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Join a conversation and interactive Q&A between director, Melissa Haizlip and scholar and producer, Dr. Aymar Jean Christian as they discuss the making of the movie and the groundbreaking content of the show, SOUL! created by Melissa's uncle, Ellis Haizlip.

Melissa Haizlip- Director, Producer, Writer, Mr. SOUL!

Melissa Haizlip is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Her work responds to pressing social issues at the intersection of racial justice, social justice, activism, and representation. Female transformation and empowerment are at the core of all of her ideas, with the goal being to advocate and amplify the voices of women and people of color. Melissa’s feature documentary, Mr. SOUL!, has been awarded a finalist for the 2019 inaugural Library of Congress Lavine / Ken Burns Prize for Film, a new, annual prize that recognizes a filmmaker whose documentary uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on some aspect of American history. The film won Best Music Documentary at the 2018 International Documentary Association Awards. Mr. SOUL! premiered at Tribeca and screened at 50 festivals, receiving 16 Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary, and the 2019 FOCAL Award for Best Use of Archival Footage in an Entertainment Production. Melissa directed and produced CONTACT HIGH: A VISUAL HISTORY OF HIP-HOP and produced YOU’RE DEAD TO ME (2013) directed by Wu Tsang, about a grieving Chicana mother coming to terms with the loss of her transgender child on Día de los Muertos. The film won Best Short at the 2014 Imagen Awards, and screened at over 50 festivals and museums. Melissa’s two-channel art films have been exhibited by the Hammer Museum Los Angeles Biennial, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Melissa has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation JustFilms, National Endowment for the Humanities, International Documentary Association, National Endowment for the Arts, Black Public Media, Firelight Media, ITVS, Awesome Without Borders, and Puffin Foundation. Melissa went to Yale University. She’s currently producing a docuseries on women in hip-hop.

Dr. Aymar Jean Christian - Moderator

Dr. Aymar Jean Christian is a scholar, media producer, and social practice artist exploring the convergence of television, video art, and creative R&D (research and development). Currently an associate professor of communication at Northwestern University, Dr. Christian uses artistic development as a tool for community-building, cultural critique and experimentation. For 10 years he has explored how the internet transformed the art of television and expanded cultural representation in media.

His book Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television (NYU Press, 2018) argues the web brought innovation to television by opening the development process to indie producers like Issa Rae, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Ingrid Jungermann and Desiree Akhavan, among over 100 artists interviewed. He documents the changing market for television across popular and academic publications: on his blog, Televisual; in academic journals, including International Journal of Communication, Continuum, and Transformative Works & Culture; and for trade publications Indiewire, Slate, and Tubefilter, among others. 

Based on this research Dr. Christian started OTV | Open Television, a platform Chicago-based intersectional television. OTV produces and exhibits indie TV and video art both online and in Chicago. OTV advances organic, sustainable, local, digital, artist- and community-driven TV through research and development. Christian uses creative R&D to engage local community through workshops and screenings; the art world through museums and galleries; tech through auditing social media platforms; and Hollywood through series development. The project has received recognition from HBO, the Emmys, Tribeca Film Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Streamy and Gotham Awards, among others. For his work on OTV Dr. Christian has been recognized by Filmmaker magazine and New City as a film leader and innovator.