ReInvention Stories wins prestigious MacArthur Foundation grant

(L-R) Emily Evans and Megan Hague, seniors in the Wright State Motion Pictures program, join program alumna Shawndra Jones, Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar for a photo in downtown Dayton.

ReInvention Stories, a transmedia project launched by a team of filmmakers with Wright State connections and WYSO 91.3 FM in Yellow Springs, will be expanded and extended for another year thanks to an $80,000 grant from a national foundation.

The grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, announced March 21, was one of only nine grants totaling over $1 million awarded by the organization.

“It’s a great honor. We are incredibly thrilled,” said Steve Bognar, who along with fellow Wright State filmmaker Julia Reichert leads the project. “It will help us further this work in a huge way.”

The filmmakers and WYSO staffers walked the neighborhoods of the Miami Valley last summer, meeting with residents on their porches, in their driveways, walking their dogs and in parks with their families. The result was very human stories of adversity, resilience and reinvention.

Inventive ideas such as the transformation of a neighborhood eyesore into a promising brewpub were among the stories portrayed in the project, which includes radio, documentary cinema and online nonfiction storytelling. The stories began airing and appearing on the Web on Jan. 9.

The stories can be heard on WYSO every Wednesday during Morning Edition and again each Sunday on WYSO Weekend. Each radio piece has a short film to accompany it, which can be found on

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has been a supporter of independently produced film and video for more than 30 years. Its mission is to foster the development of knowledge, nurture individual creativity, strengthen institutions, help improve public policy and provide information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.

“MacArthur’s media grantmaking supports work that explores contemporary social issues with high quality reporting intended to inform, educate and inspire reflection and action,” said Kathy Im, MacArthur’s director for media, culture and special initiatives. “This year’s film grantees tackle long-term and difficult issues through in-depth and compelling storytelling, illuminating underreported domestic and international issues and creating empathy for various points of view.”

The Foundation received nearly 400 proposals in response to its most recent open call for independent documentary film proposals.

ReInvention Stories is part of the national Localore initiative, created by the Association of Independents in Radio in collaboration with Internet storytelling pioneers, ZEEGA. Partners include CELIA, Wright State’s Ohio Center of Excellence in Collaboration, Education and Leadership in the Arts. Additional funding came from the Ohio Arts Council, the Dayton Foundation and the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

In addition to Reichert and Bognar, Wright State motion pictures alumni Shawndra Jones and Liz Cambron and senior film students Emily Evans, Eric Risher, Megan Hague and Kyle Wilkinson are all producers on the project.

Reichert recently left the ranks of Wright State motion pictures faculty to return to full-time filmmaking. Bognar currently serves as a lecturer, filmmaker-in-residence and film community outreach liaison at Wright State.

Reichert has been called “a godmother of the American documentary movement.” Her films include Academy Award nominees Union Maids and Seeing Red. Her 1971 documentary Growing Up Female was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012. Bognar’s films Personal Belongings, Picture Day and Gravel each premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Together, the pair has produced a string of highly acclaimed documentaries, including A Lion in the House (Primetime Emmy winner), The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Academy Award nominee) and Sparkle (Audience Award winner at the 2012 SilverDocs Film Festival).

Reichert and Bognar have also created an online, interactive documentary as a parallel project to the ReInvention Stories series.

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