Cynthia Wade, Co-Director
I’ve never had a traditional career. After college, as my classmates headed to Wall Street and Madison Avenue, I chose instead to work inside New York City homeless shelters. There, I helped established Head Start programs, created job training programs, planned summer adventures, made sure carefully chosen gifts were given to each child during holidays. My budget was microscopic; the needs were enormous. I learned to be tenacious, relentless. I practiced the art of pulling rabbits out of hats, of making something from nothing.
During those years, though, I kept hearing a call. It was an itch, a drive I couldn’t shake. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to make films. I was offered a partial scholarship to Stanford University’s MA program in documentary film. It was a risk. Best-case scenario, it would take me more than a decade to pay off my student loans -- and even then, only if I hustled for years.
I hustled. I took every job I could. I was a dishwasher, freelance grant writer, a driver of low-income moms who needed rides to the supermarket. I had a job where, each day, I took the temperature of ham sandwiches for the Board of Health. It took total focus on the end-goal to just keep going, roll with the punches and keep it moving. When finally I got on a film set, I was the hauler of tripods.
Over time I built a production company, a brand, and a body of work. Along the way, I’ve eaten ants and bats, shimmied into abandoned buildings, been chased by a pimp, flown a drone into a toxic mud volcano, caught the wire on an aircraft carrier, lived in an arsenic-filled village in Cambodia, and slept on the couch in the home of dying police officer for weeks – all to tell stories that would otherwise go unmarked and unnoticed by the world.
What the entrepreneurs in GENERATION STARTUP are doing might on the surface look different than what I did during my years in New York homeless shelters. But it stems from the same impulse: to risk something. To create something from nothing. To do.
--Cynthia Wade, co-Director
Cheryl Miller Houser, Co-Director
I was drawn to making GENERATION STARTUP because our young entrepreneurs’ stories spoke to me personally. Several years ago, with great trepidation, I left a well-paying, secure job as head of production at a TV production company to launch my own company. I should have done this much sooner, but it took me several decades to get up the guts. In 2013, the desire to be master of my destiny, to only make programming that engaged me to the core and inspired viewers, finally won out over my fear of failing.
I embarked on making GENERATION STARTUP soon after starting my company, stirred by the idealism, courage and determination of the recent college 6 graduates who were moving to economically depressed cities across the US to join or launch startups through a program called Venture for America. I wanted to follow several of these young entrepreneurs for an extended period of time to capture the immersive, true experience of what it’s like to build a company. But not in Silicon Valley or New York. In an unexpected place: Detroit, a city built on entrepreneurship and innovation which is making a comeback, largely thanks to those very same factors.
Despite the widely held stereotype of 20-somethings as entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship among 18-34 year olds is at a 24-year low. This has grave implications for our country’s economic future, since young companies generate two-thirds of all new jobs. So here were 20-somethings who were not just taking big risks, they were also bucking the trend of most of their peers, who cite fear of failing as one of the biggest impediments holding them back.
Our subjects were afraid of failing too. They were also full of self-doubt and somewhat clueless when they started out. And they failed time and again. But none of them gave up. They all worked tirelessly, demonstrating tremendous grit and resilience. In the year and a half that we followed most of them, they grew into confident leaders and entrepreneurs. Their extraordinary transformation over a short period of time is a testament to how much we can all learn and grow when we put ourselves in situations outside our comfort zone and stretch ourselves.
The grit, resilience and hustle of our subjects is mirrored in the city of Detroit, which was in bankruptcy when we started filming there in August 2014. While Detroit is still grappling with widespread poverty and other problems, it is rebounding, with employment and population numbers on the rise, largely thanks to the growth of new businesses. This same force is driving the economic rejuvenation of many cities across the US.
Our subjects are living proof that entrepreneurs are made, not born, and come from many different backgrounds. They show that through entrepreneurship and hard work anyone can pave their own way to job fulfillment and personal growth, and in the process strengthen their community.
For me the film isn’t just about entrepreneurship. It’s about the human capacity to step outside our comfort zone, overcome our fear of failure, not follow what others might expect of us, and create our own path forward. I regret that it took me decades to do that, but it’s never too late, and never too soon either, even if you have no idea what you’re doing. As our subjects illustrate, the quickest way to learn is by failing and learning from your mistakes, then going back at it with greater confidence and expertise.
I hope that when audiences see the film, they are inspired to do just that, in all spheres of their lives.
-- Cheryl Miller Houser, co-Director
Director of Photography: BOAZ FREUND
Edited By: KIMBERLY PELLNAT
Composed By: ERIC V. HACHIKIAN
Music Supervisor: JIM BLACK
Production Company: CREATIVE BREED
CYNTHIA WADE, CO-DIRECTOR
Cynthia won the Academy Award® and 16 film awards for her HBO documentary FREEHELD about a dying policewoman fighting to leave her pension to her female life partner. Wade was a lead producer on the Lionsgate feature adaptation, also entitled FREEHELD, starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page and Steve Carell. In 2013, Cynthia received her second Oscar nomination for her award-winning HBO documentary MONDAYS AT RACINE about a hair salon that caters to women undergoing chemotherapy. Cynthia’s 2010 short documentary BORN SWEET, about a Cambodian village poisoned with arsenic well water, was shortlisted for an Academy Award and won 17 festival awards worldwide. Cynthia is the director of the feature-length documentaries SHELTER DOGS (HBO), LIVING THE LEGACY (Sundance & IFC Channels), GROWING HOPE AGAINST HUNGER (Sesame Street Prime Time Special, Emmy Winner), and GRIST FOR THE MILL (Cinemax). She has directed commercial campaigns for Unilever, Abbott, Kimberly Clark, Sanofi, Pfizer, Hershey and Bristol Myers Squibb, including the viral branded films Selfie (Dove Real Beauty) and #EndMommyWars (Similac). Her camerawork has been seen on HBO/Cinemax, PBS, A&E, AMC, The History Channel, LOGO, Oxygen, MTV and Discovery. Cynthia is a MacArthur grantee and holds an MA in documentary filmmaking from Stanford University and BA cum laude from Smith College.
CHERYL MILLER HOUSER, CO-DIRECTOR & PRODUCER
Cheryl started her career developing and producing feature films, including David O. Russell’s first movie SPANKING THE MONKEY, winner of the Sundance Audience Award. She has produced several award- winning social issue documentaries including CHILDREN OF DARKNESS (PBS), a film about children with mental illness that was nominated for an Academy Award, and the award-winning TRUST ME (Showtime) about an interfaith camp in rural North Carolina founded the summer after 9/11. She has helped create and produce hundreds of hours of TV for broadcasters such as the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, A+E, Lifetime, Food Network, Discovery ID, and Travel Channel, including 90 episodes of Dr. G: Medical Examiner, the top-rated show on Discovery Health and the pilot for the hit Travel Channel series Hotel Impossible. In 2013 Cheryl launched Creative Breed, a full service multi-platform production company, to create engaging stories across all media. GENERATION STARTUP is the company’s most ambitious project to date. Mad Genius Tips, a popular web series Cheryl created for Food & Wine Magazine, was nominated for a James Beard Award, the highest honor in the food world. Cheryl holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Brown University.
SUSAN MARGOLIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
With over 25 years’ experience in film distribution, Susan Margolin is a keen marketer, digital distribution pioneer and dedicated supporter of filmmakers and the independent film community.
In 1991 she launched New Video Group with partner Steve Savage to distribute feature films, TV programming and web originals via home video, then DVD and then digitally. They partnered with over 500 content creators, including A+E®, HISTORYTM, Lifetime, Tribeca Films, Sundance Institute, Major League Baseball® and Scholastic®.
In 1999, Susan launched Docurama Films®, a division of New Video that acquires and distributes award winning documentary films across all platforms including theatrical, home entertainment, and digital. Through Docurama Films, Susan championed over 300 celebrated, award-winning films including D.A. Pennebaker’s BOB DYLAN: DONT LOOK BACK, NARCO CULTURA, OUR NIXON, and the Oscar®-nominated films HELL AND BACK AGAIN, WASTE LAND, GASLAND, PARADISE LOST 3 and THE INVISIBLE WAR.
In 2011, New Video signed on as Sundance Institute’s exclusive digital content aggregation partner for Sundance Film Festival and Lab titles. In 2012 Susan and Steve sold New Video to Cinedigm Entertainment Group.
Susan is Executive Producer of the recently completed documentary GENERATION STARTUP and is working with a range of additional documentary filmmakers. A graduate of Brown University, Susan is a board member of BAFTA NY and of Chicken & Egg Pictures, and she serves on the advisory board of New York Women in Film and Television. She is a 2011 Producers Guild of America “Digital 25: Leaders in Emerging Entertainment” honoree.
LAUREN ZALAZNICK, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Lauren Zalaznick has devoted her career in media to transforming the cultural landscape, from her start as an award-winning independent feature film producer to her most recent role as Executive Vice President at NBCUniversal. The hallmark of her career has been leading the growth of some of the strongest television and digital brands in media. Today, Zalaznick advises and invests in digital media startups, primarily focused on new content platforms. Every week, she publishes a widely read and influential newsletter about women in business and culture, The LZ Sunday Paper.
From 1984 to 1994, she produced a number of groundbreaking feature films including the Cannes and Sundance Festival award-winning film KIDS, directed by Larry Clark; Todd Haynes’ POISON AND SAFE, starring Julianne Moore; Tom Kalin’s SWOON, and Jim McKay’s GIRLS TOWN.
From 2002 to 2014, Zalaznick held progressive positions of leadership and p&l responsibility within Comcast NBCUniversal. Her television career started at Viacom in 1994, as Vice President, On-Air Promotion, VH1. She later oversaw Original Programming and Development for the network’s highest-rated and most buzz-worthy shows. Returning to her film roots, she served as Executive Producer of the beloved 2001 Paramount feature film ZOOLANDER.
Zalaznick herself has been widely recognized as an industry shape-shifter and innovator, and has received many honors for her achievements. She was the youngest person ever to be awarded the Brandon Tartikoff Lifetime Achievement Award; as well, she was inducted into to the Broadcasting & Cable Hall Of Fame. Time magazine named Zalaznick one of the “Time 100: World’s Most Influential People”, and Vanity Fair named her to their “New Establishment” list; earlier, she was the subject of a New York Times Magazine cover story. Zalaznick also delivered a TED talk that has been viewed well over half a million times.
She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Shazam, Penguin/Random House, and The Nielsen Corporation. She is a senior advisor to many industry-leading content and tech startups, including Refinery29, Atlas Obscura, LifePosts, and Medium.com. She is also an Advisor to venture capital firm Greycroft Partners, The Sundance Institute, and Venture For America, among others.
Zalaznick is a Trustee of the Corporation of Brown University, and currently serves as the Chair of the Advancement Committee. From Brown, she received her B.A. in English literature, while also fulfilling a pre-med curriculum. She graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She currently resides in New York City with her husband and three children.
BRIAN P. EGAN, PRODUCER
Brian joined Creative Breed right after graduating from Fairfield University’s Film, TV and Media Arts Program, exactly when Cheryl was launching Creative Breed. He was drawn to working for a fledgling company for the same reason that the subjects in GENERATION STARTUP are joining or launching startups: to build something from the ground floor and to stretch and learn by constantly taking on new challenges. Due to his well- rounded filmmaking skills, he is excited to have the opportunity to wear many different hats on Creative Breed projects. Brian has played an integral role in every aspect of GENERATION STARTUP, from pre-production and production through editing and post production.
KIMBERLY PELLNAT, EDITOR
Kimberly Pellnat is a passionate storyteller who creates emotionally engaging narratives across all platforms. Kim’s long-form work can be seen on NatGeo, VH-1, TLC, HGTV, and more, including two of Food Network’s highest-rated prime time series: Food Network Star and Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off. Her 100+ YouTube videos for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign hit over 21 million online views, were shown at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and have been featured by major media outlets including CNN, CBS News and Time Magazine. Kim also helped create the hugely popular web series Mad Genius Tips for Food & Wine Magazine, nominated for a 2016 James Beard Award, and web videos for Nickelodeon, One, Vogue, Refinery 29 and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Kim started her career as a camera operator for ABC News (Buffalo), then spent 5 years producing and editing promos for Nickelodeon before moving to long form television, web series and documentaries.
BOAZ FREUND, DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Boaz Freund is an award-winning cinematographer whose work spans every continent and genre, including documentaries, commercials, branded content, independent films and art installations. Boaz’s work reflects his love of story telling and distinct visual style he brings to every project. His documentaries include the upcoming release DESTINATION: TEAM AMERICA for Tribeca Productions and United Airlines; GORED (Tribeca Film Festival Premiere), SON OF THE CONGO (SWSX Film Festival Premiere), PATROLMAN P and FINISHING HEAVEN (HBO). He has shot numerous 30 for 30 for ESPN and a video series around the world for the Clinton Foundation. Boaz has shot commercials for some of the world’s most recognized brands such as NASCAR, Budweiser, Dove Men + Care, Under Armour, and Macy’s to name a few. His collaborations with video artists have been shown in Moma NY, The Metropolitan Museum of Art NY, The Rose Museum Boston and Museum of Modern Art Russia.
ERIC V. HACHIKIAN, COMPOSER
Eric V. Hachikian is an Armenian-American composer whose music has been hailed by the New York Times as "lovely and original." His music can be heard in a variety of major motion pictures (FURY, GET HARD, FERRELL TAKES THE FIELD, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN, BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY, PROJECT X, 50/50, THE WRESTLER) and network television shows (Netflix's Marco Polo, ABC's Mixology & Revenge, Fox's The Mindy Project, CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, HBO's Silicon Valley, Entourage and How To Make It In America, Showtime's Homeland and The Big C, FX’s Tyrant and The Strain and The Discovery Channel's LIFE: The Series. As Creative Director and co-founder of Soundcat Productions, a boutique music company with studios in New York City and Los Angeles, Eric has written and produced music for numerous national and international ad campaigns including Apple, Google, Budweiser, BMW, Snickers, Kate Spade, Wendy's, among many others. Eric has also written for Off-Broadway productions, and his compositions have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Pops Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and in such venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and The Getty in Los Angeles. Eric has studied counterpoint in Paris and DJ'd parties in New York City; he is a perpetual student of world music, his musical instincts have no boundaries, and his multi-genre interests result in a unique and personal sound.
JIM BLACK, MUSIC SUPERVISOR
Jim Black is an award-winning music supervisor with over twenty years in the music industry. In 1998 he founded Clearsongs Inc., a full-service music supervision and consulting company for Motion Pictures and Television and has worked on over 90 films and TV shows, including Academy Award winners such as BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER and HBO’s Treme and True Detective. Jim has also worked with corporate clients such as Apple, JBL, Zynga, and Samsung on the most effective ways to integrate music with advertising and digital media in order to maximize consumer outreach.
Creative Breed is a full service production company. We conceptualize and create emotionally engaging, expertly crafted stories across all platforms that inspire people to share, act and engage. Whether it’s a popular, entertaining web series like our MAD GENIUS TIPS, nominated for a 2016 James Beard Award, or an ambitious feature documentary like GENERATION STARTUP, our work reflects top-notch story-telling and high production value.