagining a better world in the midst of the worst conflict in human history. We made our film at time when the world is again shaken by conflict and America’s role in it is increasingly uncertain. My hope is that the story of the Projections of America documentaries can provoke us to think about how America can use its power to communicate to help bridge dangerous divides and imagine a future that embraces our best ideals.
– Peter Miller