Lending into first year of 3 year, $900,000 PBS documentary

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Nomadic Pictures’ Tod Lending

Tod Lending makes no little plans. The socially-minded filmmaker is embarking on a three-year, $900,000 documentary that will have national PBS distribution when finished in 2004.

Lending’s film, “Redemption,” follows two hard core Baltimore criminals several months before they are released from prison and two years thereafter.

RUTH: How far along are you?
LENDING: A year into it. We have 40 hours of HD so far and we’ll end up with 150 hours that we’ll cut to 90 minutes. Jan Sutcliffe is editing and she’s logging all the footage so I can keep track of what I’ve shot so far.

RUTH: $900,000 is a lot of money. How is the picture being funded?
LENDING: From grants: $250,000 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and $600,000 from the MacArthur Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation

RUTH: Didn’t the idea for “Redemption” evolve from your Oscar-nominated doc, “Legacy?”
LENDING: Yes. “Legacy” focused on a multi-generational family of women in the Henry Horner homes. I decided I also wanted to look at the men, and the majority of them are in prison. That led me to want to produce a picture on how these men reenter the community and rejoin their families.

RUTH: Why did you go to Baltimore for your subjects? Don’t we have enough good material in Chicago?
LENDING: Because of the unprecedented Maryland Reentry Program that helps prisoners transition back into their families and communities when they’re released. After interviewing 75 prisoners, I decided to focus on Omar, whom I met when he was out of prison for 12 months. I then met Pete whom I’m currently following.

RUTH: What made these hard-core criminals such compelling subjects?
LENDING: They are true recidivists. Each has been incarcerated on and off over 30 years. Neither has been out more than six months. They are hard core offenders, but bright and articulate and motivated to want to change.

RUTH: How often do you go to Baltimore?
LENDING: About once a month, unless something comes up, like the crisis when Omar had two drug relapses that came within a hair’s breath of returning him to prison. He’s still out. I flew out there to meet with his parole officers and now I’m filming him in treatment.

RUTH: Where’s “Redemption” headed when it’s finished?
LENDING: I’m contracted for three years with PBS, via the $250,000 CPB grant. After that I take the film elsewhere.
I originally sold “Legacy” to HBO/Cinemax. They had it for 18 months and when it reverted back to me I went to PBS, which bought it.

RUTH: Will you make any money from “Redemption?”
LENDING: Some, from making the film, and some percentage off the back end. I have full ownership of all international and educational rights. I promised my two subjects I’d split 50-50 with them if there were a profit made above cost of production and distribution. “Legacy” is still not yet profitable.

RUTH: What else are you working on, in between “Redemption?”
LENDING: I’m freelancing as producer/director for a national PBS documentary. I’m following two people for two years. They’re the working poor who are trying to work out of the strata.

Lending’s first documentary success was “No Time to Be a Child,” produced for $400,000 and seen on PBS. He spent seven years in L.A. as a documentary writer/producer/director for NBC, ABC and PBS networks in L.A., and three years in New York editing the network “Equalizer” series and some low-budget features.

Lending’s phone is 773/478-9594. See www.nomadicpix.com.

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