2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: STEP

stepSTEP
Amanda Lipitz profiles members of an African-American Baltimore high school stepping team as they pursue their goals of higher education.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

The Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women opened in 2009 with a mandate to send every student to college, despite the barriers that their home lives and community might present. Now, as the first class enters its senior year, the stakes are high to achieve that purpose. The film follows three irrepressible seniors and their “Lethal Ladies” step dance team as they navigate a nerve-wracking college application process and strive to elevate the creative outlet that keeps them united and fighting to reach their goals.

STEP hones in on the trials and triumphs of these tenacious young women, as well as their relationships with the women who champion and challenge them: their mothers, an unstoppable college counselor, and a no-nonsense step coach. These mentors are never far, doing all that they can to enable achievement, often with the odds stacked against them. This founding class is wrestling with life at the brink of their independence, always to a contagious beat that is haunting and universal.

Some Background:
Director/Producer:

  • Amanda Lipitz
    Lipitz is a Broadway producer, Tony Award winner for A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and Tony-nominated for DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. This marks her feature documentary debut.

Producer:

  • Steven Cantor
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE COLLECTORS: BEEKEEPER (short) (2014, director)
    REPORTER (2009)
    DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND (2002)
    WHAT REMAINS (2005, director/producer)
    BLOOD TIES: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SALLY MANN (short) (1994, director/producer)

    Stick Figure Studios’ Cantor has been nominated for the Academy Award (BLOOD TIES) and for Emmy Awards several times over, winning an Emmy for his American Masters portrait of Willie Nelson. He most recently directed DANCER.

Co-Producer:

  • Jamie Schutz
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE COLLECTORS: BEEKEEPER (executive producer)

    Stick Figure’s president, Schutz most recently executive produced DANCER. In addition to producing numerous Emmy Award-winning or -nominated series for ESPN and MSG, he has an extensive background in branded content and reality television.

Executive Producers:

  • Impact Partners’ Dan Cogan, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Jenny Raskin
    Combined past recent Sundance docs:

    AUDRIE & DAISY (2016)
    NOTES ON BLINDNESS (2016)
    NUTS! (2016)
    THE EAGLE HUNTRESS (2016)
    CENSORED VOICES (2015)
    THE HUNTING GROUND (2015)
    SEMBENE! (2015)
    DREAMCATCHER (2015)
    HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD (2015)
    CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM (2015)
    HOT GIRLS WANTED (2015)
    IN FOOTBALL WE TRUST (2015)
    PROPHET’S PREY (2015)
    THE MASK YOU LIVE IN (2015)
    DREAMCATCHER (2015)

    Impact Films’ Co-Founders Cogan and Dreyfous, together with VP Raskin, add to their extensive track record with Lipitz’s film. Impact also supported four other US Documentary Competition titles this year – DINA, ICARUS, TROPHY, and UNREST – and the Documentary Premieres title BENDING THE ARC.

  • Scott Rudin
    While the noted film and stage producer has had narrative projects at Sundance before, this marks his first documentary at the festival. He produced A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE with Lipitz.

  • Ann Tisch
    Tisch is the founder and president of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which operates the Young Women’s Leadership Schools of which the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women is an affiliate. The former broadcast journalist is an Emmy nominee for the HBO documentary she executive produced, SECRET LIVES.

  • Micheal Flaherty
    This is the first Sundance credit for the Walden Media co-founder/president, who developed his company’s education-driven focus after developing pioneering public school curricula in Boston.

  • Regina Scully
    Past recent Sundance docs:

    NEWTOWN (2016)
    MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE (2016)
    RESILIENCE (2016)
    UNDER THE GUN (2016)
    THE EAGLE HUNTRESS
    DREAMCATCHER
    THE HUNTING GROUND

    The Artemis Rising Foundation philanthropist is also an executive producer for fellow 2017 US Documentary Competition title UNREST.

  • Phil Glasser
    This marks Glasser’s first Sundance credit.

  • Barbara Dobkin
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE EAGLE HUNTRESS
    HOT GIRLS WANTED
    THE HUNTING GROUND

    Dobkin is a philanthropist and social justice leader with a focus on supporting projects that serve the advancement of women and girls’ equality.

  • Debbie McLeod and Jay Sears
    McLeod and Sears have supported several Sundance alums through Impact Partners, including WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? (2013), AMERICAN PROMISE (2013), and ANITA (2013), but this is their first published credit as executive producers. Their Grant Me The Wisdom Foundation supports women, girl, and education-focused programs.

Editor:

  • Penelope Falk
    Past Sundance docs:

    NEWTOWN (2016, contributing editor)
    JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (2010, US Documentary Editing Award)
    MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (2007, additional editor)
    A LETTER WITHOUT WORDS (1998)

Associate Editor:

  • Arielle Davis
    This is Davis’ first Sundance credit.

Why You Should Watch:
In her debut film, Lipitz offers a very welcome focus on women of color – both younger and older – who are typically under-represented in media, capturing their struggles and aspirations alike.

More Info:
Instagram
Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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