“I’m going to fire somebody in a little while,” the young school superintendent declared. “Do you want to see that?”
In the world of film documentary, the word ‘see’ means ‘video tape,’ and Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee was actually inviting us to run our cameras as she fired one of her employees.
My colleagues Jane Renaud and Cat McGrath accepted the invitation on the spot. As Jane recalls, “She told us to come back at a specific time, and so we got a sandwich, returned to her office, set up the equipment, and shot the meeting.”
Jane and Cat had spent the morning with Chancellor Rhee, filming her meetings with parents, and with community groups and principals. Rhee was a dynamo, moving easily from meeting to meeting, and from scene to scene, and always seemingly unaware of the presence of our cameras, including the scene where she fires a school principal.
Our film of that event was broadcast nationally on PBS NewsHour and helped to illuminate the persona of Michelle Rhee as a fearless and determined reformer who puts the interests of children first.
Now an Academy Award-winning filmmaker has inserted the footage into his new feature film, without our permission.
For me it is more than just another spat between filmmakers. It is a matter of principle and respect. Continue reading