Trophies, honorary plaques and stacks of public records requests fill the office of the founder and director of the Documentary Center in the School of Media and Public Affairs.
Nina Gilden Seavey, a research professor of media and public affairs and history, is now working on a film that has required her to sue the federal government for the release of 386 Freedom of Information Act request results. Seavey’s most recent film was picked up by a distributor last week, and will be one of the first short documentary films sold to big-name video streaming companies like Hulu.
Seavey said her newest film, “Parables of War,” is a 32-minute short film that explores the relationships of three men as they heal from the effects war. The film features three male leads: Joshua Bleill, a Marine Corps veteran, Bill Pullman, an award-winning actor and Keith Thompson, a dancer.
Last week, “Parables of War” was picked up by Gravitas Ventures, an international film distribution company. Seavey said that typically distributors don’t like short films but the film is expected to be a success because it will be released around Memorial Day and near the release of “Independence Day 2,” which also features Pullman.
“This had everything a distributor needs to say this thing has legs and that is how we got distribution,” Seavey said.
She said the distributor is looking to publicly launch the short film in May on streaming platforms like Netflix, Epix, Hulu and iTunes.
“They are developing a model that they hope will carry over to a lot of very high-end short films,” Seavey said. “We are happy to be the guinea pig. It is an honor that we are the first.”
Seavey said they have showed the film to medical and nursing students at GW and at the Department of Veterans Affairs therapy education, and will have more screenings in the medical school next month. The film premiered last year to rave reviews.
“How you heal the wounds of war is such a big issue not only for veterans but also for their families, and this really goes to that question,” Seavey said.
The documentary center has ranked in the top 10 schools for documentary making for the past 25 years, and Seavey was named one of the top 50 journalism professors in 2012. The school offers a graduate degree in documentary filmmaking and takes in about 15 students each year.
Seavey said she chooses to work on films that can tell her audiences something about the human condition. She has directed films on everything from football and country music to disease and war.
“Each one of them is so drastically different, and that is what keeps me fresh and interested, that I am not just churning out the same thing,” Seavey said.
She said one of her next films is a project that’s been in the works for 30 years. Titled, “My Fugitive,” it chronicles the events of May 1970 at Washington University in St. Louis when protests erupted and a cherry bomb was thrown into an ROTC building.
She said her father, Louis Gilden, was the attorney for the students and the faculty who were wrongly accused.
“It impacted a huge number of lives, what happened that night, and some people never got their lives back,” Seavey said.
Seavey said she recently received a $25,000 grant from a private donor to keep her efforts going. She said she will release a five-minute fundraising trailer this summer to give possible donors a preview of the film.
“There was a lot of complication about the various people who were involved,” Seavey said. “We have the lawsuit and it will take them a while to get that whole problem of what to release, how to release and when to release it.”
Seavey said that she wants students to be inspired by the films she makes and has them focus on their own creative work instead of playing a big role in her films. She said that she loves teaching students about her passion.
“Every day I get up, I am excited. I love what I do. I love teaching my students what I love, and that is why I mentor them for so long,” Seavey said. “It feels like every day is some new surprise, and that’s how I feel about this project. That’s how I feel about all of these projects.”