One-on-one with Filmmaker Jeremy Pion-Berlin on his award-winning documentary Failure to Protect.
Jeremy Pion-Berlin is an award-winning filmmaker committed to pushing creative boundaries. Currently the Co-Executive Producer on the 5th season of Discovery's "Murder in the Heartland," Jeremy is elevating the tragic stories of homicide in small town America. Jeremy also Directed and Co-Executive Produced two episodes of a new untiled Discovery+ documentary series that will air this November. Jeremy’s diverse skillset is reflected in the projects he's worked on: Hulu’s newest documentary series "Defining Moments," Vice TV's feature documentary "Bernie Blackout," and two seasons of A&E’s "24 to Life." Jeremy’s success is attributed to passionate commitment, mindful quality, and strategic pragmatism.
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
JPB: “Failed by a system that unfairly tears apart low income, marginalized families, five parents - Anna, Rheta, Trish, Ernst and Rosa - fight to reunify with their children. But what does it take to get your children back after they’ve been taken by the Child Protective Services? 'Failure to Protect' is an in-depth look at the child welfare system through the forgotten lens of parents, further contextualized by experts in the field to unpack a pressing socioeconomic issue that affects hundreds of thousands of families everyday.”
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
JPB: “ACCESS, the child welfare system is a closed court room so getting access to this system was incredibly difficult.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
JPB: “I really wanted this film to be just as emotional as informational. So I'm really proud that I was able to blend those two elements throughout. I want people to empathize with the characters but also I really want the audience to come away with new information about how this system treats families and especially parents.”
Trailer: Failure to Protect (2021)
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
JPB: “I started making films as a young boy. My baby-sitter would come over and we would make stop motion films together. Then he became the best skateboarder in town so I follow suit. After making skateboard videos, I decided at the age of 16 I wanted to make narrative films. Since then thats all I've ever done, I've never had a job outside the film industry and never plan to.”
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
JPB: “Currently I'm serving as the Co-Executive Producer for the 5th season of the Discovery show "Murder in the Heartland." I also just wrapped on two 1-hour specials for the ID channel in which I Directed and Co-Executive Produced. I want to make an independent narrative feature and also develop my next feature documentary.”
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
JPB: “Festivals have played a huge role in Failure to Protect's success. They have given me national and international exposure. They also give your film credibility for distributors and sales agents. Also they are so fun and I've met some incredible filmmakers along the way.”
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
JPB: “Unfortunately every festival has their specific needs and wants and that is hard to decipher upon looking at the website. At the end of the day, if you made a great film it will get in places but you need to submit to A LOT of festivals. I mean A LOT.”
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of your film Failure to Protect?
JPB: “My goal is to land with a distribution company and get it on a streaming platform.”
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
JPB: “Josh and Benny Safdie. They go out and make rough, gritty, artistic films that never hold back. They tackle hard topics but with class and precision. They seem to be able to tell unique stories that engage a large audience and I admire that.”
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
JPB: “Crimes of the Future. Great new Cronenberg film a must see!”
iFilmFestival: Thank you Jeremy for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on July 21st, 2022