Olivia Loomis Merrion Talks About Murrow Award
We caught up with filmmaker Olivia Loomis Merrion to hear the inside scoop behind her Glassbreaker Films short doc, Recovering From Rehab, that won an Edward R. Murrow Award this week for Investigative Reporting.
Merrion directed and produced the piece during her time embedded at The Center for Investigative Reporting during her filmmaker in residence program under the guidance of Senior Producer Aubrey Aden-Buie and EP Amanda Pike. It was based on reporting from superstar journalists, Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter.
You can watch the film here.
Olivia! First of all, congrats on the Murrow Award! Can you tell us more about your film, Recovering From Rehab?
Olivia: Thank you! This video was made to accompany an investigation done at Reveal. Reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter began their investigation (now a Pulitzer finalist investigation, I might add...) into the Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery rehab facility months before I got involved. Brad, the focus of the video, had a particularly moving story. During one of their final reporting trips, I got involved.
What stands out about this story and why was it so important to tell?
O: A judge sent Brad, who had never used drugs, to Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery to simply teach him a "work ethic." From injury and issues at the facility, he left with a disabled hand and an addiction to painkillers. That is wrong. The investigation led to class action lawsuits, government investigations and companies to cancel their contracts.
What obstacles, if any, did you have to navigate while shooting this project? Were there ever any moments when you thought it might not come to fruition?
O: Nothing in documentary works out the way you think it will. When things kept changing in the field, I kept re-doing my story map. I think in 72 hours it changed drastically three times. Constantly rethinking story while shooting is my favorite part of the job. But sometimes, you can definitely think: yeah, no way this'll work. Thankfully, I had Reveal and GB teams at my side the whole time offering suggestions.
What was it like to work with the team of reporters and producers between CIR and Glassbreaker Films?
O: Exactly what you said, amazing. I can't emphasize enough the amount of work Sho and Amy put into their investigation to get everything right. I'd leave the office at 8 and they'd be ordering pizza so they could keep working. Everyone at GB was there to hold my hand through the process. There were multiple calls back to the home front (aka producer Aubrey Aden-Buie) while I was filming to go over thoughts on story. To add Amanda Pike, Rachel de Leon, Aden-Buie, Debora Silva and Emily Harger were the secret sauce, absolutely. Video is 100% collaborative.
What can people look forward to seeing next from you?
O: I have one short that is in post that is being graciously funded by GB films. It's not investigative, but rather a fun film and I can't wait until it's out in the world.